November 8, 2007

Hoops ready to open a new season

Georgia basketball coach Dennis Felton pondered the question carefully.

With all the preseason distractions surrounding his Bulldogs, how has the suspensions of Mike Mercer and Albert Jackson - coupled with the dismissal of leading scorer Takais Brown - affected the preparation for Georgia's season-opener? The Bulldogs tip off the year this Friday evening against Jacksonville State.

"I don't know how you measure it, but whenever you have any issue other than just smooth sailing, it's a distraction," Felton said. "But that's kind of part of the challenge, part of the job for all of us because no team hardly ever has smooth sailing."

That's definitely been true for this edition of the Georgia basketball team.

What began as a season full of hope and expectations has been tempered considerably since it was initially announced that Mercer, Brown and Jackson were being suspended a total of 30 games for violating the university's new academic policy.

The news soon got worse.

Barely two weeks later, Felton announced that he was kicking Brown off the squad for a violation of some unspecified team rules, a decision that's going to forced several of this year's five-man freshman class to step up sooner than many hoped they would have to.

Felton has his fingers crossed.

"It's still hard to say where we're at, but obviously, probably 90 percent of teams in the country feel the same way," Felton said. "We're still putting things in, still teaching things for the first time to a group of five freshmen. We're still working on becoming the best team we can be."

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