February 28, 2009

Season winding down

As if Georgia needed any distractions for Sunday's game at Arkansas, news that freshman Travis Leslie will be lost to the team for the remaining three regular season games to focus on academics has turned out to be the latest storyline.

"I want to apologize to my teammates, my coaches and the Georgia fans that have supported us," Leslie said in a statement. "I just lost focus on my schoolwork, and I hope that I can get back on track as I concentrate all of my time and energy on academics."

A freshman from Decatur, Leslie played in 26 of Georgia's 28 games with four starts, averaging 6.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per games. He scored a season-high 23 points against Loyola-Chicago in the second game of the year.

"We feel that it is in Travis' best long-term interests that he concentrates fully on his academic work," said Interim Head Coach Pete Herrmann. "That's where his focus needs to be for the rest of the basketball season."

For Georgia (11-117, 2-11), that task continues against the only team in the SEC with a worse conference record - Arkansas (13-13, 1-12).

Despite the home team's record, there's big doings going on in Walton Arena Sunday. Arkansas will use the day to honor its 1994 National Championship team under Nolan Richardson.

What a difference a year makes.

The last time Georgia and Arkansas met, the two teams were playing for the SEC Tournament championship at Georgia Tech. Sunday, it's all about pride.

"I really hate to compare those teams," Herrmann said. "Arkansas had a lot of seniors, a strong inside game and was rolling in the SEC Tournament. This year, both our teams are based on younger players, although I believe that our two guards - Courtney Fortson and Dustin Ware - have both gotten better as the year as gone on. They've found life in the SEC is a real challenge, but are key parts of our team who need to play well for our teams to have success."

The Bulldogs enter Sunday's game coming off a 61-57 win over Vanderbilt. After traveling to Kentucky on Wednesday, Georgia will wrap up the regular season at home against South Carolina.

For Herrmann, that end has caused the interim coach to reflect and ponder his immediate future.

One thing is for certain: He does want to continue coaching. The question is where.

"I've been a coach for 40 years and I love coaching. I love the afternoon practices, I enjoy my relationships with the parents, recruiting. I hope to coach again," Herrmann said. "I have a lot of contacts in the country. I like being around the game and I hope, I think I can help a program being on the floor teaching. I look forward to coaching for the next few years. I still get excited every day and I hope it will happen. I don't know if it will be possible to stay at Georgia, I don't know where I will be but I definitely want to see about continuing to coach."

Meanwhile, assistants Mike Jones and Desmond Oliver, along with program coordinator Ron Johnson and Director of Basketball Operations Melvin Robinson are getting their resumes in order.

Herrmann is confident all four will land on their feet.

"Part of the job of an older coach is to mentor the younger coaches, teach them the right way and to give 100 percent each and every day," Herrmann said. "I'm an old-school guy and I've always told the younger guys if they do that then good things will happen. As long as they continue to teach, concentrate and be enthused about the game, everything will be OK."

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