SEC TOURNAMENT NOTEBOOK
NEW ORLEANS – The last time Mark Fox came to New Orleans was in 2007 when he was head coach at Nevada. The Wolf Pack was 28-4 and came for the NCAA tournament as the No. 7 seed in the South Regional.
That happened to be just two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated this city. So Fox took his team down to the Ninth Ward to survey the residual damage. He has never forgotten what he saw there..
“It really was staggering to see it up close,” Fox said.
Five years later, Fox took a different team back to that area on the banks of the Mississippi River. The Georgia Bulldogs surveyed the neighborhood early Wednesday as they awaited their turn to practice at New Orleans Arena for the SEC basketball tournament.
“I just felt it would be good for our players to see what people went through in this region and to see what the after-effects of a hurricane are like,” Fox said. “All these guys followed it through the news and just to see some still-damaged homes, to see the ones that have been rebuilt, I just felt like it could be a great educational thing to do.”
Fox was amazed at the both progress that has been made in the Ninth Ward since he last visited and the work still to be done. He lauded the efforts of movie star Brad Pitt, who through his “Make It Right” project has built homes with solar-panel roofs and some that can actually float in the event of another flood.
But much work, he said, remains to be done.
“Obviously this city and this region had to completely rebuild,” Fox said. “You think that because time has passed that everything’s fixed. Well, that’s not the case, and that’s why I’m sure they’re excited to have this tournament and the Final Four here, to bring more attention and certainly consumer dollars to the region.”
Time on their hands
One of the reasons the Bulldogs were driving around New Orleans is they have had a lot of time to kill. Georgia drew the last game in the tournament, so they’ve had the late slot for practices and interviews and their first-round game Thursday night won’t tip off until sometime after 10 p.m.
It’s an issue with which the Bulldogs have had to deal a lot this season. They’ve had late games, such as this past Thursday when they tipped off against Kentucky at 9 p.m. in Lexington, and early, such as this past Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. tilt versus South Carolina.
“We’ve had terrible game times all year,” Fox said. “We’ve had a couple of 9 o’clock starts, one at home and one on the road. We’ve had some 8 o’clock games. We’ve had some early-afternoon games. We had a lot of non-traditional times this year for our games. So a 10 o’clock Eastern Time game for us is just kind of par for the course this year.”
Fox was asked how they’ll spend their time on Thursday.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to watch some of the games in the hotel,” he said. “We’ll get them up and get them moving, have a little study time. We’ll try and keep them busy. I think it’s important that we get out of the hotel at least once and go have a shoot-around or walk-through just so we don’t show up sluggish.”
Mississippi State is, of course, having to deal with the same issue.
“What can you do?” coach Rick Stansbury said. “They’re going to stay in the hotel a couple of hours longer. They’e going to sleep a couple hours longer and watch TV a couple of hours longer and they’re going to be on those little phones a couple of hours longer. That’s what they do. We’re not going to take their phones away or turn off the TVs. We just try to keep it as normal as we can.”
Anderson representing UGA
In 1988, Willie Anderson represented his country at the Olympic Games. In 2012, Anderson is representing his alma mater as a SEC Basketball Legends.
Anderson, 45, is one of 12 former SEC players recognized by the conference during the SEC tournament at New Orleans Arena. At 6-foot-7, Anderson starred for the Bulldogs and then-coach Hugh Durham as a point guard from 1985-88.
Anderson led the 1987 “Miracle Workers” team to the NCAA tournament and made the All-SEC first team in ‘87 and ‘88. Despite hardly playing as a freshman, he finished his career with 1,350 points, which ranks 16th on Georgia’s list of all-time scorers. Anderson brought the international spotlight to UGA in 1988 when he made the U.S. Olympic basketball team. He later went on to score nearly 7,000 points during an NBA career that spanned 11 seasons.
They said it
“I’ve always wanted to be him.”
– Fox, after noticing the placard in front of him on the interview podium read “Kentavious Caldwell Pope.”
This and that . . .
Georgia is 3-3 against Mississippi State in the SEC tourney. UGA has lost two of the last three in first-round games but defeated State 64-60 in the semifinals during the run to the championship in the 2008 “Tornado Tournament” in Atlanta. . . . State leads the all-time series against the Bulldogs 52-51 and had a 15-12 lead since league expansion in 1992. . . .
Counting his time at Tennessee State, senior guard Gerald Robinson enters tonight’s game with 1,850 points. That would rank second on Georgia’s career list behind all-time leader Litterial Green (2,111). As it is, Robinson has 829 in two seasons with the Bulldogs. . . .
Dustin Ware needs 16 points to become Georgia’s 42nd player to reach 1,000 for his career. If he does it, he’ll be the third member of the 2007 recruiting class to achieve that. Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins, who left for the NBA after their junior seasons, already did it.