Bulldogs eager for Marcus Thornton to be healthy as basketball practice begins

When healthy, Marcus has proven to be a physical inside presence and strong rebounder for Georgia. (AJC photo by Curtis Comption)

When healthy, Marcus has proven to be a physical inside presence and strong rebounder for Georgia. (AJC photo by Curtis Comption)

ATHENS — Marcus Thornton said the last time he felt 100 percent healthy was the semifinals of the state high school playoffs his senior year at Westlake High.

That day Thornton suffered a bizarre injury. He sprained his left ankle jumping up in the air to chest bump a teammate. Thornton, who was named Mr. Georgia Basketball that year, has been dealing with one injury or another ever since.

Now a junior at the University of Georgia, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound forward is still trying to get well. He’s coming off his second knee surgery – he’s had one on each leg – but is oh so close to feeling normal again as the Bulldogs prepare to open the season.

“I’m getting there,” said Thornton, who also has dealt with a staph infection his right elbow while at Georgia. “Ever since I’ve been here I haven’t really felt well. So it’d be nice to feel completely well for once. But I just make the best of what I have and do everything I can to contribute.”

A healthy Thornton is one of the reason there is a lot of optimism regarding the Bulldogs. Thornton is one of four starters returning for Georgia, which is coming off a 15-17 season and 10th-place finish in the SEC (5-11). Also returning for the Bulldogs is second-leading scorer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13.2 ppg), leading rebounder Donte Williams (5.1 rpg) and versatile 6-8 forward Nemanja Djurisic. Georgia adds to that five returning lettermen and four touted newcomers.

“This is a group I’m looking forward to coaching,” said fourth-year coach Mark Fox, who has recruited every player on the roster. “We have more pieces this year. We’re a deeper basketball team. We’re more athletic than we were, a more physical group, certainly a more experienced group… . I think we just have more guys who are ready for SEC play.”

That has been the book on Thornton since he got there. As a senior at Westlake, he averaged 23.5 points and 12.1 rebounds in the state’s highest classification and was named a first-team All-American by ESPN Rise. Despite all the injuries, he has managed to play in 59 of the Bulldogs’ 65 games the past two seasons. He recorded career bests last season with 10 points against Arkansas and 10 rebounds against South Dakota State.

Fox will handle Thornton with caution this season. Fox did not allow Thornton to play on their exhibition trip to Italy this summer and he vows to bring him along slowly.

“He will probably get frustrated with me because I’m going to make sure that we proceed very slowly with him,” Fox said. “He’s cleared to practice and will be ready to play and looks very good in our workouts. But he’s also a young man who has had two knee surgeries and he’s got some tread on those tires, so we have to be careful.”

Thornton is understandably anxious, but he’s willing to do what he must to feel good again.

“It won’t be from the get-go,” Thornton said. “It will be something I build up to more and more each day, each week. But I’m getting closer and closer. Hopefully one day I’ll be there.”

Georgia key dates

  • First practice: 5 p.m. Friday, “2012 Basketbash” at Stegeman Coliseum
  • First exhibition: 7 p.m. on Nov. 2 vs. Young Harris @ Stegeman Coliseum
  • First game: Nov. 9 vs. Jacksonville, time TBD
  • First conference game: at Florida, Jan. 9, 7 p.m.
  • Conference tournament: March 14-18 in Nashville

30 comments Add your comment

sogadog

October 11th, 2012
1:59 pm

Dude its football season.

G

October 11th, 2012
2:11 pm

After SC game hoops are a nice escape

Abnerish

October 11th, 2012
3:01 pm

Dawg fans can multi-task, especially during a bye week. Besides, we need to learn to appreciate b-ball or we won’t be able to keep the good coaches, like Coach Fox.

zulucanibal

October 11th, 2012
3:16 pm

you guys at AJC still have yet to tell me why our football players forgot to get off the bus saturday night and what is being done to change things….

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 11th, 2012
3:31 pm

Come on

Its Football Season

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 11th, 2012
3:33 pm

Where is the update on the “”FUN”"” practices that are taking place

doggoneit

October 11th, 2012
3:57 pm

During football season nothing else matters! Basketball is like waaaay down the list of things to care about.

dale

October 11th, 2012
4:07 pm

Don’t you guys see? The model is Kentucky. Focus on basketball.

collegeballfan

October 11th, 2012
4:28 pm

“Dude its football season.”

This attitude is why Georgia basketball has never mattered.

tony

October 11th, 2012
4:54 pm

The dawgs were a poor passing and shooting team last season. If they’re going to compete in the sec they most improve in those areas. Also, they need to get the ball to Nemanja Djurisic more……he is their best fundamental scorer in the post. I think if Charles Mann and Kenny Gaines can contribute this season I think this team can have a productive season.

John

October 11th, 2012
4:59 pm

Some of us like basketball more than football (gasp!). So for all the morons who don’t, then don’t read the articles!

[...] is the original post: Bulldogs eager for Marcus Thornton to be healthy as basketball practice begins ← Back to Home Tags: ajc, curtis, felt, focal, georgia, georgia basketball, healthy, [...]

Flat Tire on I-95 in Jacksonville

October 11th, 2012
6:05 pm

12

Comments so far on basketball

back to football

Paul in NH

October 11th, 2012
6:09 pm

Good luck to Thornton – it’s tough to see a career derailed because of injuries.

Hubert Green

October 11th, 2012
6:36 pm

Charles Mann at pg should be a nice addition this year from Milton (the school with all the undue influence, lol) didn’t know Milton offered scholarships.

The Nature Boy

October 11th, 2012
7:24 pm

thanks for write up chip…..after the beat down in columbia and bye week…..it is nice to have hope for the roundball dawgs….still got hope for the football team…sc played their best game of the year…the dawgs played their worst….

[...] this article: Bulldogs eager for Marcus Thornton to be healthy as basketball practice begins ← Back to Home Tags: dawgs, focal, forward, georgia basketball, georgia bulldogs, [...]

dale

October 11th, 2012
7:29 pm

Chip, is this a tournament team?

Keenan

October 11th, 2012
10:10 pm

I saw Thornton in HS and he is a beast! I just do not understand why he is not option #2 on the offensive end!

poof!!!

October 12th, 2012
12:09 am

At The Ohio State University they don’t take basketball season lightly. That’s why they are usually ranked highly in both sports. Georgia could be there also if the fans would really support the basketball program. The reason all the top recruits hardly go to Georgia is because they don’t see any real support for that program. If you fill it(Stegeman) they(recruits) will come.

[...] Bulldogs eager for Marcus Thornton to be healthy as basketball practice begins ATHENS — Marcus Thornton said the last time he felt 100 percent healthy was the semifinals of the state high school playoffs his senior year at Westlake High. That day Thornton suffered a bizarre injury. He sprained his left ankle jumping up in the … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Buzz 2011

October 12th, 2012
4:57 am

I didn’t know UGA had a basketball team!

Jimmy

October 12th, 2012
6:08 am

Who is this “Young Harris” you speak of?

Nick

October 12th, 2012
9:13 am

@ Keenan

I suspect he will be this year, if he can stay healthy.

Looking forward to the season, GO Dawgs!

KBP

October 12th, 2012
11:48 am

Basketball matters at UGA, just gotta win at a football school. Find a way to keep at least two 5-star players in state each year and then we can compete every year with KY, FL, and now MO. Great move by UCLA to hire a former AAU coach to help recruit. Why not try that also, Dawgs?

I like Thornton and he did dominate in HS as he was a man among boys, but I do not see a consistent mid-range jumper which would make him difficult to defend. A 6′8 guy has to be able to shoot and I do not see any good low post moves yet. Maybe he has worked on this over the summer as we shall see. At the end of the day, basketball is about skill. Athleticism helps of course, but there are tons of athletic guys who are highlight reels but can’t really play. I’ve never heard anyone say Dirk Nowitzki is a good athlete but he has hall of fame skill. Gerald Green was a great athlete out of HS and a lottery pick by the Celtics in ‘05 and was out of the league in ‘08. Could dunk but could not shoot nor dribble but increased his skill level and had a great year last year in the NBA with the Nets. Not sure who he’s with now.

SimpleDawg

October 12th, 2012
11:49 am

The Fox Hounds are improving…..

Lee

October 12th, 2012
10:12 pm

it’s a shame you people pay attention to a football team that hasnt beaten anyone that’s ranked in a million years. the curse of SOS lives!!!!

coondawg69

October 13th, 2012
11:00 am

does it really Matter???? The kid is lost and a non performer…. OK, I dont mind that the only big shot he has hit in his UGA career is that first half 3 pointer against Kentucky. Is it too much to ask to move your feet on defense or to get more than 3 rebounds? Our guards out rebound him.

Hats off to him…. he seems to be a good kid, doesnt get in trouble. And that obviously is what UGA basketball is all about…. not embarrassing the school….. b/c it sure is not about wins and losses!!!!

CDOG

October 13th, 2012
11:38 am

MARCUS THORNTON PLAYS TOO WEAK AND TIMID ON THE COURT. HE TAKES PLAYS OFF, ALSO HE GOES HALF SPEED.HE HAS THE ABILITY TO DOMINATE A GAME BUT HE”S LAZY.HE REMIND ME OF AARON MURRAY WITH THE FOOTBALL TEAM.

Pj

October 14th, 2012
5:33 pm

If fix could land ONE 5 star from Georgia each year, and surround them with good defenders, rebounders and outside shooters – uga would compete for the conference title. Just 1 each year.