Maten’s re­turn boosts UGA’s NCAA hopes

Rome News-Tribune - - SPORTS - By Charles Odum As­so­ci­ated Press Sports Writer

ATHENS — Yante Maten’s de­ci­sion to re­turn for his se­nior sea­son gives Geor­gia more rea­son to hope it can make the NCAA Tour­na­ment.

If not for a knee in­jury which forced Maten to miss the last four reg­u­lar-sea­son games and Geor­gia’s NIT loss to Bel­mont, the for­ward’s NBA de­ci­sion might have been dif­fer­ent.

“When he en­tered the draft he wasn’t cleared to work out,” said Geor­gia coach Mark Fox, who said Maten de­layed work­outs for NBA scouts “to get him­self in some kind of shape.”

It wasn’t an ideal way for Maten to prove he was ready for the NBA. Now the Bull­dogs have a healthy Maten (6-8, 243) ready for his se­nior sea­son.

“He re­ally went to work this sum­mer and tried to make him­self bet­ter,” Fox said, adding Maten is “at his peak” phys­i­cally.

Maten may need to im­prove his jump shot as a com­ple­ment to his in­side scor­ing for the NBA. Maten said he worked on “pretty much the whole spec­trum of bas­ket­ball.”

“It wasn’t just one thing that I worked on,” he said. “There were mul­ti­ple things: my shot, mak­ing sure I was fin­ish­ing plays, mak­ing sure my in­te­rior post game was solid and just try­ing to do lit­tle things, de­fend­ing and other things.”

Maten’s re­turn is es­pe­cially im­por­tant as he helps to fill the lead­er­ship void left by high­scor­ing guard J.J. Fra­zier, the only lost starter from last sea­son 19-15 team. Maten av­er­aged 18.2 points and 6.8 re­bounds last sea­son. He is the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence’s ac­tive ca­reer leader in points (1,250), re­bounds (606) and blocked shots (149).

Geor­gia has reached the NCAA tour­na­ment in only two of Fox’s eight sea­sons.

It is com­ing off two straight NIT ap­pear­ances since its last NCAA ap­pear­ance in 2015.

Some other things to know about Geor­gia’s out­look:

Wel­come back

Geor­gia has a strong cast of re­turn­ing starters. Maten is joined by for­ward Derek Og­beide, swing­man Juwan Parker and guards Jor­dan Har­ris and Wil­liam “Tur­tle” Jack­son. Har­ris and Jack­son shared a start­ing spot last year. Other re­turn­ing perime­ter play­ers with start­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in­clude E’Tor­rion Wil­ridge, Tyree Crump and Pape Di­atta. Mike Ed­wards is a top in­side backup.

Back­court dilemma

Fox is seek­ing an­swers in the back­court. “We’ve got a lot of com­pe­ti­tion for play­ing time, that’s for sure,” he said. “We need some­one to sep­a­rate from the rest . ... I don’t think that’s hap­pened yet.”

Fu­ture ad­min­is­tra­tor

Parker, a fifth-year se­nior, is work­ing on his sec­ond mas­ter’s de­gree. He has a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in man­age­ment and this sum­mer com­pleted his mas­ter’s de­gree in sports man­age­ment. Now he’s work­ing on a sec­ond mas­ter’s de­gree in fi­nan­cial plan­ning. He’s pre­par­ing for a ca­reer as a col­lege ath­letic di­rec­tor but first hopes to have a chance to play pro­fes­sion­ally.

While still in high school, Parker got an early start earn­ing col­lege cred­its at the Univer­sity of Tulsa where his fa­ther, Johnny Parker, is a law school pro­fes­sor.

An Achilles ten­don in­jury led to a red­shirt 2015-16 sea­son, which gave Juwan Parker ex­tra time to col­lect de­grees. “It’s been awe­some. It’s been a bless­ing,” he said. “I wasn’t plan­ning on hav­ing two masters when I left col­lege, but it’s worked out won­der­fully.”

Parker (6-4, 205) av­er­aged 9.3 points and 5.3 re­bounds last sea­son. He said he is close to a full re­cov­ery from a sec­ond Achilles ten­don in­jury — one on each foot.

Fa­mil­iar name, fa­mil­iar num­ber

Fresh­man Ni­co­las Clax­ton will wear the same 33 jersey as his fa­ther, Charles Clax­ton, a cen­ter for the Bull­dogs from 1991-95. “I’ve been a Bull­dog all my life,” said Ni­co­las Clax­ton (6-11, 215). “I’ve been com­ing to foot­ball and bas­ket­ball games as long as I can re­mem­ber.”

Ren­o­va­tions

An $8 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion to Stege­man Coli­seum has in­cluded a new cen­ter-hung score­board, new seat­ing and up­graded sound and light­ing sys­tems. The projects fol­low a $13 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion of the arena’s con­courses, con­ces­sions and re­strooms in 2010.

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