Thompkins leading UGA resurgence

Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 5:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 5:37 p.m.

Last spring, Georgia forward Trey Thompkins weighed the pros and cons of putting his name in the NBA Draft.

The versatile 6-foot-10 Thompkins was coming off a first-team, All-Southeastern Conference season in which he averaged 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

"That process was pretty nerve-racking," Thompkins said. "I understood our team had a lot to offer this year, and we could be a great team. I didn't want to leave Georgia without being known as a winner. I wanted to help start something that was going to be great."

Thompkins is back for his junior season at Georgia, hoping to lead the Bulldogs to their second NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003. This week, Georgia cracked the Top 25 for the first time since 2003 following a 77-70 upset of Kentucky.

Thompkins led the way in the Kentucky upset with 25 points and followed that up with a double-double (13 points, 13 rebounds) in a loss to Vanderbilt. Overcoming an ankle injury that sidelined him for the first three games of the season, Thompkins is starting to play up to his projected status. Last October, Thompkins was named preseason SEC player of the year.

"It gives me a level of confidence, in a way," Thompkins said. "But it also makes me work harder every day because if I'm going to be regarded as that high a player, I have to show and prove it for myself, for others and for my teammates."

Over the offseason, Thompkins worked harder in the weight room and changed his dietary habits.

"I want to be a better rebounder," Thompkins said. "I feel like I can rebound the ball better for my team than last year. I love to pass the ball. So I'm always working on that. Just being a more physical specimen down in the paint because it's rough down there. I want to start laying a few blows instead of taking them."

Returning to Georgia for his junior season wasn't as hard for Thompkins as when he come back as a sophomore. Thompkins, recruited by former Georgia coach Dennis Felton, said he was ready to transfer after Felton was fired during his freshman season. But Thompkins changed his mind after meeting with incoming coach Mark Fox.

"He told me what his plan was for our team and what direction he wanted to take the program," Thompkins said. "I bought in just like the rest of my teammates have."

Fox said he took an honest approach with Thompkins during the meeting, as he did with the rest of his players.

"I think Trey probably appreciated that," Fox said. "We had had a lot of success with big players when I was at Nevada. And I think that Trey recognized that and I tried to be really genuine with what we felt like he could accomplish and how hard it would be. Fortunately for us, he chose to stay."

In Fox's second season, Georgia is off to a promising 12-3 start. Georgia still needs to prove it can win on the road. The Bulldogs are 0-9 in SEC road games under Fox.

But behind Thompkins and athletic swingman Travis Leslie, Georgia is capable of contending in the highly competitive SEC East.

"I highly doubt we'll sneak up on anybody anymore," Thompkins said. "We know that everyone is gunning for us now. We have a target on our back because we're a team that's capable of doing big things. We know that, we want that and we appreciate that."

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