March 6, 2013

Seniors' big night

Senior Night means different things to different individuals.

But in regards to senior point guard Vincent Williams, Georgia head coach Mark Fox sees a young man who's been able to take care of every opportunity the University has had to offer.

"He has used this institution to really mature as a person and as a student. I don't ever worry about him. I trust him, on the floor, at home, in the classroom," said Fox, whose Bulldogs hosts Kentucky Thursday night in the team's home finale.

"When he was a freshman, we had concerns in every area, but he really has matured and he epitomizes what colleges should be about, to help young people become what they're capable of."
Williams - who along with fellow seniors John Florveus and Sherrard Brantley - will be honored before the 7 p.m. tipoff (ESPN; Rece Davis and Bobby Knight will have the call), said he'll never forget the chance Fox gave him.

It was early April in 2009, and Fox had just been named the replacement for Dennis Felton, when Williams learned that the new Bulldog head coach would be coming down to his hometown of Miami for what amounted to a tryout at his high school gym.

"I looked at it as a blessing. Me, just getting that call to actually work out. I feel Coach Fox, Coach (Kwanza) Johnson are great guys. Most coaches bring in players and look at it from just a basketball standpoint, but Coach Fox he's a school man first, I've matured with him a lot. He's taught me to be a man."

Williams has showed his maturity in other ways.

Along with Florveus, Williams starts for the Bulldogs, but the players behind them (Brandon Morris and Charles Mann, respectively) play more minutes. But neither has complained.

In fact, Williams' unselfishness was recently mentioned to Fox by an unbiased observer following the Bulldogs' win Saturday over Tennessee.

"I had an NBA guy come and stop me after the game Saturday to compliment Vincent because he's really cheering on No. 4 (Mann) and that was impressive to him so much so that he wanted to make sure to recognize it," Fox said. "We already knew because Vincent has always been very supportive of Charles and has tried to help him as much as he can."

Fox is quick to point out that Williams hasn't been alone.

"John's the same way. They're very unselfish people and Sherrard has come off the bench most of the year and he's another guy who has really tried to help Brandon (Morris) learn the ropes," Fox said. "He's had to play out of position all year with (Marcus Thornton's) injury and didn't at one time complain about it. Those guys have been very team-first guys."

Fox also credits the trio for helping to steady the ship after the Bulldogs (14-15, 8-8) started the season 2-7, but have gone 12-8 since.

"That was a tough situation for everybody, but I think we showed that were tough enough and had enough character to come back from that," Brantley said. "We came together even though we had some tough losses."

Florveus feels he's helped along the way.

"I just felt like I've brought defense, toughness and this year I played a bigger role and more of a slight leadership role, helping the young guys on the little things here and there," he said. "I think I helped to show how to be tough and persevere through times and adversity, some of the same things the seniors before taught me."

Fox said the three have done Georgia proud.

"One of the most rewarding things in coaching is to see young men become men," Fox said. "It's hard to see them leave, you're proud of the development they've made as people. These three guys are going to graduate, they're going to make society better no matter what they choose to do, no matter where they choose to live and that's very rewarding."

NOTES: Kentucky (20-9, 11-5) has won the past three meetings of these two teams and leads the overall series, 115-25. Georgia's last victory in the series came in a 77-70 win in January of 2011. … The Bulldogs arrive at this game with a 14-15 overall record, 8-8 in SEC play. Most recently, they defeated Tennessee 78-68 in Athens last Saturday. The victory gave Georgia its first regular-season sweep of Tennessee since 2001 and the third sweep of the 2013 SEC schedule. … Another victory would match Georgia's SEC win total from its most recent NCAA Tournament team (2011) and would assure the Bulldogs of just their third SEC record of .500 or better in the past 10 years.