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Chip TowersChip Towers

Ten@10: Sports psychologist helps Bulldogs through long rehabs

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I’m actually on vacation this week, as well as half of the civilized world as it appears to me. But I didn’t want to deprive anyone of their fundamental right to read “The Ten at 10.” So I slapped this together. Hope you enjoy, and happy Independence Day everyone! …

THE TEN AT 10:

1. Hope you got a chance to read the feature story I wrote recently on tight end Jay Rome. The junior from Valdosta finally appears to be close to healthy and he predicted he would be ready to play on Aug. 31 against Clemson. With the graduation of Arthur Lynch and nothing but youth behind him, getting Rome back up to speed is critical for the Bulldogs if they’re to continue gobbling up yards and points in 2014.

I’m not sure if I was able to capture in that brief update how terribly frustrating this whole injury deal has been for Rome. And not just for him, but also close friend and fellow Valdosta High graduate Malcolm Mitchell. In fact, together with recovering wideout Justin Scott-Wesley, all three of the “229 Boyz” found themselves sequestered in the training room doing rehab most of the last year. And it has been harder on them that most of us might think.

“I definitely went through a very dark time internally,” Rome told me. “I felt as if I just wasted a whole year. And I couldn’t do anything about it. It wasn’t from lack of planning by me or the coaches or anything else. It was just like what happened to a bunch of other guys on the team. It was like we were cursed.”

2. UGA has not taken their recoveries lightly, from their physical injuries or the mental burden. Rome told me sports medicine director Ron Courson actually had all three players meeting regularly with a sports psychologist to help them work through their issues.

Rome said him, Mitchell, Scott-Wesley, Keith Marshall and Reggie Wilkerson would meet every Monday with Dr. Arial Treankler of the University Health Center to discuss the challenges they were facing.

“It’s just an emotional process,” Rome said of the long recovery. “At one point, we’re at the top of our games at a very high level and then you’re not able to put you own socks and shoes on.”

Rome, who had surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right foot, was on crutches for four months from November to February. He just happened to live in the basement apartment of the house he shares with several friends.

“I had to have my roommate help me if I was going to get anything to eat,” Rome said. “I couldn’t carry anything down the steps, couldn’t carry a drink. It’s just a lot of things like that that doesn’t necessarily deal with football, but they really bother you.”

And then, of course, there’s the football part.

“It’s tough just seeing the rest of the guys still out there playing ball,” Rome said. “I wasn’t feeling like part of the team. I couldn’t even put on a green jersey and go out on the practice field with the team. I couldn’t even walk early on. So I was always inside.”

Rome said the therapy sessions helped bond the Bulldogs’ walking wounded. Even short-timers such as Michael Bennett and Todd Gurley joined them.

“Really opened up to each other and talked about how we were feeling,” Rome said. “You might be feeling down one day. It gave us a chance to get closer and really share about our different paths. As close as we were, we’re even closer.”

3. As for the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs were able to address some of their issues with Tuesday’s news that Shattle Fenteng will be admitted into school. The junior college All-American cornerback told The AJC on Tuesday his transcript from Hutchinson Community College cleared UGA admissions and the NCAA Clearinghouse. Now Fenteng will be able to join his other classmates, who have been working out and practicing since enrolling in school June 3.

Fenteng, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior from Grayson, is expected to contend for playing time at the cornerback position opposite of senior Damian Swann. That spot is currently manned by redshirt freshman walkon Aaron Davis. It was once manned by Shaq Wiggins, who transferred to Louisville, and Brendan Langley, who’s now playing offense.

4. Georgia was a finalist for Charles Mitchell, the Maryland forward from Marietta who was seeking a transfer to be closer to an ailing relative. But in the end, the 6-foot-7 rebound specialist ended up enrolling at Georgia Tech. So did two other forwards. They were among four players who transferred in to play for the Jackets.

Meanwhile, two other Bulldogs transferred away from UGA this past year seeking more playing time and a chance to be closer to home. Forward John Cannon is now playing at UNC-Asheville while Tim Dixon enrolled at Columbus State.

If you’re sensing a trend, you’d be right.

“I think it’s an issue in college basketball people are concerned with,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said during a teleconference call with SEC coaches on Monday. “I think it begins with a lot of these kids before they get to college. So many of them change high schools, they change the summer teams that they play on. It’s almost like in some cases it’s their habit to change programs. But I think it’s at an alarming level right now.”

According to a list compiled by Jeff Goodman for ESPN.com, there have already been more than 500 transfers in 2014 alone

“I think sometimes it’s the right thing to do that a kid transfers, but the number of transfers now that appears to be a bit unhealthy,” Fox said. “It’s not something that I think any coach wants to make a living on, I think we’d all like to have players on our team that are happy and developing and there for a while.”

5. In that regard, Fox feels pretty good about the team the Bulldogs will put on the floor next season. Four starters and 10 lettermen return from last season’s 20-win team. And while Georgia didn’t add Mitchell or any other transfers, it did sign a pair of freshmen big men – 6-foot-10 Osahen “Fred” Iduwe and 6-foot-8 Yante Maten – in hopes of compensating for the lack of scoring production inside the paint.

Both players have enrolled at UGA this summer. College basketball coaches are now permitted to work with their players two hours a week.

“We’ve been very pleased with their response, their approach,” Fox said. “Both kids are very eager to learn and eager to work. That’s been something we’ve been really excited about. They’re not fighting the effort that’s required. They’re making progress. So that’s been a real good thing to see.”

6. Georgia’s response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations regarding the swimming and diving program is due to be filed on Wednesday. As per the NCAA’s major infractions process, the Bulldogs had 90 days to respond to those accusations when they were officially levied on April 2.

Jack Bauerle, Georgia’s 35-year, highly-decorated coach, is accused of having provided extra benefits to star swimmer Chase Kalisz at the end of the fall semester by calling a UGA professor and asking him to retroactively enroll Kalisz in a class and provide a grade for him. Kalisz, who was suspended for three meets when UGA initiated its investigation last December, ultimately did not need the class and his academic eligibility was preserved.

Bauerle, who has led Georgia to five national championships in women’s swimming, remains under indefinite suspension with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

7. In case you missed it, Georgia women’s basketball coach Andy Landers was “called out” by DePaul coach Doug Bruno and Georgia State coach Sharon Baldwin Tener this past week. Being “called out” is part of a charitable promotion within women’s basketball in which coaches and players agree to get dunked with ice-cold water to draw attention to the fight against cancer. It’s called “Chillin4Charity.”

For the head coaches, if the person they “call out” does the challenge, that coach will donate $50 to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund in the name of the called-out coach. If the person they “call out” does not do the challenge, that person is supposed to donate $250 to the fund. The assistant coaches do the same thing for $25 and $100 amounts. Players do it for community service, with those being called out performing two hours of community service if they get dunked and five hours if they don’t.

Never one to be outdone, Landers put his own personal touch on the process. He and the other called-out Bulldogs – assistant coaches Angie Johnson and Robert Mosley and players Sydnei McCaskill and Mackenzie Engram — went out to his Oconee County farm and were dunked simultaneously under front-end loaders.
Click HERE to see them get dunked and see who they called out to be next.

8. The Lady Bulldogs will be getting down to business very soon. They’ll be leaving for a playing tour in Italy the first week of August. As per NCAA rules for such things, that means they’ll be allowed additional summer practice dates to prepare for the trip. Those preparations will begin the week of July 14-18 and will continue July 21-25. Teams are allowed to play occasionally overseas and are given 10 additional practice dates to prepare.

9. There is a very good chance a Georgia Bulldog will be among the nine players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. In fact, at the moment odds are good there could be more than one.
According to the latest Ryder Cup points standings, UGA grads are currently ranked No. 1, 11, 12, 13, 19 and 31. Of course, reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson leads that list and is a favorite to make the team. But keep a close eye on Chris Kirk, Harris English and Brendon Todd – 11 through 13, respectively — the next month. They’ve been moving steadily up the charts this year. Erik Compton and Russell Henley round out the UGA representation at the top of the heap.

10. This & that: Speaking of the sports of kings, UGA grads currently have the distinction of occupying the position of the top-ranked U.S. player in the world in men’s golf (Watson, 3) and tennis (John Isner, 11). … Georgia finished 16th in the final Learfield Director’s Cup standings. That was fourth among SEC schools. Stanford finished first for the 20th consecutive year. … Rising senior third baseman/outfielder Hunter Cole is hitting .308 and is currently tied for the Cape Cod League lead in home runs (3) and tied for second in runs batted in (12) so far Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL). Cole was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 26th round of the last month’s draft. He remains unsigned but how much notice he gets in summer ball may determine whether he returns to college. He has until July 18 to make up his mind.

 

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