"First thought was, ‘Oh man,'" junior guard Dustin Ware said. "You never want to be on the floor without a guy like that—a guy that can do so much."
At first, the thought of a broken ankle seemed plausible for the Bulldogs returning leading scorer and rebounder. An MRI showed the injury was a severe sprain, which was good news all things considering.
With no timetable for his return, his Georgia teammates had to adjust and deal without their go-to guy.
"Where do we miss Trey the most? His presence in general—he's a very versatile guy," said junior guard Gerald Robinson. "He opens up the middle, and on defense he's a big body down there. He'd help us put more pressure on the perimeter."
In Georgia's first game of the season, against Mississippi Valley State, the Bulldogs struggled to rebound and defend. Thompkins would certainly have impacted both of those areas.
"Trey is the pre-season conference Player of the Year," freshman Marcus Thornton said. "Not having him is going to have its effect a little bit. We haven't been really that distressed about not having him. We've been figuring out what we can do, and what we can get better at."
So after preparing for months with Thompkins penciled into the lineup for 30-plus minutes a game, coach Mark Fox had to make adjustments on the fly. So far, former walk-on Conner Nolte has been in the starting lineup. Freshman Donte Williams has seen increased playing time down low. And the rotations have been odd, even placing Robinson down low for some time during the season opener. At this point, Fox is prepared to do whatever necessary to fill Thompkins' void.
"Those other guys are definitely going to get some early playing time—just get some minutes under their belt," Ware said. "I think ultimately that will help us later in the year. We're probably going to call on those guys a lot. They're great players and great guys so now they're going to get some experience, too."
Other than personnel movement, Fox has kept his strategy status quo. Even though much of the scoring runs through Thompkins when he's out there, Fox has done little to change the offense.
"It's nothing special that we've been trying to do," Robinson said. "We've basically been picking up the slack. It's not necessarily one person having to pick up all of his slack. We've been picking it up as a team."
Currently, there is no set timetable for Thompkins' return. The Georgia training staff has aggressively attacked Thompkins' rehab, but progress on the ankle has gone stagnant, Fox said.
"It's kind of plateau-ing a little bit, you know," Fox said. "It's been getting a little bit better, a little bit better and I'd say the last couple of days we've not seen as much progress as we'd like. We do have him back in practice gear, but he hasn't practiced and hasn't been cleared to practice."
Although he can't practice or play at the moment, Thompkins has been present at every practice and walkthrough.
"He's still learning," Robinson said. "We've been putting in new stuff, and he's still there learning with us. It's not like he's not there. He's not trying to just come back and then start playing. He's still a part of this team every day."
Now, Georgia has a run of tough out-of-conference challenges coming up on the schedule. Games against Colorado, Saint Louis and Notre Dame were supposed to be used as a good gauge to see where the Bulldogs stacked up. Without Thompkins, Georgia won't be at full strength.
"We're not necessarily disappointed as long as we still go out and play hard and get wins," Robinson said. "We know he'll be coming back soon, so we want to be as good as we can at the end of the season in March."
Those wins may be hard to come by without Thompkins.
"When Trey is out there it makes everything else a lot easier," senior forward Jeremy Price said. "I mean, he rebounds, he scores—so it makes everybody's job easier when he's out there with us."