ATHENS, Ga. — Unable to practice with Georgia in any kind of a supervised manner, Michael Dean instead has spent the last two months shooting by himself in a lonely gym behind Stegeman Coliseum.
"It has been a long wait,'' Dean said Wednesday of his desire to officially become part of the Georgia team.
Finally, the wait is about to end.
Dean will join the Bulldogs this weekend when, with Friday's end of fall semester, he becomes eligible for Saturday's game at South Alabama.
Georgia had to receive permission from the NCAA for Dean just to travel with the team to Mobile, Ala., Friday. His first practice with the team will be Saturday's pregame shootaround.
Dean says he knows he will have much to learn from Coach Jim Harrick's playbook. Even so, after having the start of his college career delayed by a problem with his high school transcripts from Rome, Ga., Dean is anxious to do more than just watch.
"I'm going to try to contribute right away,'' said Dean, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard. "I know I have a lot to learn, but I want to try to help as soon as I can.''
Dean says he has been promised by Harrick that he will be "jumping right into the fire.''
Dean also will be jumping into the longest road trip of the season.
After the 6 p.m. EST game at South Alabama Saturday, Georgia will fly to Malibu, Calif., for a Monday night game against Pepperdine. From there, the Bulldogs will fly to Honolulu to compete in the Rainbow Classic next week.
"I think we're going to bring (Dean) along for the experience and maybe a little bit of practice,'' Harrick said. "I don't know if he will play in any of these five games. After that, we'll have nine or 10 days of practice.
We're looking more to January for him.''
Asked if there is still a chance Dean could be held out as a redshirt this season, Harrick said "I don't have the answer to that.''
That answer will come from the way Dean picks up the system and competes in practice.
"I think he is going to be of tremendous help to their team,'' said Coosa High School coach Larry Bing. "He is a tremendous 3-point shooter with unlimited range. I feel like he will give them another perimeter player so teams cannot double up on the other wing.''
Bing said Dean also is a strong free-throw shooter, especially in clutch situations.
Dean averaged 31.3 points per game as a senior at Coosa High, and he should join wing players Ezra Williams and Jarvis Hayes as 3-point threats to watch.
Said Harrick: "I haven't been able to watch him here, but in high school he was a nice offensive player. He can handle it, pass it, dribble it and shoot it. I hope he can help us.''
Dean had the grades and test score to be eligible for the start of the season, but an administrative problem caused a delay in the processing of his transcripts from Coosa and Rome High School, where he began his high school career. As a result, he did not meet the NCAA initial-eligibility standards in time to enroll at the University of Georgia for fall semester.
"It hurt at first, but I knew I couldn't get down on myself, and I haven't,'' Dean said. "I had to be strong and keep my head up.''
Dean instead enrolled at Athens Tech for the fall, taking a speech class as a way of experiencing some kind of college-like atmosphere and keeping up with the Georgia team.
Dean hasn't been able to sit on the bench with his teammates, but he still had a good view at home games as Georgia has won seven of its first eight games. "I've been sitting right behind the bench,'' he said, adding that he has liked what he has seen.
"I like to run and get out on the break, and that's kind of what we've been doing this year, getting turnovers on defense and then pushing the ball,'' he said.
Dean may play behind Williams and Jarvis Hayes. His free-throw shooting could make him valuable late in close games.
"I've talked to him two or three days a week,'' Bing said. "He's a gym rat.
There's a timing element with the involvement of the plays that he'll have to learn, but as far as conditioning and his time spent in the gym, it's going to be there.''
Added Bing: "He'll be ready to go. This is what he has been waiting for.''
Charles Odum can be reached at CEOdum@aol.com.