Bliss is playing best for Dawgs

ATHENS — To judge the status of the Georgia-Georgia Tech basketball rivalry that is renewed tonight, look no further than each team's best player.

Tech's is guard Jarrett Jack, a steady-as-the-tide, do-it-all junior whom coach Paul Hewitt says doesn't receive enough mention when talk of the nation's best players begins.

The Bulldogs?

It's probably Dave Bliss, a diligent, but flawed freshman who, let's be honest, probably wouldn't even be in Athens had his hometown Wisconsin Badgers offered a scholarship.

"I'm really, really pleased with him," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "He's definitely been our most consistent player. He's the type of player coaches like to count on and teams like to count on."

Felton said that before Wednesday night's win over Alabama A&M, in which Bliss had a season-low four points. Still, though, he had 10 rebounds, at least three more than any other player on the floor.

The rugged 6-foot-10, 240-pounder leads the Bulldogs with nine rebounds and is fifth on the team in scoring with 7.3 points per game.

"I think I've put myself in position to be successful by working hard in practice," Bliss said.

The son of an engineer and a nurse, Bliss was the valedictorian at Wausau West High School in Wausau, Wisc.

"He's a very bright and a very talented student," Felton said. "That's one of the things that helps him a lot on the basketball court. That's why he's been our most consistent player. His intelligence and diligence to details and talent in learning are serving him well."

While academics were a constant for Bliss, he didn't blossom into a top-notch basketball prospect until his last year of high school. Until he averaged 19.2 points and 14.1 rebounds as a senior, Bliss was a "Division II reject," Felton said.

Even when Georgia came calling, it only had to beat out Southern Miss, William & Mary and "one of those directional Michigan schools" to get Bliss, Felton said.

Bliss didn't come to Georgia's attention until late in the recruiting process, and, just a month later, he'd verbally committed to the Bulldogs. Georgia assistant coach Pete Herrmann offered Bliss a scholarship the first time they met, and the opportunity for playing time in Athens was too good to pass up, Bliss said.

Plus, the Badgers never came through with a scholarship offer to go along with the interest they showed, the player said. Still, he considered walking on at Wisconsin.

"Everybody thinks about playing for their home school," he said. "I definitely would've considered it, but it's hard to say what would've happened."

And it's hard to think where the Bulldogs would be without him.

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