Gibbs struggles with old injuries

ATHENS – As bleak as Georgia's basketball season has been, and as bleak as it's apparently going to get before it's over, at least there's hope. The Bulldogs know that some day in the future they won't be this young or this short-handed or this bad.

Corey Gibbs wishes he had that kind of certainty. Georgia's freshman forward once had similar optimism. He was considered one of the top high school basketball players in the nation and was a marquee name in the Bulldogs' 2002 signing class.


"He hobbles around most all the time," Coach Dennis Felton said.

All of Gibbs' hopes were three knee surgeries ago, and there's no guarantee he'll ever regain his lost form.

"I think he's a long way from being healthy, and I don't have any way of knowing if he'll ever be what he was before the injury," Felton said. "He has difficulty running up and down the floor at the pace that is required. He's still kind of dragging that leg along and every little thing seems to aggravate the knee."

Gibbs is only slightly more confident in his long-term prognosis than Felton.

"Right now, it's kind of hard to tell," he said. "Some days I have good days, some days I have bad days. I guess if I work hard enough I can get there, but it's hard to say if I'll ever have the athleticism I used to have."

There was a time when Gibbs was considered the top senior prospect in the state and the nation's 79th-best player by That was after he averaged 22.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.5 blocks as a junior but before he suffered an awkwardly torn meniscus cartilage in his right knee. Gibbs' cartilage was torn in a hook-shaped pattern, rather than the traditional straight line, he said. It has taken three surgeries so far to repair it, and his recovery hasn't gone well.

"I'm not sure if I rehabbed as much as I was supposed to or took care of it the right way," he said.

Gibbs estimates he's 80 percent healthy now, and even at 80 percent, he's clearly the most skilled of the Bulldogs' post players. The problem is he can only play a very limited number of minutes per game. He's averaging 15.2 minutes per game and recently missed five games after bruising his left knee. Still, Gibbs is the team's fourth-leading rebounder (4.1 per game) and averages 4.7 points per game.

"I think I've got a pretty good idea of what kind of athleticism it was that he had before the injury and those things certainly aren't there right now, but he's still able to come in and give us some rugged minutes and some quickness and mobility in the half court," Felton said. "He tends to have a nose for the ball to rebound, and he has terrific natural strength.

"It'd be exciting to think about what he could do if he were back to his previous form."

Gibbs hopes he gain gradually increase the strength in his knee and his minutes, but he has no idea if he ever will.

"If I need to play 15 minutes a game for my team to be better then I'll do that and go hard and be positive," he said.

Corey Gibbs

Redshirt freshman forward

6-foot-6/240 pounds

High School: Pace Academy/Redan High School

High School facts: Ranked 79th best high school senior by before tearing knee cartilage ... Transferred to Redan after stellar junior season at Pace Academy … Was averaging 19.5 points per game before injury at Redan.

College facts: Played in two games last year before sitting out due to injury … Was granted medical hardship waiver by NCAA so still qualifies as a freshman … The only member of the Class of 2002 still with the Bulldogs.


Time/place: Today, 8 p.m., Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Broadcast: Jefferson-Pilot Television/106.1-FM

Records/rankings: Georgia 7-9 (1-5 SEC), No. 14 Alabama 16-3 (5-1 SEC)

About Georgia: Leading scorer Levi Stukes (16.3 points per game) is expected to play for the first time in three games. Stukes missed the Vanderbilt game due to injury and the Florida game due to suspension. His suspension is over and his ankle is healthy, so he should get on the floor today. … The Bulldogs remain last in the SEC in scoring offense (64.8 points per game), scoring margin (minus-3.8) and field goal percentage (41.5).

About Alabama: Alabama has won five in a row since dropping its SEC opener to Vanderbilt on Jan. 5. … Junior forward Kennedy Winston and senior guard Earnest Shelton share the scoring lead for the Crimson Tide at 17.7 points per game. … Sophomore center Jermareo Davidson of Atlanta is averaging a team-high 8.5 rebounds per game.

Scouting Report: Today's game pits one of the conference's most experienced teams against the league's least experienced team. The Tide has a huge advantage simply because it starts a senior and two juniors. "They are very experienced at what they do and they have a lot of winning experience coming off of last season," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said. "This will be another challenge for our young team playing against an old, veteran team." The best matchup of the game will come at point guard where freshman Ronald Steel of Alabama and Sundiata Gaines of Georgia will go head-to-head. Steel is one of the country's top newcomers and is averaging 5.4 assists per game to go along with 5.4 points per game. "When you have the kind of weapons around you that (Steel) does it makes for a real fun experience for him I would guess," Felton said. For his part, Gaines has proven to be a tenacious defender.

Next: Georgia vs. LSU, Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.; Alabama at Florida, Saturday, 2 p.m.

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