Harrick worries about emotional toll on Bulldogs

Georgia, which spent most of the first half of the season in first place, now has lost four of its last six games. It has only four games left in the regular season.</

ATHENS, Ga. — On a rare off weekday, Georgia coach Jim Harrick had yet another reason to worry Wednesday that his team has had to cope with too much adversity this season.

Harrick spent much of the day Wednesday arranging his schedule so that he can attend today's funeral for the older brother of Georgia junior guard Ezra Williams.

Antownne R. Williams, 24, was shot and killed Saturday night. The funeral will be held today at 1 p.m. at Back to the Bible Church in Marietta. Ezra Williams, one of Georgia's top two scorers all season, was given the option by Harrick to sit out of Tuesday night's key game against Florida.

Perhaps because he knew Georgia already was without one starter, Steve Thomas, due to a suspension for fighting, Williams elected to play. Williams made only 3 of 14 shots and scored only seven points — 10.6 below his average — in Georgia's 85-70 loss to No. 6 Florida.

Harrick worries about Williams and he worries about his team, which seems to encounter a new crisis every few days.

"I worry if I can find my team again,'' Harrick said Wednesday. "I really do worry about that. It's a very good basketball team, but I don't know if we can find our focus again.''

Harrick yearns for a few days to practice with all his players healthy and eligible for game action. Those opportunities have been rare, though the No. 21 Bulldogs have played through most of their roadblocks.

Before Williams' family tragedy, the most serious crisis came when Thomas and guard Tony Cole were named as two of three Georgia student-athletes allegedly involved in a Jan. 14 on-campus rape. The Athens-Clarke County District Attorney still is reviewing the evidence, and no charges have been filed.

Thomas and Cole were suspended for three games when the charges were first made public, but Thomas was allowed to return to the team after the release of an affidavit that seemed to provide testimony inconsistent with the original charges in the police report.

Cole, who had been the top backup at point guard, still has not returned to uniform. He first must fulfill other obligations that Harrick says are not related to the rape case.

Thomas needed more than a week to return to his top form, but then he was involved in a fight with Auburn's Kyle Davis in a game last Saturday, resulting in one-game suspensions for both players.

Earlier in the year, Georgia thought Jarvis Hayes, the emerging star of the team, was lost for the season with a knee injury, but the injury was just a sprain and he missed only three games.

Jonas Hayes, the team's top backup player, still wears protective support on the index finger of his left hand after the finger was severely dislocated in a game in December. He missed only one game with the injury.

Then, on the same day Thomas was serving his suspension for fighting, forcing him to miss the key home game against Florida, word leaked of the tragic death of Williams' brother.

The loss to Florida was damaging to Georgia's hopes of winning the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division race, but after the game players spoke in more somber tones about Williams' loss.

"My heart goes out to him,'' said Jarvis Hayes.

"He's hurting. We need him to regroup. We need to give him all the time he needs. I love him like my own brother. I told him if he needs anything to just ask.''

Georgia, which spent most of the first half of the season in first place, now has lost four of its last six games. It has only four games left in the regular season.

Asked Jonas Hayes: "When is the adversity going to stop? I don't know, but it will only make us stronger.''

Because of the funeral, Harrick may hold practice tonight instead of this afternoon. It was not known if Williams will again choose to play when Georgia plays another crucial game Saturday at 1 p.m. against Kentucky.

Williams' crisis overshadowed another big story from Tuesday night's game — the pregame altercation between Georgia fans and Florida center Udonis Haslem.

Reacting to taunts from Georgia fans in pregame warmups, Haslem fired a basketball into the stands, bloodying the lip of Georgia law student Jay Ernst.

Haslem may face some punishment as early as today from the SEC office. SEC Associate Commissioner Charles Bloom said that Commissioner Roy Kramer, who was out of the office Wednesday, will review a report of the incident involving Haslem today.

Bloom said it is difficult to predict how Kramer may rule on Haslem injuring a fan by intentionally hurling a ball into the stands.

"I don't know that there's any precedent for this,'' Bloom said.

Among the options for Kramer are a public reprimand and a private reprimand.

Harrick said Florida coach Billy Donovan and Haslem called his office "to get to the student and apologize.''

Added Harrick: "I think that's enough. I don't want to overreact.''

In this season of adversity, the Haslem incident ranks pretty low on Harrick's list of worries.

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