Humphrey not overlooked anymore

ATHENS – Billy Humphrey has nine tattoos covering the upper half of his body, but none of them is his most prominent feature.

In fact, it's hard to even see them sometimes in the shadow of that giant chip on the Georgia freshman's shoulder.

Billy Humphrey – a 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard from Dacula – was the last Bulldog in his recruiting class to be offered a scholarship. He's still stung by the perception of some fans that he wouldn't be in Athens if Louis Williams hadn't jumped straight from high school to the NBA, thus freeing up a Georgia scholarship.

"People think, ‘He got lucky.'" Humphrey said. "This is my time to show I'm here because I'm supposed to be."

For Humphrey, every feathery jumper that falls is soft jab at the fans – and other colleges -- that overlooked him while he was leading all prep players in Georgia in scoring last year. And he's already on the verge of winning the fight in a knockout.

Although not yet a regular starter, he leads the Bulldogs in scoring, 14 points per game, and rebounding, 5.1 per game. He is 16th in the SEC in scoring and seventh in the league in 3-point percentage at 48.4 percent.

It all adds up to a big, ‘Take that' for Humphrey.

"I wanted to play for Georgia Tech, and they recruited right over my head," he said after scoring a season-high 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting in a 91-75 victory over the Yellow Jackets in Athens on Wednesday. "This is what they missed. That's how I feel about it."

Humphrey will play Saturday in Gwinnett County, where he hasn't been overlooked in a long time. He was named a Class AAAAA all-state guard after averaging 30.4 points per game. The Bulldogs (6-1) take on Georgia State at 1 p.m. in the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth.

Mike Mercer was a teammate of Humphrey and Williams in AAU basketball, and he's not surprised by Humphrey's success.

"I played against him a lot of times in high school, and he dropped a lot of points on us, so I knew he was that good," Mercer said. "He dropped 59 in a high school game. That's not easy to accomplish."

Despite his flashy high school statistics, Humphrey didn't have an offer from a major school entering his senior season of high school. He considered signing with either College of Charleston or SMU at that point but decided he could improve his status with an impressive senior season.

All the while, Georgia wanted to extend an offer to Humphrey but couldn't, Coach Dennis Felton said.

"It was just a matter of managing scholarships," Felton said.

Humphrey got a good break when he was asked to join Mercer's and Williams' nationally renowned AAU team prior to his senior season. That's when the big boys took notice. Florida's Billy Donovan flew to Dacula, and then-Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson called Humphrey one of the best shooters in the country, said Joe Bunch, Humphrey's step-father.

Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser spent an hour on the phone with Bunch, deep in the recruiting process, and Humphrey seemed ready to go with the Demon Deacons. However, Prosser never offered a scholarship, instead promising a call back that never came.

"Billy has always been under the radar screen," said Bunch, who has videotaped every one of Humphrey's game since Humphrey was in the fifth grade.

The Georgia Tech game "is going to turn a lot of heads," Bunch said.

Finally, Georgia was able to find a spot for Humphrey, not because Williams bolted for the NBA but because the NCAA repealed the 5/8 rule, which limited the number of players a school could sign in any two-year period.

"We just kept asking him to be patient, and we're grateful that he did," Felton said.

Now, all of Georgia's opponents are having to pay for how long Humphrey had to wait.

"I certainly think he uses it as a motivation," Felton said, "and there's nothing wrong with that."

Since scoring just six points in his first collegiate game and deciding he was being too conservative, Humphrey has been in double-digits for six straight games.

Most of Humphrey's tattoos stick to his theme of proving people wrong. His largest and favorite stretches from shoulder to shoulder across his back and reads, "Deadly on the Court" across the top of a grim reaper holding a flaming basketball. Under the reaper, it reads, "Hoop or Die."

Others include, "Blessed and Born to Ball," "Heaven Sent," "I'm Saved Not Soft," and "Dollar Bill," his nickname since his junior year in high school.

He got the artwork the same way he gets points, in bunches. When Humphrey left the house for college in May of this year, his skin was untouched by ink, his step father said. Four months later, he had all nine completed.

"His mom and I were a little surprised," Bunch admitted.

All Humphrey's tattoos makes him hard to miss, but he wouldn't mind being overlooked just a little longer.

"I love the underdog," he said. "I love coming from underneath and showing up on top."

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