Gaines tries to fill scoring void

ATHENS — Becoming comfortable playing point guard doesn't happen over night. You don't become comfortable in the position after playing there for a few practices and games. Not even after a year.

It took Georgia junior Sundiata Gaines until the end of his sophomore season before he was comfortable running the Georgia offense, he said.

Still, he is not a true point guard, and continues to learn the position.

"He's continues to improve," coach Dennis Felton said. "He's a guy that didn't come in with natural point guard instincts and he's reallyhad to learn the position — the psychology of the position, the nuances of the position. He's still very much learning and growing but he has come a long way."

Gaines said he knows he will never be a true point guard. He came in a scorer and is will always look to score if he can.

"He was a shoot first, shoot second, shoot third guy pass fourth coming out of high school. He was a pure scorer," Felton said. "He wasn't cultivated as a player to be a guy who thinks about the whole team."

Even if he's not a textbook point guard (Gaines said he likely never will be a typical pass-first guard), it looks like the Bulldogs patience in him is paying off.

While he is fourth on the team in scoring, he leads the team in rebounding, steals and assists. His 2.25 steals per game is best in the SEC. Last season, he led the Bulldogs in rebounds, assists and steals.

He also leads the team in turning the ball over, and his assist to turnover ratio of 1.77 ranks eighth in the conference.

Recently, his scoring has jumped up with Mike Mercer out. In the two games without Mercer, Gaines has averaged 18 points and 39 minutes a game

"For me to be out there 40 minutes, I'm going to have to be productive a lot," he said. "My scoring is going to have to go up some as well as my rebounding and assists."

With Mercer gone, though, look for Gaines to play more cautiously on defense. He can't afford to get into foul trouble early like senior guard Levi Stukes did on Saturday.

"I can't be too aggressive and take a lot of gambles like I normally used to do." Gaines said. "I can still play solid defense I just need to be more conservative."

Gaines said he was told when he was being recruited that he would play some point. But after practicing with the team, he was the best Georgia had.

That's how he ended up in the position. aAd even though his thought process and position on the court has changed, he thinks it has helped him as a player.

"It's more of trying to think of my teammates first as far as passing the ball and getting them in the flow of the game and then work my way into the game," Gaines said adding playing point has made him a much better play handler.

"The position's about an approach to the game and the way you see the game," Felton said. "Sundiata's a fine ball handler and has terrific quickness for a point guard. But he never played the position... It takes quite a bit of effort to change that approach dramatically."

If Felton had his way, there would be more combo guards like Gaines on the roster. He said he likes guards that can both run the offense, pass and score.

Felton said he thinks he has another one arriving soon in Dunwoody High senior guard Zac Swansey.

"If I had my way, we'd be deeper at point than we presently are," he said. "But we're still building our team."

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