Rivalry is big for Hayes brothers

ATHENS, Ga. — It may seem easy for tonight's Georgia-Georgia Tech basketball game to be overshadowed by the Saturday football game between the state rivals.

Normally, the games are played in different weeks, allowing each the chance to command all the attention. Last year's basketball game was played on Dec. 9, but this year's schedule was made to accommodate Fox Sports Net South TV, which will carry the 7 p.m. tipoff from Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum.  

Georgia players say they are not worried about being lost in the deluge of attention paid to the football game later in the week. Rather than be overshadowed by the football game, junior forward Chris Daniels says the basketball team wants to set a winning pace for Saturday's nationally televised showdown in Sanford Stadium.

"If we take care of business (tonight) and they take care of business Saturday, it can be a clean sweep,'' Daniels said Tuesday.

The Bulldogs' only starter who is not from the state of Georgia is forward Damien Wilkins, a transfer from North Carolina State and a native of Washington, N.C.

By comparison, Tech has only one starter from the state of Georgia, freshman forward Ismail Muhammad of Atlanta.

"We're Georgia's team, we're home-grown, Georgia's peaches,'' proclaimed Jarvis Hayes Tuesday.

Added Georgia coach Jim Harrick, who is 3-0 against Tech: "I've always felt you need to put a fence around your state. I would hope young people grow up wanting to play for Georgia.''

Wilkins says he is still learning about the rivalry with Tech, but his teammates have plenty to say about the subject — especially Atlanta natives Jarvis and Jonas Hayes.

The Hayes twins from Douglass High School were not recruited by Tech out of high school. They were again snubbed by the Yellow Jackets when their father made phone calls to Tech and Georgia when the two were looking to transfer from Western Carolina.

"Just like (Georgia linebacker) Boss Bailey said, ‘Just say Georgia Tech, and it's enough said,' '' said Jarvis Hayes. "Do we get pumped up? More than any game on the schedule. Oh, yeah.'' Added Jonas Hayes: "We could have been five minutes from home (if signed by Tech).'' Instead, says Jonas Hayes: "Coach Harrick pulled the string. People might say he gambled on us.''

If so, the gamble for the Georgia coach has paid off. Jarvis Hayes was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year by Basketball America and The Sporting News after leading the league with his average of 18.6 points per game. He has made some preseason All-America teams this year.

Jonas Hayes started seven games and otherwise was one of Georgia's top backups, averaging 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds.

This year, Tech boasts one of the top freshmen in the nation, 6-foot-10 forward Chris Bosh, who scored 26 points with 14 rebounds in his collegiate debut against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Playing beside Bosh on Tech's front line will be 6-foot-8, 250-pound center Ed Nelson.

Georgia has no player taller than 6-foot-7.

"It certainly does concern me,'' said Harrick of the size disadvantage. "Anybody who has 6-11 guys certainly worry me.''

But Georgia won 22 games while coping with height disadvantages last year.

"We may not have a whole lot of 6-foot-11 guys, but a lot of teams don't have the versatility we have,'' said Wilkins, who starts at forward but also can play point guard or shooting guard.

Added Wilkins: "It's over-rated. Size can play a role if you let it play a role.''

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