0

McPhee's "J' on bench for Bulldogs

While Gardner-Webb University enjoyed its rise to college basketball fame with a shocking upset of Kentucky this season, one of the North Carolina school's former standouts could only watch from Athens.

But Parkview grad Ricky McPhee wasn't sad. He was excited to see his former teammates - he played the previous two seasons at Gardner-Webb - pick up a huge victory. And he was content with his decision to transfer to Georgia and to transform himself from a scholarship guard to a walk-on.

The 20-year-old left the smaller program because he wanted to be closer to home and he wanted to prove himself as a player in the Southeastern Conference.

"Just playing at (Gardner-Webb), I knew I could play and I felt like I could play at a big school," McPhee said. "That's what I've always wanted to do."

McPhee found his way to Georgia with the help of Bulldog Billy Humphrey and former Bulldog Mike Mercer, Gwinnett grads who he had known for years. After he informed Gardner-Webb that he was leaving, McPhee talked with those two players as well as the Georgia coaches about a possible transfer.

The coaches offered McPhee, who scored 12 points against UGA last season, a walk-on spot and he took it. Unfortunately he can't help the Bulldogs this season because he must sit out a transfer year. He's literally on the bench at UGA home games, but isn't allowed to travel.

"That's the tough part on game days, watching them play," McPhee said. "I get to do the same things as the guys in practice, the same routine. But it's tough to watch them play."

McPhee could certainly help the Bulldogs. A 6-foot-1 guard, he isn't a dazzling ballhandler and doesn't rack up many rebounds and assists. But he can shoot. Man, can he shoot.

One of the best outside shooters to come through Gwinnett, he had some big games in two seasons at Gardner-Webb, where he averaged 6.1 points as a freshman and 8.6 as a sophomore. He scored 22 last season against Texas Tech, but is better known for his 21-point effort in the 2005-06 opener against North Carolina.

That game included McPhee's game-tying 3-pointer with 11.6 seconds left, which was erased when the Tar Heels answered with a game-winning 3 for an 83-80 win.

Those clutch outside shots are what he can bring to Georgia - when he becomes eligible in 2008-09 for his junior season.

"I just want to come in and be a good shooter (next season), be a good guard," McPhee said. "Since I've been in college basketball I want to show my experience and hopefully help us make the NCAA Tournament."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.