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Mercer suspended from UGA hoops
South grad to miss 15 games

ATHENS - Three University of Georgia basketball players will face suspensions during the upcoming season after violating the Athletic Association's attendance policy, head coach Dennis Felton announced Thursday.

Junior guard Mike Mercer, a South Gwinnett grad, will miss 15 games, senior forward Takais Brown nine, and sophomore center Albert Jackson six.

Under the new policy enacted in January, any University of Georgia athlete who has three absences in a class will be suspended for 10 percent of their team's competition dates, with each subsequent absence tacking on another 10 percent.

"You're disappointed because you have a tough time understanding why they would put themselves in that position," Felton said in a teleconference. "And then you have just as tough a time understanding why they would do things that would impact other folks around them who are important to them at the same time."

Brown, who missed an exhibition and two regular season games because of academic issues last year, led the Bulldogs in scoring during the 2006-07 campaign. The Athletic Association is still debating whether the Bulldogs' exhibition against Clayton State will count toward the suspensions.

"I am very disappointed with myself," Brown said in a press release. "I let my teammates, the school and our fans down. My plans for the future are to continue to work hard and prepare myself for the remainder of the season, and also to finish off my Bulldog career on the best terms."

Mercer missed the final 10 games of last season with a knee injury and his suspension won't begin until he is medically cleared to play Felton said. Mercer was second to Brown in scoring at the time of his injury.

Felton called the attendance issue one that's been "accumulating" and cited a need to improve off-the-court commitment.

"The thing we're still working on and need to improve is obviously our maturity level and our level of discipline and accountability," he said. "We're putting together terrific pieces in terms of talent, actually also in terms of people and character, too, but we're still working on getting to the point where we have across the board that championship-caliber discipline."

The entire trio will miss the Bulldogs' Nov. 24 date with powerhouse Wisconsin, and it's unlikely Mercer would return before the onset of conference play in January.

News of the suspensions comes just over a week after the NCAA released its newest study on graduation rates, placing the Georgia basketball and football programs at the bottom of the SEC for players from the 1997-2000 entering class. The men's basketball program graduated only 19 percent of its players during that span. Felton, who took over the reigns in Athens in 2003, pointed to the future rather than the past.

"As a University, we are just intent on doing far, far better when it comes to seeing our student-athletes achieve in the classroom and earn degrees and go on to enjoy the benefits of that degree. Enough has been said about the kind of record we've had in past years, and we are just determined to change that around."