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McPhee realizing hoop dreams

Special Photo: University of Georgia. Ricky McPhee, a Parkview grad, transferred to Georgia after two seasons playing basketball at Garnder-Webb and went from scholarship player to walk-on. He worked his way into the starting lineup and is starring for the Bulldogs.

Special Photo: University of Georgia. Ricky McPhee, a Parkview grad, transferred to Georgia after two seasons playing basketball at Garnder-Webb and went from scholarship player to walk-on. He worked his way into the starting lineup and is starring for the Bulldogs.

After a season of small contributions, Ricky McPhee made his own opportunity.

The Parkview grad transferred to Georgia after two seasons playing basketball at Garnder-Webb and went from scholarship player to walk-on. He watched a season from the bench and save about 11 minutes a game watched much of last season.

Then came the Bulldogs' new coaching staff. The fresh atmosphere ushered in by Mark Fox dovetailed with the motivation driving McPhee as he entered his final year of eligibility.

"For the offseason workouts, I dedicated myself to do my best for the team," McPhee said. "I told (Fox) I wanted to be a part of this."

The results are greater than the sum of the parts.

McPhee literally worked his way into the Bulldogs' starting lineup and prepared himself to play every minute of the game. The guard has started all eight games this season and leads the team in minutes played.

"I took pride in conditioning," McPhee said. "I wanted to run a mile under five minutes. I would run every day to try to reach that goal. At the end of the summer I got real close. 5:03. My condition is so much better than it was before."

And he is not just logging minutes. This season is about McPhee making an impact. In the summer he didn't just run, he played and he shot baskets. And he shot, and he shot and he shot. And the shots are falling.

McPhee leads Georgia with 15 3-pointers and is third on the team in scoring with 8.8 points per game. Only Travis Leslie and fellow Gwinnett product Howard "Trey" Thompkins score more. McPhee leads the team in steals, is third in 3-point percentage and assists and fourth in defensive rebounds.

All that keeps him where he wants to be. On the floor.

McPhee didn't have any big Division I schools looking at him when he graduated from Parkview and he took his opportunity at Gardner-Webb. It's an experience he won't give back, but after two seasons at the mid-major, McPhee knew he wanted a change.

"It had always been my dream to play at a big school like Georgia," he said.

"I just couldn't lay my head down. I had always wanted to play at a big school and I didn't want to regret that decision."

He called his former coaches and Georgia offered him the walk-on spot. The move brought McPhee closer to home and closer to his goal.

Hard work made his dream come true.

"It's definitely a blessing if you keep sticking to it, with hard work and stuff," McPhee said. "I am happy with my decision. I am happy the coaching staff at Georgia gave me the opportunity. It's a rewarding experience for me."

Playing in Athens is a quicker trip for his parents to come watch him play and McPhee will be even closer to home tonight when Georgia takes on Illinois at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. McPhee admits he is excited to play so close to home and that he knows friends will be in the stands, but he quickly returns his focus to the game. It's that focus that got him on the court and he doesn't want to leave.

"It's cool to travel to a place that we haven't played yet," McPhee said. "I am really excited to play a big school like Illinois. They have a good tradition of basketball. This could be a big win if we are able to come out and play well."

McPhee always played well and he keeps getting better. And now he can show off the fruits of his hard work.

"It's nice for people to see that I traveled to Gardner-Webb and came back home to Georgia," McPhee said.