Bulldogs star likely out for Orlando

Trey Thompkins has started a season on the shelf before. Now he’s trying to use the lessons learned as a freshman to help him return from this season’s high ankle sprain better prepared to play.

Thompkins – a 6-foot-10 junior forward who is Georgia’s leading returning scorer (17.7 points per game) and rebounder (8.3 per game) and was named the Southeastern Conference’s preseason player of the year – has not practiced this week and is doubtful for this weekend’s Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla.

This injury situation is reminiscent of Thompkins’ freshman season, when he sprained his left ankle and missed the first four games and nearly all of preseason camp. The injury his freshman season was on a different ankle, however, and not as severe as this season.

“Conditioning is a huge thing, probably the most important thing at this level,” Thompkins said Monday – the first time he talked with reporters since his injury on Oct. 30. “The game is so much faster than high school. When I was a freshman, I had to figure that out the hard way. So now I’m trying to be ready so I can get back to where I was.”

Thompkins will have some company on the Bulldogs’ injured list.

Forward Connor Nolte broke his nose in the first half of the 61-59 win at St. Louis on Saturday. He played the second half of the game with the broken nose and is expected to play during the Thursday-Friday-Sunday set in Orlando this weekend.

Georgia coach Mark Fox said Nolte will have surgery after the tournament and could miss an unknown number of games after the procedure.

Nolte has started the first three games in place of Thompkins and averages 3.7 points and 3 rebounds per game.

Thompkins suffered a high ankle sprain on his right ankle the week before Georgia opened the regular season. He has not played nor practiced since then and has been limited to meetings and conditioning.

“We’re letting (Thompkins) run a little bit and we’re letting him shoot the ball a little bit,” Fox said. “I think he’s made a lot of progress, but it’s not ideal. I haven’t seen him on the court in a month. Eventually when he’s cleared to practice, he’s going to have to adjust. And playing a game is different from practice, and then to have to play back-to-back, that’s a lot to ask right now.”

In Thompkins’ absence, senior forward Jeremy Price has taken up much of the inside scoring slack, averaging 17.7 points a game and hitting the game-winning shot to beat St. Louis at the buzzer.

High ankle sprains usually take 2-4 weeks to heal. Thompkins has been aggressively approaching rehabilitation to get back as soon as possible. Although a return for this weekend appears unlikely, Thompkins believes he is closer to the end of the process than the beginning.

“I feel good, but I still haven’t been cleared to practice yet,” Thompkins said. “If I don’t practice, I don’t play. That’s the rules of the team. But I feel good. I’ve been doing some running and cutting and things like that. So hopefully I’ll be back pretty soon.”

Thompkins injured the ankle diving for a loose ball during practice. Since he has been out, the Bulldogs have won three straight close contests and broke an 11-game road losing streak on Saturday at St. Louis.

“The first thing that went on in my mind was, ‘Man, I wish this hadn’t happened,’ ” Thompkins said. “I’ve been working so hard in the preseason with my team. We’re looking so much better as a team and we’re starting to get it together and this happens. But I’ve made progress and I’m trying to look past it now and see what I can do to help my team keep winning games.”

Follow marcweiszer

marcweiszer

@JeffSchultzAJC @SethEmerson @BizWriterKristi Less than 3 weeks until basketball opener. Not that we are counting down.

1 hour ago