In the hallway at the Coliseum Training Facility, Atlanta Hawks training camp invitee Damien Wilkins ran into a familiar face ‚Äî his own.
Wilkins, who played for Georgia from 2002-2004, saw his photo on the facility‚Äôs Bulldogs in the Pros display outside of the practice court. On one side of the photo, he‚Äôs wearing a Georgia jersey. On the other side, he‚Äôs mid-dribble, adorned in an Atlanta Hawks jersey.
‚ÄúOf all the photos they could use, it‚Äôs me in a Hawks jersey,‚Äù said Wilkins, who has also made NBA stops in Seattle/Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia. ‚ÄúIt does come full circle.‚Äù
Wilkins is back on Georgia‚Äôs campus for the Hawks‚Äô camp, which opened at the Coliseum on Tuesday. This is the first time Atlanta has hosted training camp away from Atlanta since the 2004-2005 season.
‚ÄúThese are world-class facilities that we thought would be a great environment for our players to come in and focus on basketball,‚Äù Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. ‚Äú[It] gives them an opportunity to bond and be together with nothing but basketball and themselves.‚Äù
Although he didn‚Äôt train at the Coliseum while he played for Georgia, Wilkins said the memories of his time on campus returned when he came back to Athens. Wilkins spent two seasons at Georgia after transferring from North Carolina State. He co-captained the team during his senior season and averaged 12.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs like riding a bike,‚Äù Wilkins said. ‚ÄúYou don‚Äôt really forget about it. When you come back, all you can really think about is the time that you spent here.‚Äù
Wilkins hopes to stop by and see some of the staff in the athletic and academic departments before training camp ends on Thursday, but his main focus is getting ready for the upcoming season.
‚ÄúI really am just trying to get as much rest as I can,‚Äù said Wilkins, the son of former NBA player Gerald Wilkins and nephew of Atlanta Hall-of-Famer and former Georgia player Dominique Wilkins. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not really about a reunion at Georgia for me as much as I‚Äôm enjoying being here. It‚Äôs about training.‚Äù
Wilkins spent five seasons with Seattle and accompanied the team when it moved to Oklahoma City for the 2008-2009 season. He‚Äôs spent the last four seasons with four different teams, including a stint in Philadelphia last season.
This is the second time he‚Äôs played with Atlanta. He came off the bench in 52 games for Atlanta during the 2010-2011 season.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs been with us the whole month of September and he‚Äôs a real pro at both ends of the court,‚Äù Budenholzer said. ‚ÄúHe understands defensive concepts, offensive concepts, so having his experience and his knowledge is something we feel good about.‚Äù
And although rest and preparation are the goals for this week, Wilkins teammates still found time to tease him about returning to Georgia, especially once they caught a glimpse of his picture in the training facility.
‚ÄúI got a lot of flack from those guys,‚Äù Wilkins said. ‚ÄúI tell them to make sure they clean up after themselves here.‚Äù