Jeremy Price’s career at Georgia has run the gamut during his four seasons in Athens.
It’s included an unexpected run to the Southeastern Conference tournament title, a coaching change, a 20-loss season and what could become a 20-win season tonight if the Bulldogs beat LSU on Senior Night in Stegeman Coliseum.
"I’ve been through a lot here," Price said. "I’ve been through ups, I’ve been through downs. Going through a lot of things has helped me mature more."
Price and fellow senior Chris Barnes will be recognized before the 8 p.m. game, the Bulldogs’ last at home this season.
David Price, Jeremy’s father, is expected at the game tonight along with aunts and uncles.
Jeremy said he will also think about his mother, Constance Reid, on the occasion as well. She died of cancer in June 2007 before his freshman season with the Bulldogs.
"I think about her every day," Price said. "I wish she was physically there to see me continue my career at Georgia, but I know she can’t. I know she’s there in spirit every day, every game. She’s right there with me."
Price and Barnes are the lone remaining members of Georgia’s five-player 2007 signing class under then-coach Dennis Felton, who was fired midway through the 2008-09 season.
The seniors began talking in January about this final home game.
They were freshmen in 2007 in a group that included Zac Swansey (now at Tennessee Tech), Troy Brewer (now at American University) and Jeremy Jacob (now at Oregon).
"We knew this day was coming," Price said. "It’s going to be special for us. … We stayed here and … got some things done."
Georgia went 17-17, 12-20 and 14-17 during their first three seasons. Now they can be part of Georgia’s first 20-win team since 2002.
"When we first came in, we talked about changing the program around," said Barnes, the team’s top frontcourt reserve, averaging 3.4 points and 3.8 rebounds. "We had three guys that left, and me and him are still here. We’ve been through a lot on the court and off the court. It’s going to be a very emotional time for us."
Price, a 6-foot-8, 270-pound center, is putting up his best numbers as a Bulldog after failing to match the production from when he was named to the SEC all-freshman team in 2008.
He said he lost about 25 pounds since last season. He is averaging 9.4 points per game and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 50.8 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs seem to be at their best when Price is at his best.
He is averaging 11 points per game in Georgia’s 19 victories and 6.1 points per game in Georgia’s nine losses.
"Jeremy, his production has been important for us," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "It’s probably not a coincidence that our team is not to the point now where we can have a couple of guys not produce and still find a way to win. We need a lot of guys to play well."
Price scored 20 points in the Bulldogs’ win at Tennessee, 22 in a win against Auburn and 14 in Saturday’s victory against South Carolina.
"When I saw Jeremy Price was on the scouting report, I could hardly believe he was the same kid we played in ’07-’08 in the NCAA tournament," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "He’s obviously a load inside. He knows who he is. He’s very effective at both rebounding the ball and finishing around the rim. He scared the heck out of us."
Foul trouble has been a bugaboo for Price. He has fouled out of three games – all Georgia losses – and picked up four fouls in four other Georgia defeats.
"That’s been something that’s hindered him his whole career," Fox said. "Some of the games we’ve had, a game against Tennessee, a game against Auburn, he’s avoided foul trouble. That’s enabled him to stay on the floor and get more looks at the basket."
Price and Barnes – barring a fall into the NIT – will get their final looks during a game at Stegeman tonight.
"They have been a real joy to coach," Fox said. "They both have magnetic smiles and great personality. I love seeing them every day. I have a lot of fun with those two guys. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t fight the first six months we were here, but they have grown a great deal. … Both have made a real impact on this program."
LSU AT GEORGIA
► WHEN: 8 p.m. today.
► WHERE: Stegeman Coliseum
► TV/RADIO: Peachtree-TV/1340-AM.
► RECORDS: LSU is 11-18, 3-11 SEC; Georgia is 19-9, 8-6 SEC.
► PROBABLE STARTERS: LSU— F Malcolm White (Jr., 6-9, 225, 8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F Storm Warren (Jr., 6-7, 230, 7.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg); G Andre Stringer (Fr., 5-9, 170, 11.6 ppg, 2.8 apg); G Matt Derenbecker (Fr., 6-7, 185, 6.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg); G Ralston Turner (Fr., 6-6, 193, 12.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg). Georgia — F Travis Leslie (Jr., 6-4, 205, 14.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Trey Thompkins (Jr., 6-10, 240, 16.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg); C Jeremy Price (Sr., 6-8, 264, 9.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg); G Dustin Ware (Jr., 5-11, 182, 8.0 ppg, 3.7 apg); G Gerald Robinson (Jr., 6-1, 180, 12.4 ppg, 3.9 apg).
► SERIES: LSU leads 60-40 and has won six of the last seven. Georgia leads 23-21 in Athens.
► LAST MEETING: The Tigers took a 50-48 win in Baton Rouge on March 6, 2010 to ensure the Bulldogs would go winless on the road last season. Thompkins had 19 points (on 7 of 23 shooting) and 16 rebounds.
► SEASON AT A GLANCE: After starting out SEC play 2-0, LSU has lost 11 of its last 12 games. The lone win during that stretch came a week ago at Mississippi State, an 84-82 victory. The Tigers lost at home to Vanderbilt, 90-69, on Saturday, despite 24 points from Warren. Georgia can notch win No. 20 and ensure a winning SEC record. The Bulldogs routed South Carolina 64-48 on Saturday behind 20 points from Thompkins and 15 from Leslie.
LSU coach Trent Johnson said Monday that Georgia has “probably locked up an NCAA (tournament) bid as we speak.” Georgia coach Mark Fox isn’t sure that a win tonight would assure the Bulldogs an at-large bid. “I won’t relax with just a win,” Fox said. “Would it do it? Maybe. But I won’t relax with just one win if we get in that spot.”
► NOTEWORTHY: This is the second meeting between teams coached by Fox and Johnson, who Fox was associate head coach for from 2000-04 at Nevada and then succeeded him there when Johnson left for Stanford. The two were also on staff together at Washington. “When you see what’s going on at Georgia and what happened at Nevada after I left, it speaks volumes to the type of person he is,” said Johnson, who called their friendship “pretty special.” Johnson, 54, introduced Fox, 42, to his wife Cindy at Washington, where she worked in promotions. Former Washington coach Lynn Nance, who gave Fox his first college job 20 years ago, is in his first season as an LSU assistant. …Former Georgia basketball player Ronnie Hogue, the first African-American to receive an athletic scholarship at Georgia, will be recognized at halftime. Hogue, who was at Georgia from 1969-73, is 14th on the team’s all-time scoring list. ……. LSU is averaging an SEC-low 58.3 points per game in league play and has been outscored by an average of 12.3 points per game …Georgia is 16th nationally and third in the nation in field goal percentage defense at 39.5. …Ware ranks No. 1 in the SEC and fourth nationally in assist/turnover ratio at 3.43. …Warren, who missed time this season due to Achilles’ tendonitis, scored 38 points in two games last week. Turner missed the first five SEC games after sustaining a stress reaction in his right foot. ….LSU is a game ahead of Auburn for fifth place in the SEC West. Despite improved play in the last week, Johnson scoffed at the idea his team was gaining respect. “Anytime you’re at the bottom half of your league that’s not respectable,” he told reporters in Baton Rouge.