Columnist: When the little man counts in sports

Loran Smith - Syndicated columnist

Loran Smith

Syndicated columnist

The greatest of times comes when the little man counts in sports. Georgia’s J. J. Frazier, the small town ant who can move the rubber tree plant, is the most fun-to-watch Bulldog player who has played Dr. Naismith’s game in my time in Athens.

I haven’t seen ‘em all, but I’ve seen enough. With an enlarged competitor’s heart, the “Glenville Gnat” is as elusive as the eel and as dead-eye as Ozark Ike ever was. Containing him is like holding a handful of quick silver. J.J. can find the basket in the trees (count ‘em, Georgia Tech’s multiple towers who played here last Saturday: 6-7, 6-9, 6-8, 6-8, 6-7, 6-10); whose production paled when measured against the “Gnat,” who scored 35 points with four assists which led to baskets which meant that he had a hand in 43 of Georgia’s 75 points.

What the “Gnat” did was spectacular. And, he got little help from his own fans who yawned until the second half when J.J. was so inspirational, he got the Bulldogs spectators off their duff, all by himself. Why, one asks, would Georgia fans not get into the rival game in a series in which the home team had not won in four years? From the opening tip? If you are one of those and you should bump into J.J. about town, extend a hand of congratulations and say, “I gave no help.”

Most shooting guard performances, historically are measured against the remarkable play of Zippy Morocco, who played football and basketball for the Bulldogs in 1951-53. Morocco was a set shot artist. His style would not connect today. However, all you can be is the best of your time. Zippy (510, 168) in his signature season led the conference in scoring in 1953 with 590 points, which included a 38 point scoring effort to beat Tennessee. Ole times still talk about that game in Knoxville. Guess who the big man in the conference was that season? None other than the 6-9 Bob Petit who played nine years in the NBA after an all-star career at LSU. When Zippy was hot, he could burn the nets.

There have been some others nights to remember in Georgia basketball, namely February 27, 1984 when Vern Fleming, who went on to win an Olympic Gold Medal and played 13 years in the NBA, put up 44 points on Vandy; Litterial Green, Feb. 2, 1991 scored 38 in a losing effort against Kentucky.

Nonetheless, J. J. gets my vote as Georgia’s most exciting player, one who arches a long three pointer and hustles back on defense, eager, buoyant and bent on doing his part when it is time to confront the scoring objective of the opponent. J.J. knows he must help his team on defense. He must make the rubber burn when the ball is not in his hands. His aim is to be a complete player not just a three=point specialist.

Our little man had a steal and rendered only one turnover, but that faux pass came about when he was stricken with cramps in the final minute of play. Even on one leg he was difficult to contain. J. J. is the only player in the country under six feet with two double digit rebound games (11 versus Seton Hall last year and 10 against Winthrop recently).

This (Tech game) was a performance to bronze. It could well be the most significant victory in Mark Fox’s career. It should lead to greater things. Time always determines that. It is not lost on basketball advocates, that this is potentially Fox’s best team and best opportunity. He has big time recruits committed, and while his recruits might not turn any heads in Lexington, he is making noteworthy progress.

Patience, hard work and coaching savvy are among the assets he has used to get to this point. To go further, he needs more talent. The basketball railbird in Athens are optimistic about that.

Maybe the students will return in January with a bent for helping J. J. and his buddies thrive in SEC competition. If you want to enjoy a night out this winter, come watch J.J., the Glennville Gnat, perform. When he’s hot, he puts on a show .you don’t want to miss.

J.J. is Georgia’s most heralded left handed shooting guard. I can remember Jimmy Pitts and Ronnie Hoage, but they played height was not so sensational as it is today. That’s why I recommend Georgia basketball to you. J. J. has something in common with Sandy Koufas, Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Ramses, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Ben Franklin, Marilyn Monroe, Opra Winfrey, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Kermit the Frog.

Southpaws who were/are difference-makers.

Loran Smith is an athletic administrator at the University of Georgia.

Loran Smith is an athletic administrator at the University of Georgia.

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