ATHENS -- It’s a common, and feared, term in college basketball: The freshman wall. As the theory goes, the new player gets off to a great start, then sometime around late January his legs get tired and the pressure of a longer season gets to him.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia’s leading scorer, hit it last week, in the estimation of his head coach. So Mark Fox gave his star a couple days off during a bye week.
And in the next game, last Wednesday at Auburn, Caldwell-Pope ended up having his lowest scoring game of the season.
Georgia (10-11, 1-6 in the SEC) and Caldwell-Pope carry their struggles into Tennessee on Saturday night.
“I’m just a little frustrated right now,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I’ve just gotta get back to what I was doing at the start of the season.”
During his first 15 games, Caldwell-Pope only had one game in which he didn’t score at least 10 points. But in the past six games, he has failed to reach double digits four times.
Caldwell-Pope gets most of his points on jump shots, and fresh legs are vital for that. But he said that’s not the problem.
“It’s just I guess some of the bad shots I’m taking,” he said. “I have good looks, and they’re just not going down. I’ve just got to start concentrating and focusing on making shots.”
Caldwell-Pope has gone just 4-for-19 from the field in Georgia’s past two games, both losses. His best game in the recent stretch was a season-high 25 points against Mississippi, and it may not be a coincidence that he only played 28 minutes in that game, his lowest amount of time in any SEC game.
“We’ve had to ride him awful hard. He’s had to play so many minutes,” Fox said. “I think one of my assistants told me the other day he’s seventh in the league in minutes played. And for a freshman, that’s a lot.”
Senior guard Dustin Ware said the freshman wall is a real thing, and he recalls hitting it as a freshman along with Trey Thompkins, now with the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. Ware and Thompkins were each playing a lot for a Bulldogs team that was struggling -- much like Caldwell-Pope is this year.
“I remember me and Trey, especially for us, we were young, we were playing a lot of minutes at the time. It definitely got us a little bit,” Ware said. “But we just love to play so much we fought through it. And just kept fighting. If we were tired, even if stuff wasn’t going our way, we just kept battling. And we’ve got a lot of guys like that. Kentavious is like that.”