Yante Maten is still feeling the pain from a shot to the jaw he took in Georgia's regular-season finale against Tennessee.
Maten collided with Tennessee forward Grant Williams in the second half of the Volunteers' 66-61 victory Saturday, which caused the Pontiac, Michigan native to fall to the floor and grimace. But considering this is Maten's final SEC Tournament appearance, he is going to battle through the ailment — much like he did when finishing the game against Tennessee.
"I've been getting headaches in and out. But I'm fine for the most part," Maten said. "It's a part of basketball. You're going to get bruised up. You're going to have injuries as the season goes along. That's just a part of the game, so I'm good."
Maten is no stranger to playing through an injury. A year ago, Maten came back from a significantly sprained knee for the SEC Tournament and was less than 100 percent. He battled through the pain in a win over Tennessee and a defeat against Kentucky.
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Georgia head coach Mark Fox said he expects Maten to tough out any lingering issues the hit to the jaw may have left.
"He obviously took a real physical shot and that's a heck of a foul to get on his part," Fox said. "He'll be fine. He's a tough kid and he's played through some tough things before. Obviously he was extremely sore. But it's the end of his career and I'm sure he'll battle through it."
While Maten is battling through an ailment, he was given some good news Tuesday, just a day before 12th-seeded Georgia faces 13th-seeded Vanderbilt in the first round of the SEC Tournament, played in St. Louis. The AP named Maten its SEC Player of the Year, with its panel of voters placing him as one of two unanimous selections on the first team. The other unanimous first-teamer was Tennessee's Williams.
Auburn guard Bryce Brown, Alabama guard Collin Sexton and Arkansas guard Daryl Macon were the other three to round out the first-team group.
"It means a lot. I've put in a good amount of time of basketball — years now to try to perfect my game and craft," Maten said. "I tried to help my team in any way possible. That acknowledgment that I was a very good player means a lot. But right now I'm really focused on getting as many wins as possible while we're here in St. Louis."
Maten leads the SEC in scoring (19.4 points per game) and is second in rebounds (8.8).
Maten became Fox's second player to earn SEC Player of the Year honors. The first was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who won the honor following the 2012-13 season. This also marked the first time since 1971 that a player from a team that finished under .500 in league play won the award. Georgia is 16-14 overall and 7-11 in conference play.
Given how Georgia's season turned out, despite having Maten and a talented roster, Fox was asked Tuesday if he has had any communication with athletics director Greg McGarity about his future as the Bulldogs' head coach.
"I have not been told that we have to win a certain number of games or advance to the tournament," Fox said. "I have had no communication like that. I would like this tournament, like I have tried to have every game be for the last nine years, be about our team and these kids, and try to find them some success, and not have it be about the coach. My hope is that we'll be able to focus on that."