December 21, 2008

All in a nickname

Ricky McPhee leaned against the wall inside Georgia's basketball training facility when teammate Corey Butler walked by with a wide grin etched across his face.

"Be sure you tell him your nickname," Butler smiled.

McPhee rolled his eyes.

"Ok, it's Ricky 'McThree,'" said McPhee in embarrassment. "That's what they call me."

For the fans who attended the Bulldogs' dramatic 74-73 overtime win over Wofford Saturday, it's easy to see why.

McPhee played a season-high 23 minutes and contributed 11 points, including a pair of key 3-pointers that kept Georgia in position to win the game on Zach Swansey's last-second 3-pointer.

"That's the man right there. We talk about it all the time, he's great. He's obviously the best shooter on this team and I've kept telling him that his opportunity is going to come," Swansey said. "I told him he's got to be ready because you never know. He hit some big shots for us."

Then again, that's nothing new for McPhee, who along with the rest of the Bulldogs return to action Monday night (7:30) with a home game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

During his senior year at Parkview High, McPhee was the state's second-leading scorer, behind former Bulldog Billy Humphrey.

"A lot of the home guys, people from Georgia, know that he can put up shot and score points," Butler said. "He's done a heckuva job. I'm really proud of him."

After signing with Gardner-Webb, McPhee quickly made his mark, scoring 21 points in his college debut against North Carolina in 2006 and the following season in 2007 tallied a career-best 22 points against Texas Tech.

But citing a desire to move closer to home, McPhee decided to transfer to Georgia, although he would have to sit out a season as required by the NCAA's transfer rules.

"It was tough being at practice when you don't get into games," McPhee said. "You take a different look at basketball when you're on the sidelines but it's helped me become a better basketball player all around."

Swansey said he admires his teammate's ability to take that kind of attitude.

"I don't think anybody understands it unless you go through it," Swansey said. "He was out here every day for two or three hours, just busting it, playing hard. He didn't get a lot of reps (in practice) last year but he worked hard and stayed with it and to do what he's done is huge."

As for that nickname:

"We gave it to him last year even though you weren't able to see him until now. We call him Ricky McThree because he can shoot lights out," Butler said. "He's an excellent offensive player, an excellent defensive player, an excellent all-around player."

With McPhee gaining more confidence every time he takes the court, look for the 5-foot-11 guard to continue getting his opportunities to show what he can do.

Whatever role he has to play is fine with him.

"Just coming off the bench I know how to bring the energy," McPhee said. "When I got out there I got myself open (against Wofford) for a couple of shots, and I started getting a rhythm out there. It was a good experience for me. I was just out there having fun. But then again, that's what basketball is all about."

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