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January 25, 2010What a difference a year has made for Georgia's Travis Leslie.
Forced to miss the final six games of the 2008-2009 campaign so he could concentrate on academics, Leslie has blossomed under new coach Mark Fox to become one of the most exciting young players in the league.
With his penchant for electrifying dunks, Leslie has been one of the sparkplugs for the Bulldogs thus far.
Apparently, the league is taking notice.
Monday, Leslie was named the SEC Player of the Week according to an announcement from the league office in Birmingham.
"I'm just a lot more relaxed; I'm out there just having fun," Leslie said after Georgia's 78-63 victory over previously 8th-ranked Tennessee. "I'm just out there playing ball."
Ironically, it was his effort against Tennessee that earned him the first Player of the Week honor of his young career.
A 6-4 sophomore from Decatur, narrowly missed getting the program's first-ever triple-double against the 8th-ranked Volunteers. He scored 19 points and added team-high totals in rebounds (9) and assists (7), the latter being a career high. Four of his eight field goals in the game were highlight-reel dunks, and he added his second career 3-pointer for good measure.
Teammate Trey Thompkins once again led the Bulldogs in scoring with 21 points and eight rebounds against the Vols, but it Leslie who provided some of the night's more memorable highlights with a trio of electrifying dunks, including an amazing windmill slam to punctuate a 12-4 run for Georgia to start the game.
"When I first got the ball, at first I was having a hard time deciding what I wanted to do," Leslie said. "I just didn't want to mess it up. I wanted to give the fans something to be excited about."
Teammate Dustin Ware, who was trailing Leslie on the play, might have had the best look in the house.
"Compared to some of the stuff I've seen him do in practice that was like kindergarten," Ware said. "It was funny. I was at the 3-point line and I just kept running because I wanted to get a closer look at what he was going to do."
For the season, Leslie is averaging 13.9 points and 6.5 rebounds, both second-best among all Bulldogs behind Thompkins. In Georgia's four SEC games thus far, he has established career highs in rebounding, assists, steals and minutes played.
Leslie becomes the second Georgia player this season to win the SEC Player-of-the-Week award. Thompkins took home the honor during the week of December 21.
The 9-8 Bulldogs hit the road for their next two SEC games. Georgia travels to Florida Wednesday and goes to South Carolina Saturday evening. Tip-off for both games is set for 7 p.m.
Georgia's next home game is Wednesday, Feb. 3 when Arkansas pays a visit to Stegeman Coliseum.