Freed up from point guard duties on nearly every play, Dustin Ware is stepping into the occasional – but effective – role of outside shooter for the Bulldogs.
The junior leads the SEC in 3-point percentage (48.6), hitting a critical 3 during Georgia’s win at Arkansas on Wednesday. The game before that, at Kentucky, Ware’s 18 points were the main reason Georgia stayed in it despite bad nights from its two best players.
“He’s been a big lift,” said Travis Leslie, Ware’s teammate and one of those players who has struggled lately while Ware has shone. “He’s been knocking down big shots, keeping us in games, bringing us back. I just hope he keeps doing it.”
Ware spent his first two seasons at Georgia concentrating on his point guard duties. But when Gerald Robinson became eligible this year, that changed Ware’s job description.
Robinson is a good enough ball-handler that he and Ware essentially share point guard duties, and defer to whoever is hot.
“Whenever either one of us feels it,” Ware said. “Sometimes Gerald’s in a groove and he’ll slide over. Sometimes I am and I’ll slide over. It really just depends. I think we both play off each other really well.”
Robinson is stepping into the role most expected him to, as the team’s third-leading scorer behind Trey Thompkins and Leslie. But he’s also allowing the 5-foot-11 Ware to move without the ball and get open more.
The result is more than just Ware leading the team with 35 made 3-pointers. (He made 42 last year and 40 as a freshman.) Ware also leads the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio (6-1) and is second in assists per game (4.5). And he has been getting better as the season goes on: Ware’s scoring average has increased two points since SEC play began.
“Dustin can play more minutes with less energy this year because of Gerald,” head coach Mark Fox said. “He’s been able to get better shots because of Gerald. The addition of Gerald to the backcourt has really made life easier to Dustin. He was the first guy last year who said ‘I’ll welcome this guy in,’ because it was so hard without him. And he has had more opportunities to score.”
Ware, who isn’t much for self-glorifying quotes, simply said that Robinson’s slasher probably opens up the perimeter for him. And if the Bulldogs need the big 3-pointer, he’s always had a green light anyway.
“I think I can provide that,” he said. “Whatever we need at the time. That’s something that I’ve been trying to focus on this year.”