ATHENS — Georgia’s rapidly dwindling basketball team lost another key player Monday when junior guard Mike Mercer was kicked off the squad for "being a disruption," coach Dennis Felton said.
Mercer, Georgia’s second-leading scorer at 13.7 points a game when he sustained a season-ending knee injury last season, already was serving a 15-game suspension when Felton decided to send him packing.
Mercer followed Takais Brown out the door. The senior forward was suspended nine games, then dismissed from the team just before the season for an undisclosed violation of team policies.
"Mike Mercer has been dismissed from the team for being a disruption to the team," Felton told The Athens Banner-Herald. "The vast majority of our team is hardworking guys. They are committed to being successful athletes and students and making our school proud. The actions of a couple of guys are not representative of all the good things that are happening in our program."
Brown led the team in scoring last season at 14.2 points a game. Mercer started all 23 games he played as a sophomore.
Both Mercer and Brown were initially suspended for violations of the school’s new class attendance policy for student-athletes. Georgia has been eager to improve academic performance after consistently ranking near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference in graduation rates for the major men’s sports.
Another player, backup forward Albert Jackson, is serving a six-game suspension for failing to follow the attendance rules.
"When players fail to live up to their responsibility, it is addressed immediately," Felton said. "They are disciplined. They are mentored. They are talked to, preached to, yelled at, everything parents do and adults do to get them to conform and stay on the straight-and-narrow and doing the right thing."
Last week, Mercer’s closest friend and roommate, Billy Humphrey, was indefinitely suspended after his arrest for possession of a knife on school property.
The knife was found in the players’ dorm room when campus police carried out a search warrant. Officers went to room after finding a trace of marijuana in a discarded trash bag contained in another bag that had mail with the names of Humphrey and Mercer, according to Humphrey’s attorney.
No drugs were found, but Humphrey did tell the police that he had a souvenir knife from a trip to South America in the room. He was accused of being in violation of a Georgia law against having a knife with a blade at least 2 inches long in a school zone.
Felton defending his program in the face of its latest troubles.
"In my four-and-a-half years at the university, Billy’s arrest was our only arrest, and it was for an innocuous souvenir pocket knife that was found in his dorm room," Felton said. "Billy is a good kid. He made a mistake and he’s sorry about it. I don’t believe he’ll ever permit that mistake to happen again."
Humphrey has been placed on a one-year probation by the school and reprimanded by the student judiciary council, Felton said. The guard will remain suspended at least until his criminal case is resolved.
Georgia (2-0) plays its next game Tuesday, hosting Elon.