LaVon Mercer remembers Dominique Wilkins at UGA

LaVon Mercer and Dominque Wilkins played only one year together at the University of Georgia.

In the 1979-80 season in Athens, Mercer was a senior about to move on and become a basketball star in Israel while Wilkins was a freshman from Washington, N.C., and one of the top recruits in the country. Hugh Durham was in his second year as Georgia’s head coach, coming from Florida State, and the program was taking off on a path that would take them to the Final Four three years later.

“I helped recruit and knew Dominique was going to be a star,’’ said Mercer of Wilkins, who really became noticed nationally when he made the “Faces in the Crowd” section of Sports Illustrated after scoring 48 points, 18 of them on dunks, pulling down 27 rebounds and blocking eight shots in a high school game. “When he first came to Georgia it was easy to tell just how good he was going to be. He had a lot of heart.’’

As a freshman on a 14-13 team, Wilkins led the team with a 18.6 points per game average, while Mercer scored 11.5 points and pulled down 7.8 rebounds per game. Mercer, by the way, made an incredible 61.1 percent (121 of 198) of his shots, best on the team.

“I always was a good shooter in college, and (it was) funny but people said in college that Dominique couldn’t shoot, which wasn’t right,’’ said Mercer. “Now he did develop a much better shot in the pros, but you have to understand in college he spent most of his time going to the glass. It was just that kind of game then. He still could shoot.’’

Before leaving for the NBA after three years and one season before the team made the Final Four, Wilkins was named SEC Basketball Player of the Year in 1981 and averaged 21.6 points per game at Georgia.

“One of the greatest,’’ said Mercer. “And I also would like to say he was one of the best students of the game every.’’