Georgia basketball player Rodney Howard (24) during an exhibition game against Valdosta State in Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Rodney Howard may be a basketball first among UGA-Georgia Tech transfers

Growing up in Michigan, Rodney Howard did not know much about the Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry. After the freshman center announced his plans to transfer from Georgia to Georgia Tech on Monday, he knows a lot more now.

Howard said he received social-media messages from some Georgia fans displeased with his destination.

“I got a couple messages talking about ‘Georgia going to whup y’all’s (butt),’ blah blah blah,” Howard told the AJC. “’You chose the wrong school.’ ‘Y’all suck.’ ‘I can’t wait to beat y’all.’ ”

So it goes, for better or worse, in “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate.”

“I understand,” Howard said. “I did go to the rival school. It would have been different if I would have went somewhere else.”

In crossing that divide, Howard may have made history. Sports information directors at both schools were not aware of a men’s basketball player who had transferred directly from school to the other. Lee Goza played at UGA in the 1978-79 season and later played two seasons at Tech, but he played one season of junior-college ball in between.

Daniel Miller signed a letter of intent to play at UGA in 2008 but was released after Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton was fired and ended up playing for Tech.

There have been multiple transfers in football, most famously John Dewberry, the quarterback who left UGA in 1982 and then led Tech to wins over the Bulldogs in 1984 and 1985. Most recently, J.J. Green played running back for the Bulldogs in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, transferred and finished out his career as an A-back for the Jackets in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Howard didn’t harbor much animosity for Tech in his season in Athens, and he suspects he won’t build up much hate for the Bulldogs going forward.

Provided the NCAA passes legislation, as is expected, to permit all Division I athletes to transfer once and not have to sit out a season, Howard figures to be eligible to play against his former Bulldogs teammates when Tech and UGA meet in their annual matchup, to be played next season at McCamish Pavilion.

“I don’t hate ’em,” he said. “I was with them for almost a year. And they had been recruiting me for a long time.”

Howard said he didn’t give much thought to the rivalry when he made the decision to transfer to Tech. It was a logical choice for him, given that he chose Georgia over Tech coming out of high school and that he now lives in Alpharetta.

“But I feel like it’s going to be fun,” Howard said. “It’s probably going to help bring back the competitiveness between the two schools in a good way. So I think it’s going to be more of an edge by Georgia proving you shouldn’t have left and Georgia Tech saying, ‘This is the place’ type of deal.”

Tech can use Howard’s help. In the series, the Bulldogs have won the past five games.

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