Need for surgery a surprise to Carter

Robert Carter Jr. was as surprised as anyone to learn that the slight pain he felt in his left knee during Georgia Tech’s win over Charlotte last week could cost him the rest of his sophomore season.

Carter is set to undergo arthroscopic surgery Tuesday. He won’t know the severity of the tear to his meniscus — and whether he might return this season — until the operation.

“I just have to assume the worst and then pray for the best,” Carter said.

Carter said he was bumped on a baseline move, but barely, and was able to return to the game Sunday night.

“I told the trainer that it was bothering me a little bit, but I never thought anything of it,” Carter said after Saturday’s loss at Maryland, which he watched from the Tech bench. “I feel like if I hadn’t said anything and kept playing on it — I feel like I still can play — but the doctors say you need to have surgery and see what’s going on.”

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Carter said he never had much swelling only “a little pain,” but an MRI on Tuesday revealed the cartilage tear. As difficult as it was to miss the first start of his career Saturday at Maryland, he knows he needs to do what’s right for his body long-term.

“I’ve got a long time, a lot of basketball left in my life, I think,” Carter said. “Just take care of myself and just help this team as much as I can without being on the court.”

Q’s impact: So much for easing his way into Tech’s playing rotation as a freshman. Quinton Stephens is becoming an impact player. The 6-foot-8 wing played 19 minutes off the bench in Saturday’s 77-61 loss at Maryland. He scored 10 points and led the Yellow Jackets with six rebounds.

Stephens has a slim build and is listed at only 184 pounds. But he finds ways to bang with the big men.

“He’s so active, so it’s hard to maneuver,” Tech guard Marcus Georges-Hunt said. “He’s so long, and so he finds a way to get to the ball.”

With Carter out, Stephens has played not only at his usual spot at small forward, but at power forward, as well. He had averaged 8.3 minutes per game before he played 18 at Charlotte and 19 against Maryland.

“He’s going to be a good player in this league,” Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “He’s going to be forced to maybe do some more stuff faster than maybe you would like, but I think he’s capable of helping us.”

Wells example: Entering Saturday’s game at Maryland, Gregory called Terrapins junior guard Dez Wells one of the hardest-working players in the country.

“Dez Wells is a guy that I just love,” Gregory had said.

He was averaging 15.3 points per game to lead the Terrapins and he has the ability to score 33, like he did against Boston College. But even when he’s off his game, Gregory points out, he gives his team valuable contributions because of the intensity he plays with from start to finish.

Wells made the point for Gregory on Saturday. He shot only 3-for-8 from the floor and spent some time in foul trouble after picking up his second foul with 7:11 left in the first half. But when Tech tried to cut into Maryland’s lead late, it was Wells leading the break and converting big free throws down the stretch. He scored a basket, assisted on another and made two free throws in the final 1:24. He finished with 11 points.

“(Coach) Mark (Turgeon) asks him to do a lot of things, but sooner or later because of your intensity level and your energy level, a lot of good things are going to happen,” Gregory said. “It’s a hard lesson for younger players to learn.”

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