- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2008

A left knee injury on his first day at college precipitated Matt Causey’s first departure from major college basketball in 2004, a premature conclusion to a much-hyped career at Georgetown.

So just as Act II of his Division I career was to start at Georgia Tech, more ailments popped up.

A dislocated kneecap before the season started last fall. An ankle injury. A dislocated shoulder. A dislocated jaw last month.

If it appeared in Gray’s Anatomy — the classic textbook, not the television show — chances are Causey has nursed it back to health at some point, no matter how exasperating it became.

“It just felt like it wasn’t going to happen for me,” Causey said.

All of the sudden, it has.

The fifth-year senior has emerged in the last two weeks as a potent scorer at Georgia Tech. And Causey’s surge dovetails with a three-game winning streak for the Yellow Jackets (10-9, 3-3 ACC), who play host to Maryland (13-8, 3-3) today.

Causey scored 12 of his 18 points in overtime in Sunday’s victory at Virginia. A little more than a week earlier, he dropped 30 points on Virginia Tech.

“Causey’s really changed their team with what he’s done the last few games,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “He’s given them another scoring threat to put on the court, plus he’s playing like a guy who’s going through a lot and he has one year left to play.”

Still, “a lot” might not cover Causey’s circuitous career.

He transferred after a year at Georgetown, the knee injury prompting him to leave after John Thompson III replaced Craig Esherick.

He wound up at North Georgia, a school 10 minutes from where he grew up and averaged 23.7 points to earn first-team NAIA All-America honors. He considered looking into a professional career overseas but stuck around to play another season with his older brother Mark.

Yet something stuck with Causey to make him think about taking another shot at Division I. And on a trans-Atlantic flight to London to see his brother Michael graduate from Oxford, he decided to figure out a way to make it work.

“He called me when he made the decision to come play at Tech,” said Mark, who played at Duke in 2001-02 before transferring to North Georgia. “He told me he enjoyed it at North Georgia and liked all the coaches, but he felt he would regret it if he didn’t get another try at major D-I basketball.”

One of the first people Matt Causey contacted was Chuck Driesell, an assistant at Georgetown during Causey’s season with the Hoyas. Driesell encouraged him to create a highlight film on DVD and provided advice during the process.

“I don’t think it was really ‘Could [he do it?]’ He knew he could. He just wanted to find the right opportunity,” said Driesell, now an assistant at Maryland. “To his credit, he didn’t stop with me. He kept sending out the information. That was the only way it was going to get done. Nobody was going to come recruit him. He had to recruit people.”

The point was not to find a scholarship, but an opportunity to play. Neither was guaranteed at Georgia Tech, where Causey walked on last season and served as a practice player to help a backcourt featuring Javaris Crittenton and Mario West.

When Crittenton turned pro after his freshman season, Causey became an even more valuable commodity.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt awarded him a scholarship, and Causey started nine games while freshman Moe Miller adjusted to playing point guard in college.

He enters today’s game averaging 7.7 points in 17.9 minutes.

“It’s pretty gratifying to watch my little brother and see how far he’s come and all the adversity he’s been through,” Mark Causey said. “The odds were definitely stacked against him with the injuries. After the three knee surgeries, I thought he’d have a hard time coming back. He’s not as healthy as he once was in terms of being able to jump, but he’s been tough.”

Matt Causey’s move to a reserve role last month paid off for the Yellow Jackets, who can bring a guy who describes himself as “hyperactive in everything” off the bench to provide an immediate spark.

Not to mention an ideal conclusion to his interrupted Division I career.

“I couldn’t expect to hit a game-winner against Notre Dame [in November] and scoring 30 points in an ACC game and getting ACC player of the week,” Causey said. “It’s definitely been a crazy experience. I couldn’t have imagined, even in my dreams, it coming into this.”

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