WR Smith recovering from spinal cord injury

Published: March 17, 2004
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Bryan Mullen covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 726-8947

Wide receiver George Smith has spent the last week in a South Florida hospital and has been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder that leads to inflammation of the spinal cord.

Doctors expect Smith to make a full recovery, and he has made improvements in recent days. Still, he will not return to classes or the football field this spring.

”George and his family are in our thoughts,” Commodores Coach Bobby Johnson said. ”All of us look forward to George making a full recovery and returning to school and the football team.”

Smith, a promising redshirt freshman candidate, caught a 26-yard touchdown pass during the Commodores final scrimmage before heading off to spring break.

Back in Black (and Gold): The Vanderbilt football team returned to work yesterday after spring break, and four days of practice will lead to Coach Bobby Johnson’s third Black & Gold scrimmage Saturday at Dudley Field. Kickoff is set for 2:40 p.m. and admission is free.

”We’re ready and anxious to get back to work this week,” Johnson said Monday.

”I thought we got off to a good start before the break, so I’m looking forward to seeing our guys pick things up where they left off.”

NCAA old hat for Stallings: Men’s basketball coach Kevin Stallings is the 41st active coach to lead two teams to the NCAA tournament. He took Illinois State to the Big Dance in 1997 and 1998.

Stallings also played in the Final Four as a member of the Purdue team in 1980.

Incidentally, of the seven previous times Vanderbilt has reached the NCAA tournament, the Commodores faced three teams that made it to the championship game.

Differing views: South Carolina men’s basketball coach Dave Odom, whose team defeated Vanderbilt both times this season, said he knew seven SEC teams weren’t going to get in to the NCAA tournament, but one thing did surprise him: How high Vanderbilt’s No. 6 seeding was.

”I don’t know about that,” Odom said in a news conference on Sunday night. ”But that’s OK.”

Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings, unaware of Odom’s comments at the time, had the opposite take on the Gamecocks when asked if any of the SEC team’s seedings surprised him.

”I guess if anything, my only surprise was I didn’t think South Carolina would drop to a 10,” Stallings said Sunday night. ”I thought the rest of them were probably right in there. I thought maybe South Carolina was a little low.”

Catching some attention: The baseball team broke in to the Baseball America Top 25 Poll for the first time in program history on Monday, landing in the No. 22 spot.

• Senior catcher Jonathan Douillard has been named to the watch list for the Johnny Bench Award, which goes to the nation’s top collegiate catcher. The list of 45 players will be cut down to 10 semifinalists on May 20. Douillard is hitting .261 this year with five doubles and has seven assists and no errors in 12 starts. He is one of five catchers in the Southeastern Conference on the list.

List honored: Freshman golfer Luke List was honored on Monday as the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame Male Athlete of the Year. List starred at the Baylor School in Chattanooga, winning two individual state championships before moving on to Vanderbilt.

This season, he has finished in the top 10 four times and tied the program’s best 18-hole round when he carded a 65 at the Country Club of Louisiana Intercollegiate.

List then claimed the record to be his own when he fired a 63 (9 under) at the Hyatt/Dorado Beach Intercollegiate in San Juan, Puerto Rico.