BasketVols a look forward

Well guys sorry it’s been a while. I will talk football shortly but first lets take a look at the State of the Basketball program. Bruce Pearl had his best season ever this year, at least his best coaching year. We may not have had the best record and lost games we  should have won but Bruce led this team out of the Jan 1 incident and into Vol folk lore as we upset 2 #1’s and made it to the Elite 8 for the first time in school history. We are so lucky to have Bruce Pearl as our head coach. So with out further a do lets talk Basket Vols…..

Whose Coming Back?

If your like me, after the Michigan State loss you suddenly got a oh crap feeling in your stomach. We are losing Bobby Maze who dominated several point guards this year, JP Prince who even though makes boneheaded mistakes was by far our best defender, and Wayne Chism who consistently got the job done down low. Who’s left? Who will step up? Well here is your answer….

First off lets make it clear that Negedu will not be playing basketball for UT ever again. He is looking to transfer to a school that will let him but for his sake I hope that does not happen. The risk involved with him playing basketball is dangerous and is not worth his life. Bruce is being extremely supportive and trying to be a mentor to Emmanuel. No one on the UT side wants anything to happen to him.

The decision was made because UT can not have a player die on the court which is a possibility if he was to play with his condition. The media would eat us alive and its just wrong to do that to a kid. “Emmanuel is an exceptional young man, and we hope he will stay at UT as a student with our full support,’’ UT athletic director Mike Hamilton said in a statement Tuesday. “If he decides he would like to pursue a playing career at another school, we will support him in that decision, and we wish him the best.’’

Brian Williams, 6-foot-10, 278 pounds, Senior

Someone finally told him he was 6′ 10″ and so Brian finally started playing like it. I am not so worried about our inside play next year with Brian now after seeing him play the last few games of this season. Brian needs to be the leader on this team.

Pearl: “Brian Williams has put himself in position to be watched very closely next season by the next level. This is not a surprise to us. In fact, this could have happened sooner. We’re very happy for Brian He’s a very bright, intelligent, gifted young man.”

Scotty Hopson, 6-7, 200, Junior

Scotty Hopson definitely needs to step it up next year. He has not played up to top ten player potential that he was recruited as. He wants to play in the League and never expected to be at Tennessee this long. Unless he wants another year on the tab then he should probably be ready to play basketball next year.

Pearl: “Scotty made progress from his first year to his second year, and this will be the heaviest load Scotty will have to carry since he has been here. The team lost Ryan Childress, and then Tyler Smith, and now we’ve lost Wayne Chism, J,P. Prince and Bobby Maze. So this next season will be a real opportunity for Scotty to be aggressive and take more ownership of the team.”

Cameron Tatum, 6-6, 197, Junior

With JP gone I expect Tatum’s role to start to grow on this team. He has been patiently waiting his turn and this is it. He has shown brilliant flashes and also very sub par performances. Lets hope he can dial in to brilliancy for the entire season next year as if he gets hot on 3 pts he’s hard to stop.

Pearl: “Cameron has got great toughness, and he is a real competitor, and an extremely competent offensive player, and with his first healthy offseason we’ll see if he can physically get his body to the point where he becomes a better defender.”

Melvin Goins, 5-11, 195, Senior

Melvin will be a stabilizing force at Point Guard next year although it is hard to see him starting over the talented freshman that you will see below.  He brings a tough style of play though and that is what we need, physicality.

Pearl: “Melvin demonstrated what a great defensive guard he’s capable of being and that he can score. He’s got a toughness to him also. The thing Melvin needs to develop is his ability to play-make and make others better. He’s got major step-up abilities, and he’s a terrific competitor. He’s a guy, if we don’t sign him late, we don’t have the kind of year we just had.”

Steven Pearl, 6-5, 232, Senior

Everyone always says Steven Pearl sucks. I am guilty. I am sure you are too. But it’s hard to not admit that Steven brought a lot of defensive ability to the court this year. He had several key stops and steals. If he could ever learn to put the ball in the hoop he may actually be quite good.

Pearl: “Steven needs to add an offensive dimension to his game. It exists, but it wasn’t something we looked for. Less was more last season, but his ability to defend, his rebounds and basketball IQ will be great, especially for Tobias (Harris) coming in.”

Skylar McBee, 6-3, 190, Sophomore

Skylar needs to regain the confidence he had during January after the Incident.

Pearl: “A lot of what happened to Skylar (not playing more at the end of the season) was the mental aspects of the game. He’s so much better physically than what people understood or what he even believes himself. The way he trained in the preseason and the way he trained throughout the year, and as productive as he was throughout the year he’ll pick up on that continue.”

Josh Bone, 6-3, 195, Senior

Pearl: “Josh has got a toughness about him, and he can make shots. He’ll need to add the dimension to put the ball on the floor and create.”

Renaldo Woolridge, 6-8, 208, Junior

Pearl: “He can rebound and he has proven he can make shots, and if he can continue to improve his defense and can continue to get that ability to put the ball on the floor a bit more and create, that would be ideal. Then, it’s a matter of him taking advantage of his experience.”

Kenny Hall, 6-8, 220, Sophomore

Pearl: “I think Kenny surprised a lot of people with his athleticism and I was pleased with his toughness. He doesn’t back down, and the thing about it when you go up against the guys he does every day, and he’s been terrific. He needs to add 20 points onto the 25 he has already added. He’ll live in the gym. He could be a big man that can shoot the basketball. And he’ll compete at some four because he’s got some skills.”

Incoming Recruits

UT associate head coach Tony Jones was heavily involved in the recruitment of the Vols’ three signees and watched incoming transfer Jeronne Maymon compete for the scout team each day in practices. Here’s what Jones had to say about the new players:

Jeronne Maymon, 6-6, 240, freshman

Not much of an offensive threat but will be a rebounding machine and a good defensive player.

“He was a consensus top 30 recruit in 2009 and the two-time Wisconsin state player of the year. He’ll bring us a dimension of toughness. He’s a multi-facet guy, a little like Draymond Green of Michigan State. Good passer and ball-handler.”

Trae Golden, 6-3, 190, signee

Golden had several game spans this year averaging over 40 pts per game. He was named the AAAAA Georgia Mr. Basketball player of the year. Trae will prove why we don’t need Josh Selby.

“He can score the basketball from all over. Trae is a combo guard who can play the 1 (point guard) or the 2 (shooting guard). He’s quick, he’s strong and he’s a very aggressive player.’

Jordan McRae, 6-6, 180, signee

Will be a very solid back up to Tatum and Hopson next year.

“Jordan is a very intense player, an explosive player and a great leaper. He’ll remind people of a Cameron Tatum in that he can shoot the basketball really well with unlimited range.”

Tobias Harris, 6-8, 220, signee

The most important recruit in our class. Definitely going to be needed down low. Hopefully he will be as good as advertised.

“He’ll be a very special player for us. He can shoot the 3, dribble the basketball, and score with his back to the basket.”

Should Wayne Chism’s Jersey Be Retired?

As one of the most loved players of all time at the University of Tennessee it is hard not say yes to this question. Chism owns UT records for NCAA tournament wins (7), NCAA scoring (136) and games played (11). Chism also played more career games (141) and has more wins (104) than any UT player. He was Bruce Pearl’s first major recruit and Bruce has built this program during the four years that Chism was here and Chism played a vital role in that.

His great personality will definitely be missed with in the program but Wayne will be a good ambassador for the University in years to come. Chism is projected as the No. 55 overall pick to the Atlanta Hawks prior to Portsmouth Invitational but it is now said he has worked his way to the early second round. Chism, if drafted, would become the second Vol playing in the NBA right now, joining Golden State PG CJ Watson. So should he be retired? I say yes.

Bruce is Marketing the Program, Taking advantage of deep NCAA run

Bruce was invited up to Bristol, CT the week after the loss to Michigan State to participate in the full circuit of ESPN Shows. Not willing to pass up the chance to get the Tennessee name out there Bruce of course went. “When you’re dealing with the national media, it does provide you with some credibility,” Pearl said. “There are a lot of intangible benefits. I understand the value of getting up at 5 a.m. to take a commercial flight up there and keep Tennessee out there.”

Bruce went on ESPN’s first take and was dragged into a debate with former Vanderbilt Graduate Skip Bayless about which program is better. Needless to say Bruce won.

“Head to head against them, we have a winning record; they’ve beaten us at our place one time, we beat them at their place a couple times,” Pearl said. “Over the last three or four years we’ve won seven NCAA tournament games; over the last three years Vanderbilt hasn’t won a game. We average 20,000 (attendance), they average about 12. We play on a court where the benches are actually on the sidelines, not in the end zone. . . . I think our program is ahead of Vanderbilt’s.”

Both men had their voices raised as the debate continued with Bayless countering, “My trump card here is that my coach, Kevin Stallings, would never stoop to painting his chest gold and sitting in the student section. Second of all, we beat you both times this year. And third of all, Duke gets all the best smart kids; while our academic admission standards are so severe that we have a limit to how many talented kids we can recruit, so we consistently do more with less than you do.”

Pearl then closed the discussion. “Kevin Stallings does a phenomenal job,” he said, “but I’m telling you right now, if there’s a Tennessee kid with a chance to go to Tennessee or Vanderbilt, he’s going to Tennessee.”

Also making sure to take full advantage of this NCAA Elite 8 appearance Bruce and Co have been hitting recruiting hard. This past two weeks they have hit Wisconsin, Indianapolis (where they are surprisingly making a strong impression on a lot of people), Atlanta (where the Vols have been very successful as of late), Memphis (where the Vols are finally starting to get in on a lot of kids), and even Mississippi. No one they visited is ranked below a four star and several were 5 stars. They visited with kids for the 2011, 2012, and 2013 classes.

If the Vols can get established in Indy and Memphis then it will be another huge step for this program. To be drawing recruits out of 3 basketball rich areas in those two cities plus Atlanta would be a huge testament to our program and should make other teams in the SEC scared.


About Steven Harris

Steven Harris is a fifth year senior at the University of Tennessee. Majoring in sports journalism, this blog provides an outlet for Harris to share his thoughts on the state of the University of Tennessee's athletic department''s Volunteer teams. View all posts by Steven Harris

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