TN Basketball

The Vols have finished the greatest season in the history of the program. We were 2 points away from progressing to our first ever final four. We almost beat Purdue in November and would have entirely changed our entire season! We beat 2 #1 teams in Kansas and Kentucky. We kicked off 1 member and suspended 3  but still won over twenty games and ten conference games! Bruce Pearl is a phenomenal coach and we are all glad to have him. That being said we are going to arguably a very important season in the program’s history. How will we follow-up this success? Continue reading…The Vol’s just signed the #9 recruiting class in nation according to Rivals and were in on #1 prospect’s final two before he signed with Kansas at the end.

Without a doubt, Bobby Maze, J.P. Prince, and Wayne Chism will be missed.  They have received NBA workout’s and interest. For the Vols to get one, two, or three onto an NBA team would be huge for the program. But the Vols have moved from rebuilding to reloading under Pearl – with the NBA Draft early entry deadline having come and gone, the Vols are at #18 in ESPN.com’s 2011 Top 25.  The expectations around here continue to change:  making the tournament is now an assumption, and playing in its second weekend is now the goal.  Whether this team is good enough to get to the Final Four is a question that’ll be answered during the season…but this team should be good enough to continue to give itself a chance to move Tennessee Basketball forward.

Here’s a look at what the Vols have coming back, not only for this season, but as a primer on the future:  the 2010-11 roster breakdown by class from Rockytoptalk.com.

The Current Team

Seniors:  C Brian Williams, PG Melvin Goins, PG Josh Bone, F Steven Pearl

It’s an odd senior class this year, with only one guy who’s been a long term contributor to the program (Cameron Tatum was the other signee in 2007, but redshirted).  Brian Williams was never better than in the final month of the past season – he averaged only 5.6 points and 6.4 rebounds over the entire year (and didn’t play in 10 games after the January 1 arrests), but in the Vols’ final eight games, Williams averaged 7.6 points and 10.0 rebounds; seven of those games were in tournament play, and the Vols went 6-2 in that stretch overall.

Much of the criticism surrounding Williams was about how a guy listed as 6’10” 278 lbs (he’s lost weight, have you heard?) could be as soft as BWill was at times early in his career.  But there was nothing soft about the way he played once he got back in the flow after the arrests – he was the final piece of the puzzle for the Vols last year, the key factor in the team finally playing its best basketball.  He had 41 rebounds in 4 NCAA Tournament games, and scored the big final put back bucket to give the Vols the lead against Ohio State in the final minute.

Williams will need to go from complementary post player to leader on this team…but the way he progressed last year, you have to be excited about what he could bring to the table in his senior season.

The point guard minutes should start with Goins, who hit some big shots and did some nice things for the Vols backing up Bobby Maze.  Now the job is his to lose – can Melvin become the consistent guy to lead this team and make the offense go?  Josh Bone joins him as a transfer senior finishing out his career – Bone was a great defender at times, and stepped in after a long absence to give the Vols 30 minutes in their final three tournament games.  If the Vols don’t use any freshmen (who we’ll get to) at point guard, can the Goins/Bone rotation give the Vols everything they need?  We may find out we miss Bobby Maze more than we thought we would if not.

And then there’s the coach’s son, who will again look to fill the final holes in the rotation.  I’ll say this:  if he gets any sort of offensive move (and shoots better than 5 of 19 at the free throw line), he plays enough defense to validate giving him some minutes.  I’d love to see Steven do enough to get some love from the fan base in his final year.

Because of BWill’s suspension, he won’t get Chism’s record to become the winningest player in school history, and it’s hard to talk about “this senior class,” because you’re really only talking about him…but either way, this group of four still has a chance to continue to lead this program forward.

Juniors:  SG Scotty Hopson, G/F Cameron Tatum, F Renaldo Woolridge

A talented threesome that could be the most important difference between the Vols being good and great next year.  Obviously the focus will be on Scotty Hopson, as he will go from secondary piece of the puzzle to its first and most important one.  Hopson’s reality hasn’t quite caught up with his potential in the eyes of many, but keep in mind that he did improve from year one to year two, scoring 9.2 points per game his freshman year and 12.2 per contest last year.  Hopson’s three point percentage did drop slightly, and his free throw shooting (58.8%) has to be addressed (see:  Michigan State).  How well will Hopson handle the pressure of being the man, a role he’s appeared ready for at times but at others not at all?  Will he continue to grow in what could be his final season in Knoxville?

Cam Tatum is another guy who has to go from contributor to consistent producer.  Tatum could earn a starting role on this team; he was the team’s best bench player last year, averaging 7.4 points and shooting a team best 38.9% from three.  He’s already shown flashes of ability to both knock down a jumper and get to the hole – Tennessee needs guys who can create their own shots, and right now Tatum is on the short list.

Swipa is a guy who is yet to find a consistent place with this team (other than hype man).  He was great against Charlotte, Kansas, and Auburn in the first three games after the arrests, then really fell off the map, and played only nine total minutes in the Vols’ final thirteen games.  He’s a 6’8″ athlete, and when you watch him at times you think there has to be a way he can help this team.  Will he get into the post rotation this year, or will those minutes again go to Pearl?  Or will the Vols try to use him at the 3 and hope his outside shot starts falling again?

If Hopson doesn’t turn pro early, a 2012 lineup of Hopson, Tatum, Tobias, Kenny Hall, and a five star freshman point guard could absolutely get up and down the floor, and be picked much higher than 18th in preseason polls.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

Sophomores:  PF Kenny Hall, SG Skylar McBee, F Jeronne Maymon

Kenny Hall will be one of the more important players to watch this year – he showed flashes of brilliance in his freshman year, but saw a drastic reduction in minutes once the NCAA Tournament started.  He still scored in double figures five times, and should come back a little stronger this season.  Hall’s minutes depend on how the Vols choose to use Tobias Harris:  if it’s at the 3, Hall can play the 4 beside Brian Williams.  But if Harris plays the 4 (which I think he will), then Hall has to become the first option off the bench to spell Williams at the 5.  Again, so much of the team’s success in 2011 will depend on how well and how quickly guys can make the transition from contributor to producer:  Hopson, Tatum and BWill have to become leaders, and Hall has to become a consistent contributor.

MCB43! ended the year as a 31.3% three point shooter, and did not play against Ohio State or Michigan State.  With the talent the Vols have coming in at guard, McBee shouldn’t have to contribute in huge ways…but anything the Vols get from him would be bonus.  You always hear about what a hard worker this guy is, and how he can be more than just a shooter…if that shows up, he can give the Vols quality minutes off the bench.

Maymon is a transfer from Marquette, who as I understand it will be a sophomore eligible to play once the fall semester ends in December (same situation as J.P. Prince in 2007-08).  Maymon is listed as 6’6″ 250 lbs, and averaged 4.0 points and 4.2 rebounds in ten games with Marquette before leaving the team over a dispute about his role.  Maymon was the #47 player in the Class of 2009 via Rivals; talent wise, the best case scenario for the Vols appears to be a post rotation of Harris and Williams, with Maymon and Hall off the bench.  We’ll see what he’s got when December gets here.

Freshmen:  F Tobias Harris, G Trae Golden, G Jordan McRae

Tobias Harris is arguably the most talented player the Vols have ever signed – Harris was ranked 4th in the nation before breaking his foot and dropping to 7th.  Tobias is 6’8″ and should help the Vols immediately, whether he turns out to be a one-and-done player or not.  There are all kinds of comparisons we want to make with this kid without having seen him (including the Tyler Smith/Wayne Chism hybrid), and we’ve already seen the patience it sometimes takes with McDonald’s All-Americans.  But this is definitely someone to be excited about, and if he’s great right away, the Vols can be great right away.

Golden and McRae will have to find roles with this team, which could be anything from starters to contributors off the bench.  Golden is 6’1″ and may possibly have a chance to get some point guard minutes, while McRae at 6’6″ should get in the rotation with Hopson and Tatum.  Are these two better right away than Josh Bone and Skylar McBee?  Even if not, they certainly have a higher ceiling.  McRae is 47th and Golden 63rd in Rivals’ national rankings.

A Look At The Future of the Program

Class of 2011:  PG Kevin Ware, PG Chris Jones

Even if Golden isn’t an answer at point guard, the graduation of Goins and Bone in 2011 should be eased by the additions of Ware and Jones, both current Tennessee commitments.  Jones, listed at 5’10”, plays at Memphis Melrose and is ranked as the 36th best player in the country going into his senior season.  Ware is a five star 6’4″ point from Conyers, GA, currently ranked as the 22nd best player in the 2011 class.  These two have to be the answers to UT’s future point guard questions.

As you can see, the future remains bright, both in the incoming class and in future recruits.  The present has a chance to be bright as well, if the Vols get continued maturation from the entire team.  With Hopson’s inconsistency and the unknown quality that surrounds all true freshmen, there are no guarantees in this lineup right now…but there is a ton of talent, and a bunch of good pieces that will once again have a chance to come together to make a great basketball team.

Possible Transfer: C Arnett Moultrie (UTEP)


Center
Memphis, TN
Raleigh Egypt High School

6’11” 3 Star Rivals
210 lbs

Recruiting: 2011

With 2011 recruiting already under way UT has 2 commitments from Guards. Big men are a Big need for UT in this class but they aren’t giving up on another guard if they like them a lot. These are people UT is in on for this class. This is not an all inclusive list but it gives you a little hint as to who we are in on.

  • Kentavious Caldwell

Greenville Highschool, Greenville, GA

6’6″ 185 LBS Shooting Guard

Rivals: #27 overall, #6 Shooting Guard, 4 star, offers from Alabama, Auburn, Cincinnati, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Xavier

Scout: 5 Star, #6 Shooting Guard, Strengths: 3 pt range, Aggressive Shooter, Catch and shoot; Improve on: Ball handling, and strength

  • Tim Dixon
Kendrick High School, Columbus, GA
6’9″ 205 lbs Center
Rivals: #84 overall, #11 center, 4 star, offers from: Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Oklahoma State
Scout: 4 Star, # 12 Center
  • Rodney Hood
Meridian High School, Meridian, Mississippi
6’7″ 180 lbs Small Forward
Rivals: #91 Overall, #21 Small Forward, 4 Star, offers from: Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Marquette, Mississippi, Mississippi St, North Carolina St, Wake Forest
Scout: 4 Star, # 10 Small Forward
  • Johnny O’Bryant
East Side High School, Cleveland, Mississippi
6’9″ 235 lbs Power Forward
Rivals: # 13 Overall, # 3 Power Forward, 5 stars, offers from: Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Baylor, Florida, Florida St, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Memphis, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi, Mississippi St, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, USC
Scout: 5 star, # 3 Power Forward
  • Adonis Thomas
Melrose High School, Memphis, TN
6’6″ 210 lbs Small Forward
Rivals: #11 National, #3 Small Forward, 5 stars, offers from: Arkansa, Florida, Kentucky, Memphis, Missouri, Ohio State, Oklahoma
Scout: 5 star, #2 Small Forward
  • Kedren Johnson

Marshall County High School, Lewisburg, Tennessee

6’4″ 200 lbs Shooting Guard
Rivals: # 85 National, # 21 Shooting Guard, 4 Star, offers from: Alabama, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Memphis, Vanderbilt
Scout: # 16 PG, 3 star
  • Malcom Gilbert
Academy of the New Church, Bryn Athyn, Pennslyvania
6’10” 210 lbs Center
Rivals: # 130 National, # 17 Center, 3 Star
Scout: # 10 Center, 4 Star
BIG STRETCH BUT:
  • Michael Chandler

Lawrence North, Indianapolis, Indiana
6’10” 210 lbs Center
Rivals: # 10 National, # 2 Center, 5 Star
Scout: # 2 Center, 5 star

Recruiting: 2012

UT will be recruiting postions 1, 2, 3, 4 for this class. If we don’t land a 5 then a 5 too. We will be losing two guards and a forward to graduation.

  • Ron Patterson

Indianapolis Broad Ripple High School, Indianapolis, Indiana
6’3″ 195 lbs Shooting Guard
Rivals: Too Early to Rank, offers from: Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Xavier
Scout: 3 star SG
  • Tymond Howard
Pearl High School, Pearl, Mississippi
6’5″ 200 lbs Small Forward
Last Season: Averaged 19.7 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists per game
  • Alex Poythress
North East High School, Clarksville, Tennessee
6’7″ 205 lbs Small Forward
Rivals: Too Early to Rate, offers from: Vanderbilt, Miami, Cincinnati
  • Tony Parker
Miller Grove High School, Lithonia, Georgia
6’7″ 240 lbs Center
Rivals: Too Early To Rate, offers from: Connecticut, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State
Scout: # 4 Center, 5 star
  • Jarnell Stokes
Central High School, Memphis, Tennessee
6’7″ 230 lbs Power Forward
Rivals: # 3 Nationally, offers from: Memphis, Mississippi State, Mississippi, Oregon State
Scout: 4 Star
  • JP Tokoto
Menomonee Falls High School, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
6’5″ 190 lbs Small Forward
Rivals: #4 Nationally, offers from: Duke, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette, Minnesota, Wisconsin
Scout: # 1 Small Forward, 5 star
  • Junior Lomomba
Madison Memorial High School, Madison, Wisconsin
6’4″ 175 lbs Small Forward
Rivals: Too Early to Rate, offers from: Baylor, Indiana State, Iowa, Marquette, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico State, Xavier
Scout: 3 star
  • Cameron Golden
  • Position: PG
  • Ht:6’1″
  • Wt:160 lbs
  • Shooting:Outstanding
  • Handle:Outstanding
  • Passing:Good
  • Strength:Good
  • GPA:3.2
  • Class:2012 (Ridgeway High School, Memphis, Tennessee)

Recruiting 2013

  • Jonathan Williams
Southwind Highschool, Memphis, Tennessee
6’8″ 210 lbs Center
Rivals: To early to rank, offers from: George Mason, Memphis, Oregon State

Facilities

Thompson Boling Arena is truly an ugly building. But AD Mike Hamilton has done things in order to improve appearance. From planting trees along Neyland Drive side, to adding art work and bigger letters to the four corners of the building outside appearance is slowly improving.

Inside it was complained often how much of an openness the arena was. “Airplane Hanger” was a common attribute given to the airy facility. That to has changed with the repainting, new chairs, and scoreboard hanging from the center making it a more pro  like atmosphere.

Another huge benefit was the Pratt family’s generous donation to fund the new Pratt Pavilion Practice Facility complex. This along with the renovations have been making UT one of the best in the country facility wise.

Now UT is taking it a step further. The coaches offices, former located along Phillip Fulmer Way in Thompson, have moved across the street to Brenda Lawson Center where they will be located while the coaches offices, both locker rooms, and team meeting rooms get renovated to modern day style.

And last but not least congrat’s…

I think we are in good hands. What do you think?

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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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