woodsonblog

Tennessee forward Dominic Woodson out against Texas Southern

 

Tennessee basketball’s biggest big man will be sidelined for the Vols’ home opener against Texas Southern tonight.

Sophomore forward Dominic Woodson, who injured his left hand during Sunday’s practice, is not not dressed out for the game.

Woodson did not start in UT’s season opener against VCU, but scored four points and pulled down five rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

Joining Woodson on the sideline is graduate transfer guard Ian Chiles, who is nursing a sprained toe. Chiles was wearing a walking boot on his right foot during warmups.

Junior guard Devon Baulkman, who did not travel with the team for the VCU game due to a left shoulder injury, is expected to play tonight.

 

 

 

mcghee blog

Game Day: Tennessee freshman Jabari McGhee is trending up

The best thing about Tennessee freshman Jabari McGhee so far seems to be his willingness to embrace his niche.

Just ask him.

“That’s what coach recruited me for, to get rebounds,” said the 6-foot-8 forward this week. “I’m not a scorer. My job is to get rebounds, and I know that. As long as I know my role, I’ll be fine.”

That role might expand when UT (0-1) hosts Texas Southern (0-2) tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena as it attempts to stretch its streak of successful home openers to 23.

McGhee only logged 12 minutes off the bench in UT’s season-opening loss to No. 15 VCU, but he was one of the players UT coach Donnie Tyndall complimented afterward.

He made the most out of his limited time, totaling seven points and six rebounds. Only starter Armani Moore, who played 27 minutes, pulled down more rebounds. McGhee also, somehow, managed to foul out of the game. Tyndall is willing to overlook that.

“He got in against VCU and didn’t play scared,” Tyndall said. “He was aggressive. He was tough. He played with confidence. He is raw offensively and has a way to go, but he went and tried to rebound the ball, he rotated over and took a charge, if I remember correctly. He did some ‘winning play’ type of stuff. It’s not always pretty, but he’s an effort guy. He gave us some good minutes. I probably should have played him a little more”

Tyndall said McGhee joined the first team for Sunday’s practice. He was still there for Monday’s open session as well. Will he be there tonight? Hard to say for sure, but since UT sophomore forward Dominic Woodson sustained a left hand injury in Sunday’s practice and is questionable for the game, there’s a good chance McGhee plays more than 12 minutes.

Quoteables:

“There were three or four times, particularly late in the shot clock, where our deal is, we would rather you drive it and run three or four guys over trying to get a charge than settle for a 20-footer.” — Tyndall on shot selection against VCU

“We don’t expect Josh to be Chris Paul tomorrow. It takes time, and he’s getting better every day.” — Tyndall on Josh Richardson’s development at point guard

“I don’t think too many of these guys ever hear too many negative things in their life — period. So, when you’re honest with them and you keep it real with them, sometimes it hurts their feelings a little bit. But the truth is the truth. I told them I have to do a better job of coaching, and I believe that. And they have to be better as players in some areas as well.” — Tyndall on the feedback he gave his players after VCU loss.

Numbers to Know:

1965: The last time UT started a season 0-2. Ray Mears’ Vols lost to Michigan then Vanderbilt.

17,151: Average attendance number for home openers at Thompson-Boling Arena, including a draw of 15,119 for last season’s game against USC Upstate.

16: Number of free throws UT missed against VCU.

17: Detrick Mostella’s point total against VCU. It was the most in a UT debut since Tobias Harris dropped 18 in 2010.

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AP Top 25: Ben Frederickson’s College Hoops Ballot

 

A weekly look at the ballot Tennessee men’s basketball beat writer Ben Frederickson submits to the Associated Press. Shifts from last week are listed after the team name. Disagree? Sound off to @Ben_Fred.

1) Kentucky
2) Arizona
3) Wisconsin
4) Duke
5) Wichita State
6) Kansas
7) North Carolina
8) Gonzaga
9) Texas (+1)
10) Louisville (+3)
11) Florida (-2)
12) Virginia (-1)
13) Villanova (-1)
14) VCU
15) Oklahoma (+4)
16) San Diego State (-1)
17) Iowa State (-1)
18) Ohio State (-1)
19) Connecticut (-1)
20) SMU
21) Michigan State
22) Syracuse
23) Michigan
24) Stanford
25) Arkansas

Biggest Mover: Oklahoma. The Sooners just got word Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas is eligible. A good team just got better.

Dropouts: No one … yet.

Just Outside: Colorado, LSU

richardson blog 1

Game Day: Ready, or not? VCU’s Havoc defense will test Vols

 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Kevin Punter spilled the beans.

Before the Tennessee men’s basketball team boarded the bus Wednesday the junior guard detailed how UT coach Donnie Tyndall prepared his team for the stifling pressure it will see from No. 15 VCU in tonight’s season opener.

“We’ve been practicing with six players, and that’s been a nightmare,” Punter said. “No one has been open. Coach told us from the jump, it’s going to feel like there are six players on the court.”

Make that at least six.

“Sometimes seven,” Tyndall said. “It’s very realistic as to how they play. They cover so much ground. They’re very athletic. They have great length. They play extremely hard. Playing against their 94 feet of pressure on every possession will certainly be the key to this game.”

VCU’s “Havoc” defense is intimidating to all opponents. The Rams have led the country in steals per game for three straight seasons. Last season they totaled 391 steals, 21 more than next best Louisville. The result? VCU finished sixth in the country in Ken Pomeroy’s rating for defensive efficiency.

“We just have to stay poised, calm down, stay focused,” Punter said. “They’re going to press. They’re going to send double teams at us. But we just have to take our time, step through passes and meet the ball.”

“You have to be aware that there is always someone else coming,” he continued. “There is never one time you should think you are by yourself for a second. Especially in the full court, when you’re trying to break their press, as we are going past one defender, there is always going to be someone else coming.”

VCU’s aggressive approach is especially threatening for UT, which will try to make its way through the season without a true point guard

It’s not that Tyndall didn’t try to change the situation. Injury-prone IUPUI graduate transfer Ian Chiles has not panned out — at least not yet. Senior walk-on Brandon Lopez was in line for some significant minutes until a torn ACL stole his season. Freshman walk-on Braxton Bonds has not been cleared by the NCAA and did not make the trip for this game. Another example: the UT staff pushed hard to land Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus. It didn’t work out, and Octeus is now making plays for Purdue. As a result UT will have to make due with its current cast.

“It’s as big of a challenge as you could possibly have, especially this early in the season, when your team is still trying to find its way,” Tyndall said. “Josh (Richardson), who is playing the point guard position for us, is still trying to find his way and evolve at that position.”

Richardson, named to the All-SEC second team by the league’s coaches for his play on the wing last season, will do his best to adapt. Before running point in UT’s two exhibition games, he hadn’t played the position since his senior year of high school. He gets to iron out the kinks against a defense that would make the most veteran ball handlers uneasy.

“It’s going to be a big challenge,” Richardson said. “I think I’m capable of taking care of the ball against pressure like that. And I’ve got teammates that are capable of helping me out.”

Tyndall said Wednesday he expects to start the same five he rolled with in the two exhibition games — Richardson, Punter, Robert Hubbs, Derek Reese and Dominic Woodon. He said UT might go small, starting Armani Moore instead of Woodson. Moore would play the four and Reese would shift to the five.

“Right now we kind of have six starters,” Tyndall said. “We are going to be able to play nine or 10 guys in this game.”

There is one plus for UT. One of VCU’s most disruptive defenders and usual starting point guard, Briante Weber, is suspended.

Quoteables:

“I remember I was running down the court and it stuck with me. It bothered me. Some guy was like, ‘Hey Richardson, grow a mustache!” And I still don’t have a mustache. It was a tough crowd. We actually lost that game. I didn’t play well, either.” — Richardson reflecting on his first college road game.

“A team that has an outside chance to go to the Final Four.” — Tyndall on VCU

“That ranking stuff doesn’t mean nothing when you’re on the basketball court. After a while when you’re out there that just goes out the window and you’re just playing basketball.” — Punter on VCU’s No. 15 preseason rank.

Numbers to Know:

VCU returns 68.8 percent of its scoring and 68.2 percent of its rebounding from a team that last season won 26 games and made the NCAA tournament.

UT, at the other end of the spectrum, lost 81 percent of its scoring and rebounding from last season’s Sweet 16 team.

Former Southern Miss assistant reacts to being named NCAA source

 

Twitter can be a strange place.

On Thursday former Southern Miss associate head coach Wade O’Connor took to the social media platform to refute a report from CBS college basketball writer Gary Parrish that he is among the sources cooperating with the NCAA in its investigation into the Southern Miss men’s basketball program under current Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall. Parrish quoted a source who referred to O’Connor as …  “a disgruntled former employee.”

O’Connor responded. So did Parrish. You can read the exchange below.

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O’Connor never answered that last question.

He hasn’t answered the News Sentinel’s phone calls since we started trying to contact him on Monday.

O’Connor joined Tyndall’s staff at Morehead State then made the jump to Southern Miss, but left the Golden Eagles in June of 2013. The reason, according to the Hattiesburg American, was so he could be closer to his family in Ohio.

“He’s been with me for the past three years, but we’ve been friends for over 20 years now, and it’s something that we talked about the whole year, off and on,” Tyndall told the newspaper. “It’s something that he’s really had a tough time with.”

Tyndall will meet with the NCAA on Tuesday, according to ESPN.

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Bleacher Report writer discusses report on Tyndall, Southern Miss

 

Bleacher Report college basketball writer Jason King joined WNML’s Sports 180 on Friday to discuss his report of the NCAA’s investigation into the Southern Miss men’s basketball program under current Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall.

King, citing an anonymous source within the Southern Miss program, reported the NCAA is reviewing, among other potential violations, how ineligible prospects incapable of being on scholarship paid for tuition and other expenses while on campus in Hattiesburg, Miss.

King painted a grim picture for Tyndall — and by extension UT — if the NCAA is able to prove the violations.

You can listen to King’s full interview here. His responses to certain questions are transcribed below.

King on how Tyndall’s previous NCAA violations at Morehead State could affect the NCAA’s punishment this time around …

“It makes what Bruce Pearl did pale in comparison. I mean if this is a repeat violator associated with the same particular violation, you’ve got to think he would be given a show cause penalty that would prevent him from getting any sort of a good job for quite a while. He doesn’t have a good reputation, to be frank, among other coaches. People are lining up behind his back to bad mouth him, call people like me and other people that do what I do and say bad things about him. There are plenty of other rumors about things that went on when he was at Southern Miss that may not even be NCAA violations, but things that don’t bode well for his program when it comes to players involved with failed drug treats, some violence that was occurring around campus. You just hear all kinds of things that made people think he wasn’t running the best program as far as the environment and the culture around his program. I think he is going to have a tough time surviving this — if it all turns out to be true.”

King on how he heard the NCAA is looking into the Southern Miss men’s basketball program …

“I’ve been working on it for about three months. To tell you the truth I was getting pretty frustrated, because as you guys know, as journalists, you always hear stuff. But, you know, hearing it and being able to report it, whether it is on the radio or on the internet, or the newspaper, it’s two different stories. You kind of have to be able to prove stuff is going on, or you have to be able to get people to go on the record and tell you stuff. A lot of the rumors and things I was hearing, I would call the people involved and they didn’t want to talk to me, understandably. So it kind of died. I just kept thinking if the NCAA finds out about some of this, or some of these rumors I’m hearing gets back to them, they’re going to go down there and investigate. And they obviously did, because I received word that they were down there looking into the same things I had heard. And at that point it becomes a reportable news story, you know, that an investigation is underway. Basically, that’s what I heard. As far as the rumors and the things that had been circulating, it all kind of started spreading around on the summer AAU circuit. A lot of coaches, they sit in the stands all day, and they recruit, and they gossip. They say, ‘Did you hear about what’s going on at Southern Miss?’ It kind of started spreading that way.”

King on how far along the NCAA’s review of Southern Miss is …

“It’s probably at the beginning stage. I think just like myself, and probably some other media members, they started hearing stuff just like we did. Now they’re going to go down there and find out if some of this is true. And they have to be able to kind of prove it and find out the details as well. I think this is a process that might take a little while. It might take them a month or two to interview all the necessary parties, not just in Hattiesburg, but some of these players that are allegedly involved in this aren’t there anymore. There are AAU coaches that might be involved in some of this stuff .They may have to travel to interview those guys. And they may or may not talk to them. I think it’s probably an investigative process that would take I would think at least a month or two. Then you have to write up the report and you have to send int to the school. The school has to respond. Penalties are levied. Then appeals come. The bottom line is this is something that could drag out for maybe eight to 12 months.”

King on how concerned UT fans should be about Tyndall receiving NCAA sanctions …

“Frankly I think they should be very concerned. I think this could get really ugly. This isn’t just a case of a player maybe getting a little bit of money here or there, or one infraction is what I’m trying to say. This is something, from what I’m hearing, that involved quite a few players. He had a lot of guys coming that he would sign at Southern Miss that didn’t qualify academically, yet they still ended up on campus, which is perfectly fine. That happens at a lot of schools. They end up on campus that first year. They’re not able to be on scholarship. So, they end up finding another way to pay for that first year of tuition while they take classes and enroll, and achieve the credit hours that are necessary to become eligible the following year. But when you’re bring in kids from very poor financial backgrounds, from very poor neighborhoods that don’t have a lot of money in their family, and all of a sudden you’re bringing them in from out of state — out of state tuition is much higher than in-state tuition — it does kind of raise a red flag. How are your guys able to pay for a full year of school and classes and everything? It obviously raises a red flag. I think there were quite a few players that they were doing this with, including three that are on the current team down there. So, I think they’re going to look into where that money is coming from. If they find out some shady stuff went on, that doesn’t bode very well for him. Especially considering this is the exact same thing, for the most part, that he got in trouble for at Morehead State.”

King on UT commit Chris Clarke’s flip to Virginia Tech after the news broke …

“What I was told with Chris Clarke was that, within the last two or three weeks, he was led to believe some of this stuff was going to be coming down the line. There was potential for this to happen. I’m actually kind of surprised this didn’t leak out sooner. Because these rumors about Southern Miss have been swirling for a while. I think someone probably got in his ear and said, ‘Just a heads up. There’s a good chance that Donnie Tyndall may be in some trouble. If that happens keep us in mind.’ Then it happened. And there you go. It would be tough for any coach to recruit when there is a cloud of uncertainty hanging over him and the program he coaches for. I’m sure Tennessee hopes this gets resolved sooner rather than later so everyone can move forward.”

Portis

Names to Know: Tennessee hoops to see some of nation’s best

 

With the start of college basketball right around the corner — Tennessee starts exhibition play against Pikeville on Monday  — it’s time to get a feel for the current landscape. Polls and All-American teams are popping up — the AP’s picks will be out Oct. 31 — and preseason mags are being devoured. On top of it all SBNation recently released its collection of top 100 players. UT fans should become familiar with some of the names on this list.

November 14

No. 43: VCU’s Treveon Graham

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound senior forward averaged 15.8 points and 7 rebounds for the Rams last season. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 50 pick in the draft. The former two-star recruit is 604 points away from the program’s all-time scoring record.

December 6

No. 45: Kansas State’s Marcus Foster

The 6-3, 210 sophomore guard averaged 15.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Wildcats last season. After he started every game as a freshman, he landed on the Big 12 preseason all-conference team.

January 13 and January 27

No. 75: Arkansas’ Bobby Portis

The 6-11, 242 sophomore forward averaged 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists last season. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 12 pick in the draft. Among his first-year accomplishments: second-team All-SEC, SEC all-freshman team, three-time SEC freshman of the week. Now he’s a first-teamer on the SEC preseason team. Portis had a quiet night against the Vols last season: 4 points (2-of-7), 4 rebounds, an assist and a steal.

January 20 and March 7

No. 82: South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell

The 6-5, 215 sophomore guard averaged 13.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.2 steals last season. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 21 pick in the draft. Thornwell joined Portis on the league’s all-freshman team last season and also earned freshman of the week honors three times. He scored 15 points (5-of-18) in South Carolina’s first loss to the Vols. UT held him to 7 points (3-of-9) in its second win.

January 31

No. 70: Auburn’s Antoine Mason

The 6-1, 216 graduate transfer guard averaged 25.6 points — second in the nation behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott — at Niagra last season. He led the nation in free throws made (260) and attempted (357).

No. 99: Auburn’s KT Harrell

The 6-4, 212 senior guard averaged 18.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season. He finished sixth in the SEC in scoring while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from 3-point range. He twice scored 15 points (5-of-15 and 6-of-15) in losses to UT last season.

February 14 and March 4

No. 27: LSU’s Jordan Mickey

The 6-8, 235 sophomore forward averaged 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks last season. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 29 pick in the draft. Last season he joined Portis and Thornwell on the league’s all-freshmen team, earned second-team all-conference honors and made the league’s all-defensive team. His nine double-doubles ranked third in the SEC, behind Kentucky’s Julius Randle and UT’s Jarnell Stokes. He totaled 14 points (7-of-10), 5 blocks, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in a loss to UT last season.

February 17

No. 7: Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns

The 6-11, 250 freshman forward was the 2014 Gatorade national player of the year. He’s one of the nine McDonald’s All-Americans on the Wildcat roster. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 3 pick in the draft. He averaged 11 points and 6.5 rebounds through six games during UK’s Big Blue Bahamas Tour.

No. 17: Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein

The 7-0, 240 junior forward averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks last season. NBADraft.net projects hims the No. 14 pick in the draft. He made last season’s SEC all-defensive team and earned a second-team spot on the preseason all-conference team. Cauley-Stein missed five shots and scored zero points against UT in the Wildcats’ win last season.

No. 21: Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison

The 6-6, 212 sophomore guard averaged 13.7 points, 3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals last season. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 40 pick in the draft. Last season he was named to the 2014 Midwest Region NCAA all-tournament team and the SEC all-tournament team. Now he’s a first-team member of the league’s preseason team. He totaled 14 points (3-of-7), 4 rebounds and an assist in UK’s victory over the Vols.

No. 40: Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison

The 6-6, 210 sophomore guard averaged 10.9 points, 4 assists and 3.2 rebounds last season. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 31 pick in the draft. He’s a second-team member of the league’s preseason team. While his twin became the NCAA tournament sniper, it was Andrew who did the most damage against the Vols. He went off for a career-high 26 points (7-of-13) to help beat UT.

No. 66: Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson

The 7-0, 255 sophomore center averaged 5.2 points, and 3.9 rebounds last season. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 36 pick in the draft. He had 4 points (2-of-3) and 4 rebounds against the Vols.

No. 72: Kentucky’s Alex Poythress

The 6-8, 238 junior guard averaged 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 34 pick in the draft. He’s second-team member of the league’s preseason team. He had 4 points (1-of-4), 3 rebounds and 2 assists against the Vols.

February 21

No. 79: Ole Miss’ Jarvis Summers

The 6-3, 186 senior guard averaged 17.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds last season. He earned second-team all-conference honors last season and enters his final year as a preseason SEC first-teamer. He will be featured even more now that volume shooter Marshall Henderson is gone. Summers hung 16 points (6-of-11) and 5 assists on the Vols in a loss last season.

February 28

No. 20: Florida’s Chris Walker

The 6-10, 220 sophomore forward averaged 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds last season. NBADraft.net projects him as the No. 26 pick in the draft. A rules violation got him suspended for the Gators’ first two regular season games this season. If Walker can stay out of his own way, the McDonald’s All-American could be one of the best players in the league. Walker, thanks to NCAA issues, didn’t see the Vols in the first meeting between the two teams last season. He had 3 rebounds in 5 minutes in the second game, and 1 rebound in 5 minutes in the third.

No. 74: Florida’s Kasey Hill

The 6-1, 182 sophomore guard averaged 5.5 points, 3.1 assists and 2 rebounds last season. As a freshman the McDonald’s All-American ranked fourth in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio and 10th in assists. He will have a bigger role now that former SEC POY Scottie Wilbekin is gone. Hill totaled 2 points (1-of-6), 3 assists and 3 rebounds in the Gators’ first win against the Vols last season. He had 4 points (2-of-6) in the second, and 5 points (2-of-4) in the third.

No. 86: Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith

The 6-8, 218 junior forward averaged 8.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season. The SEC’s sixth man of the year should be a starter now. He totaled 9 points (4-of-9) and 8 rebounds against the Vols in the Gators’ first victory against UT last season. He had four points (1-of-6) and five rebounds in the second. He was held to zero points (0-2) and 2 rebounds in the final meeting.

No. 93: Florida’s Michael Frazier II

The 6-4, 194 junior guard averaged 12.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists last season. He made the All-SEC tournament team along with the All-NCAA tournament South regional team. He enters this season a first-team member of the conference’s preseason team. Frazier is one of the deadliest 3-point shooters in the nation. He made 118 last season, including 11 in a game against South Carolina. He totaled 17 points (5-of-8) and 4 rebounds in the Gators’ first win over the Vols. He went for 11 points, 2 rebounds and 2 steals in the second. In game three he had 7 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals.

* If UT beats Santa Clara in the Orlando Classic, it will almost certainly play Kansas next. The Jayhawks are loaded with No. 16 Wayne Selden, No. 29 Cliff Alexander, No. 31 Perry Ellis, No. 35 Kelly Oubre. Other SBNation Top-100 players in the Orlando Classic field include No. 81 Matt Carlino (Marquette) and No. 26 Branden Dawson (Michigan State).

247Sports photo

Vols basketball target Chris Clarke to announce Thursday

 

Tennessee 2015 basketball target Chris Clarke will announce his college commitment on Thursday afternoon, according to a message the 6-foot-5, 170-pound guard posted to his Twitter account Tuesday night.

Clarke, a 4-star prospect from Virginia Beach, will pick between the Vols, Connecticut, Virginia Tech and Creighton, according to recruiting writer Corey Evans.

Clarke took official visits to all four schools. His final visit was an official to UT in early October. He told the News Sentinel that UT coach Donnie Tyndall and his staff visited him more than anyone else.

“It shows a lot,” he said at the time. “It shows they really care, that they genuinely think I will be able to be a part of their team.”

Scouting service 247Sports considers Clarke the No. 1 2015 player in Virginia, the No. 9 2015 shooting guard and the No. 41 2015 prospect overall.

UT already has two commits — Shembari Phillips and Admiral Schofield — for its 2015 class.

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Vols basketball recruiting update (10/24/14)

 

  • 2016 small forward Mario Kegler and 2016 center Abdulhakim Ado will unofficially visit UT this weekend. Joining them on an official visit will be 2015 UT commit Shembari Phillips. As of Friday morning there were still some potential visitors up in the air. I’ll try to confirm them if they arrive.
  • Don’t expect to hear much from 2015 UT target Chris Clarke until he takes the ACT on Saturday. There’s no guarantee there will be news then, either. Curt Clarke, Chris’ father, told the News Sentinel on Friday afternoon that all recruiting talk is on hold until his son takes the exam. The Clarke family still hopes to announce a commitment before the early signing period begins Nov. 12. Clarke enjoyed his recent trip to UT, especially the new TV studio on campus. His dad said he wants to major in journalism or communications.
  • UT has offered a scholarship to 2015 4-star point guard Marcus LoVett of Morgan Park High School in Chicago. The 6-foot, 170-pound point guard is being pursued by some heavy hitters, including Kansas (he visited the Jayhawks earlier this month) and Illinois. He’s fun to watch. Check him out.

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Vols basketball practice update (10/20/2014)

 

Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall, freshman forward Tariq Owens and sophomore guard Robert Hubbs met the media today before practice at Pratt Pavilion.

Some highlights …

  • With UT’s first exhibition game against NAIA opponent Pikeville on on Nov. 3 fast approaching, Tyndall was asked for a comprehensive review of his team.
    “Our guys are working hard,” he said. “I’ve said that since this summer. Their energy level is fine. Their competitive nature is pretty solid.  Their coachable. But we have so far to go in probably about three areas. Playing with more physicality, No. 1. Playing through fatigue, No. 2. And then just learning to play fast while still valuing the basketball. Our turnovers right now are just atrocious. We want to play with pace, with tempo, get up and down the floor. But on the flip side we are just giving away the ball too much.”
  • Tyndall said the installation of his defense, a system that presses after dead balls and falls back into matchup zone, is “about 60 to 70 percent” where it needs to be before games start.
    “We are picking up our presses and being able to match up in the press, different things we do fairly well,” he said. “The matchup zone has gotten progressively better. There are a couple of nuances with it that, when we go man-to-man, recognizing certain situations when we need to be man-to-man, that we haven’t picked up real well yet. It’s repetition and film work. We are certainly progressing there.”
  • Once again Tyndall addressed the pressure that sits on Hubbs’ shoulders, and how he has encouraged the former five-star to ignore it.
    “The biggest thing is Robert just has to relax and be a basketball player,” Tyndall said. “So many times in this crazy business we are in, young people get influenced or drug down by expectations, whether it’s from the fans, friends or a girlfriend, whoever. We are going to continue to talk to him about being who he is, taking baby steps toward progressively getting better. And I think he’s doing that.”
    Tyndall said at the team’s media day last week that he had a one-on-one meeting with Hubbs to discuss this exact topic. It helped, according to Hubbs.
    “I have to stay focused,” he said. “I can’t worry about what outsiders say. I just have to play my game.”
    Hubbs says he is full healthy following last season’s shoulder surgery and the right wrist he tweaked early in practices this year. He declared himself the favorite to win both the 3-point and dunk contests at Friday’s Big Orange Madness event. He expects Detrick Mostella and Devon Baulkman to give him the most competition in the dunk contest and 3-point contest, respectively.
  • Tyndall, along with Armani Moore and Josh Richardson, will head to Charlotte for SEC hoops media day on Wednesday. The preseason SEC predictions will be debuted the same day. Tyndall knows the Vols might be near the bottom.
  • “We’ve talked about it,” he said. ‘Not repeatedly, or over the top. But we certainly want these guys to be aware of what the outside world things of us. It is what it is. We can talk about it, have a chip on our shoulder and all those things that sound fantastic, but at the end of the day, if we don’t go out and practice the right way, compete and perform the right way when we play, all the talk is for not.”
    He was asked for his personal expectations.
    “My expectations are to win every game, be 31-0,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve always coached. That’s why the teams and the programs I’ve been in charged of have probably overachieved every single year. That being said, realistically, we are one of the least experienced teams in our league, one of the least experienced in America. And we are picked toward the bottom of the league for a reason. But I never want to put a ceiling on any team.”
  • Sophomore forward Dominic Woodson continues to shed the pounds, but seems to have encountered a bit of snag.
    “He’s lost a bunch of weight,” Tyndall said. “So I’m proud of what he’s done. He’s lost about 21, 22 pounds. But the biggest thing is, maybe it’s even more mental than it is physical. He will not push himself through fatigue. He was pretty good in stretches, in spurts during our scrimmage. He did some nice things. But as soon as he gets tired he will not push himself to move … He gives up four, five, six points before you can call him timeout and get him out of the game. These aren’t things we don’t talk about endlessly with Dom. He gets it. But now he has to get it to the floor.”
  • Owens has gained 16 much-needed pounds since he stepped on campus. He’s now up to 184. Ideally, he would like to reach 230, but he’s shooting for 190-195 this season. The 6-foot-10 Owens has led the team in blocked shots in scrimmages. He averages about three per practice.  “My defense is ahead of my offense,” he said. “This year I feel like me on the defensive end will help the team more than on the offensive end.”