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.