Monthly Archives: June 2015

Josh Richardson’s turning point

 

There’s a funny story about a very scrawny Josh Richardson showing up for a recruiting visit to Tennessee in skinny jeans and glasses with no lenses. The hipster from Oklahoma looked more like the younger brother of a recruit than someone who deserved a scholarship.

But looks can be deceiving, and Richardson on Thursday night became the 46th Vol drafted into the NBA.

There’s an event in between worth mentioning.

After Richardson had grown into the defensive specialist Jordan McRae hated to play against every day at practice, but before he became the face of the program, there was an important meeting in former UT coach Cuonzo Martin’s office. Martin, now at Cal, told Richardson the team needed more.

The Vols were attempting to save a season that nearly derailed after a loss to lowly Texas A&M dropped their record to 16-11 and 7-7 in the SEC. The regular season had ended and the conference tournament was approaching. Thoughts of the NBA draft were threatening to distract key players. It was time for the easygoing, often-goofy Richardson to assume more of a leadership role. Period.

If Richardson wanted to run and complain to his parents — he didn’t — he would have gotten the same message.

“He doesn’t even know this, but I guess I can reveal this now,” Martin said Friday. “I called his mom and dad to say I need their help to push him to be a leader. I was going to challenge him more. He accepted that challenge … It wasn’t a case of the talent. He always had the talent. It was a matter of him understanding of what we needed him to be.”

Micheal Richardson, Josh’s father, and Martin had known one another since Martin offered his son, then a three-star prospect, a scholarship to Missouri State. He agreed.

“Josh had always been an informal leader on the team,” Micheal Richardson said Friday. “He (Martin) gave him that formal leadership role. He came out and said, ‘Josh is one of our leaders.'”

A day after seeing his son receive the phone call from Miami Heat president Pat Riley, Micheal Richardson says that meeting Josh Richardson had with Martin is still significant.

“I think that was a turning point,” Micheal Richardson said. “It gave him that confidence.”

Josh Richardson continued to wreak havoc on defense but started to look like a different player at the other end. He averaged 19.3 points per game during UT’s surprise Sweet 16 run. He became more vocal in huddles and timeouts.

Like many others, I wondered: Was this was the new Josh Richardson or just a March mirage? Dad didn’t have any doubts.

“I wasn’t concerned because Josh, at that point, after the tournament, he just said, ‘Man I can do this,'” Micheal Richardson said. “And he never looked back. Coach (Donnie) Tyndall came in and basically put the ball in his hands, and that was great, too.”

Tyndall deserves credit as well. He helped Josh Richardson grow his offensive game, showing him how to create separation and find his shot. He poured confidence into his new star and designed around him.

Tyndall quickly realized Josh Richardson’s potential. By then, so did Josh Richardson. He was ready to lead, and he thrived. Thanks in part to the meeting with Martin that helped start his rise.

Oak Ridge star Tee Higgins claims basketball offer from Vols

 

Tee Higgins, a four-star Oak Ridge High School wide receiver in the 2017 class, has been on the Tennessee football team’s wish list for a while.

Now the Vols basketball team is after him, too.

The 6-foot-4, 184-pound Higgins has received a basketball scholarship offer from the Vols, he posted to his Twitter account Thursday night.

The offer came after Higgins, accompanied by his AAU coach and former Vols guard Bobby Maze, stopped by UT’s campus on Tuesday afternoon, according to a 247Sports report.

Higgins holds a long offer list for football (including Alabama and Ohio State), but this is believed to be the combo guard’s third basketball offer. Middle Tennessee State offered first, followed by Auburn on June 2.

Higgins earned all-state honors in football and basketball last season and earned the PrepXtra Boys Basketball sophomore of the year award. He helped Oak Ridge reach the Class AAA state tournament, averaging a team-high 13.9 points along with 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

Q&A with new Vols walk-on Brad Woodson

 

Brad Woodson assumed his shot at becoming a Tennessee basketball player expired when former Vols coach Donnie Tyndall was fired. Maybe he could be a manager, or something. Then, during an impromptu meeting last week, new Vols coach Rick Barnes extended an invitation that became the highlight of Woodson’s campus orientation. I caught up with Woodson, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound shooting guard from Murfreesboro’s Riverdale High School, about joining the team as a walk-on in July.

Q: Can you walk me through the process of finding out you were going to join the team?

A: “Originally, under Tyndall, we had talked about being a walk-on, but with the coaching switch and everything it kind of fell through. I was up in Knoxville for orientation last Monday and Tuesday, and I went by to see if I could be a part of the team. I waited and waited and ended up talking to a manager. I gave them my name and number. Then Coach Barnes walked in. He had remembered watching film on me and invited me to watch practice later that day. It kind of all happened at once. The timing was great .”

“It kind of surprised me, because when it fell through before I was like, ‘Dang maybe I can be a manager, or be around the team or something.’ It was crazy how it all happened. It was a great surprise to have that happen at the end of orientation.”

Q: What did Barnes tell you he was looking for in a walk-on?

A: “A smart guy who can shoot the ball as well. That’s pretty much it.”

Q: Are you more of a shooting guard or a point guard?

A: “Naturally, I’m a shooting guard. Shooting is my strongest ability.”

Q: What are your expectations for your freshman season?

A: “Just help the team in any way, whether it’s with a couple of minutes every now and then, or pushing the guys in practice, or running the scout team offense.”

Q: Your dad, Kevin Woodson, coached you throughout high school. How did being a coach’s son shape your game?

A: “Just always being around the game and talking about the game. On Saturday, after the Friday night game, we would watch film and go over stuff that should be different. We always had that connection. He didn’t even have to say anything … Having a dad as a coach definitely helped the basketball IQ.”

Q: What are the areas you need to improve?

A: “My speed and my ball handling would be two of the main ones. Those are the two parts of my game that need to get a lot better.”

Q: You were a pretty good baseball player in high school as well. Any chance you try to play that as well at UT?

A: “No. I’ll be strictly basketball.”