Author Archives: Ben Frederickson

About Ben Frederickson

Ben Frederickson joined the News Sentinel in October 2013 to cover Tennessee men's basketball and UT athletics. He previously covered college and professional sports as a regional writer in St. Louis, University of Wyoming athletics for the Casper Star-Tribune and University of Missouri athletics for the Columbia Missourian and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Frederickson grew up in Sedalia, Mo. He graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism in May of 2012.

Former Vol Bobby Maze hoping to make AAU impact


Do you know a talented basketball player in the Knoxville area?

Former Tennessee guard Bobby Maze wants to know. He’s got big plans for his up-and-coming “B. Maze Elite” summer basketball teams.

“I’m trying to get kids from all these small different towns and put them on one team,” Maze said Tuesday afternoon. “Now you can compete with some of these teams. But you have to find them. That’s the hard part.”

The sounds of squeaking sneakers and screeching whistles interrupted the phone call. Maze’s hunt is already in motion. He was at Knoxville Christian School for his skills camp on Tuesday, and will be back Wednesday and Thursday. Grades 3-7 play from noon to 3 p.m. Grades 8-12 play from 4 to 7. A two-day registration costs $100.

Maze hopes the skills camp leads him to players for his three teams: 10-and-under, 12-and-under and 17-and-under. He just weathered his first season on the summer basketball circuit — his teams made trips to South Carolina, Atlanta, Virginia Beach — and he learned a lot along the way.

There were high points. Oak Ridge star guard Tee Higgins, known more for his skills on the football field, got some much-needed exposure in front of Division I basketball coaches as a member of the 17-and-under team. The 10-and-under team recently won a national tournament. And discussions for a shoe sponsorship are in the works.

But Maze wants more.

“One thing I learned is that I want to get some more players,” he said.  “I need to get more talent. And I believe Knoxville has good players … There is a lot of talent in this area, but they’ve never played on a high level (in summer basketball). You can average 40 per game at Austin-East and no one sees. But if you score 12 against Chris Paul’s All-Stars, people see it. That’s where the college coaches are. I want to help the kids here get an opportunity.”


Previewing Tennessee basketball’s non-conference schedule

Tennessee basketball hasn’t officially announced its non-conference schedule for the upcoming season, but we now know most of the games on the slate. Here’s a quick preview of the teams the Vols will face as the Rick Barnes era gets off the ground.

November 2: Slippery Rock at Tennessee (Exhibition)

Slippery Rock reached the second round of the NCAA Division II tournament last season and finished 21-11 overall. The program from western Pennsylvania gets $10,000 for playing the Vols.

November 6: Alabama-Huntsville at Tennessee (Exhibition)

Alabama-Huntsville reached the opening round of the NCAA Division II tournament last season and finished 23-9 overall. It also gets $10,000 for playing the Vols.

November 16: Tennessee at Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech lost its last five and finished last season 12-19 (3-15 ACC). Coach Brian Gregory enters his fifth season feeling the pressure that comes along with a 55-71 record.

This will be the first meeting between the Vols and Yellow Jackets since 2004, and it marks the first of a four-game series. The Yellow Jackets will come to Knoxville in 2016-17 and 2018-19. In between, the Vols return to McCamish Pavillion in 2017-18. UT leads the overall series 42-27.

Georgia Tech returners include: Senior forward Marcus Georges-Hunt (13.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), senior forward Charles Mitchell (9.8 ppg, 7 rpg) and redshirt sophomore point guard Travis Jorgensen (3.7 ppg, 3.3 apg). Hunt missed last season’s ACC tournament because of a broken right foot.

November 19: Marshall at Tennessee

Marshall finished 11-21 (7-11 Conference USA) in coach Dan D’Antoni’s first season. D’Antoni, of course, is the older brother of former NBA coach Mike D’Antoni. UT is 6-3 against Marshall all-time, and has won the last three meetings. This game at Thompson-Boling will be Marshall’s regular-season opener. Marshall returners include sophomore forward Ryan Taylor (14.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.8 apg).

November 22: Gardner-Webb at Tennessee (Barclays Center Classic)

Gardner-Webb lost its first game of the CBI and finished last season 20-15 (10-8 Big South Conference). Coach Tim Craft enters his third season with Bulldogs with a 38-30 record. UT won the only other meeting between these two teams, 71-69 in Knoxville in 2002. Gardner-Webb returners include junior center Tyrell Nelson (13.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg).

November 24: Opponent TBA at Tennessee (Barclays Center Classic)

UT gets two home games as part of the Barclays Center Classic. The opponent for the second has not yet been announced.

November 27: vs. Opponent TBA in Brooklyn (Barclays Center Classic)

UT will play either Cincinnati, Nebraska or George Washington in its first game at the Barclays Center.

November 28: vs Opponent TBA in Brooklyn (Barclays Center Classic)

The result of the Nov. 27 game will dictate which of the three teams (Cincinnati, Nebraska, George Washington) the Vols meet in their second and final game at the Barclays Center.

December 12: Tennessee at Butler

Butler beat Texas before losing to Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament and finished last season 23-11 (12-6 Big East). But the Vols beat the Bulldogs 67-55 in their meeting at Thompson-Boling Arena. Now comes a rematch at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, where Butler beat UT 81-66 in 1958. UT is 1-2 against Butler all-time, but won the last meeting 76-71 in overtime during the 2008 NCAA tournament in Birmingham, Ala. UT reportedly reached out to Butler coach Chris Holtmann about its coaching vacancy before it hired Rick Barnes. Butler returners include: redshirt senior forward Roosevelt Jones (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and senior guard Kellen Dunham (16.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg).

December 16: Florida Atlantic at Tennessee

Florida Atlantic finished 9-20 last season (2-16 Conference USA). At one point the Owls lost 11 straight. Coach Tim Loomis enters his third season with the program with a 12-42 record. This will be the first meeting between the two teams. The Owls will receive $90,000 for coming to Knoxville. Former Vols forward signee C.J. Turman plays for FAU. He averaged 5.8 points and 3.3 rebounds as a freshman. Other FAU returners include junior guard Marquan Botley (13.1 ppg, 3.9 apg) and senior guard Solomon Poole (12.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg).

December 19: Tennessee vs. Gonzaga in Seattle (Battle for Seattle)

Gonzaga lost to national-champion Duke in the Elite Eight and finished last season 35-3 (17-1 West Coast Conference). Coach Mark Few enters his 17th season with the program with a stellar 438-103 record. UT is 1-2 against the Bulldogs all-time. The two teams haven’t met since a UT loss in Knoxville in January 2009. This game, played at Seattle’s Key Arena, marks a rematch of the 2007 Battle for Seattle, which UT won 82-72. The Bulldogs lost star guard Kevin Pangos, but returners include senior forward Kyle Wiltjer (16.8 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and sophomore forward Domantas Sabonis (9.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg).

December 22: ETSU at Tennessee

ETSU finished last season 16-14 (8-10 Southern Conference). That included a 71-61 loss to the Vols at Thompson-Boling. This game should bring more excitement as it will be the first time new Buccaneers coach Steve Forbes meets his former team. He wore orange as a Bruce Pearl assistant for five years. Forbes has flipped much of the roster since he took the job. Names to know now include Cincinnati graduate transfer guard Ge’Lawn Guyn, junior college transfer forward Abednego “Bennie” Lufile and junior college transfer guard T.J. Cromer.

December 29: Tennessee State at Tennessee

Coach Dana Ford had a rough first season. Tennessee State lost its last eight games and finished last season 5-26 (2-14 Ohio Valley). That included a 67-46 loss to the Vols at Thompson-Boling Arena.  The Tigers get $90,000 for their return to Knoxville this season. TSU returners include senior guard Marcus Roper (10 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and senior forward Demontez Loman.

January 30: Tennessee at TCU (SEC/ Big 12 Challenge)

TCU finished 18-15 (4-14 Big 12) last season. Coach Trent Johnson enters his fourth season with the program with a 38-58 record. The Vols have met TCU just once before, a 73-59 loss in 1991. They’re 11-16 against Big 12 teams all-time. Rick Barnes has never lost (8-0) to the Horned Frogs, which joined the Big 12 in 2012. TCU returners include junior forward Kenrich Williams (8.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg).

Braxton Blackwell has Tennessee in final six


The Tennessee basketball team got good news Tuesday.

Braxton Blackwell, a four-star small forward in the 2016 class who has been pursued by UT coaches past and present, is still considering the Vols.

Blackwell, through Christ Presbyterian Academy coach Drew Maddux, cut his list to six schools Tuesday.

The list, in no specific order: Tennessee, Kansas, Alabama, Vanderbilt, Texas and Virginia.

Blackwell recently announced he will transfer from CPA in Nashville to Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.

The 6-foot-8 rising senior ranks 38th nationally and No. 8 among small forwards, according to 247Sports.

Blackwell’s long list of offers included more than 20 Division I programs, including Florida, Indiana, Louisville and Ohio State.

Rick Barnes not placing ceiling on Kyle Alexander


Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes raved about freshman forward Kyle Alexander during a Tuesday night appearance on Nashville’s 104.5 The Zone.

“Primetime” host Chad Withrow asked Barnes about the benefit Pilot Rocky Top League can have on UT players’ confidence. Barnes singled out the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Canadian.

“We are really excited, simply because he’s only been playing two years,” Barnes said. “He’s played a lot of soccer, so that tells you, one, that he’s got stamina. And he can run. He really can run as well as any guard that we have in our program. Terrific hands. He has a great knack to get his hands on a lot of balls. And he’s quick. But he also is a guy that, offensively, we are going to watch him grow up here. We are right now. Somewhat, each practice we are like surprised with the things he gets done and the way he does it.”

“He’s really learning the game for the first time. But the fact is he picks up things extremely well. In terms of his ceiling, I don’t know that we would want to put one on him. Anyone that is willing to work as hard as he works, and his body is going to change. It’s already starting to change. But from a skill set and those type of things, I’ve been really impressed with how well he can pick things up and how quickly you can move with him from one thing to the next.”

  • Barnes didn’t address the transfer of Memphis forward Austin Nichols directly, but he offered his stance on transfers in general, specifically the idea of blocking players from accepting scholarships from certain schools. (Nichols’ transfer restrictions initially included UT before the school dropped the restrictions following the family’s decision to hire a lawyer.)
    “I don’t think any kid should ever be denied to go wherever he wants to go,” Barnes said. “The only time I would say maybe there is an except not that rule is if there is a known fact some other school was tampering with him. Otherwise, I think every kid should have the freedom to choose any school he wants to go to. I don’t know that you can do it within the league, because I think there would be a lot of talking going on within the league during games and all that. But in some ways, that wouldn’t bother me because if a coach in this league wanted to leave and go to another university in the league, that would happen.
  • If you haven’t heard, playing in Nashville is important to Barnes.
    “I would like for us to play here every year if we could,” he said. “We’ve even put on the table possibly doing double-headers with other SEC teams. Because the tournament is here, they tell me it’s just a great event. So, we want to be here. And we are going to do it.”

You can listen to Barnes’ full interview here.



Richardson to make Heat debut in NBA summer leagues


Former Tennessee and new Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson will play in both Orlando’s Pro Summer League and Las Vegas’ NBA Summer League.

Miami released its summer league roster on Wednesday.

Richardson’s summer league play will start in Orlando on Saturday, where the Heat will play five games in seven days. Then, the Heat’s summer league team heads to Las Vegas for at least five more games.

How well Richardson plays could determine if he gets a contract.

If you’re interested in catching some games, be on the lookout for specific broadcasts from NBA TV. Fans can also watch every game live on

Here’s the Heat’s schedule for both leagues:

Orlando —

Saturday, July 4, 2015

9:00 a.m. Miami @ Indiana

Sunday, July 5, 2015

5:00 p.m. Brooklyn @ Miami

Monday, July 6, 2015

3rd game 5:00 p.m. Detroit @ Miami


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

3rd game 5:00 p.m. LA Clippers @ Miami

Friday, July 10, 2015 (Championship Day)

1st game 8:00 a.m. 6th place @ 5th place

2nd game 10:00 a.m. 4th place @ 3rd place

3rd game 12:00 p.m. 2nd place @ 1st place

4th game 2:00 p.m. 8th place @ 7th place

5th game 4:00 p.m. 10th place @ 9th place

Las Vegas ( times are Eastern)  —

Saturday, July 11

4:30 p.m. — Miami vs. Utah (Game 14)

Monday, July 13

2 p.m. — Miami vs. Denver (Game 27)

Tuesday, July 14

1 p.m. — Miami vs. Boston (Game 35)

* The rest of the games from July 15-20 will be decided by the league’s tournament format. I’ll update the rest of the schedule when it’s determined when the Heat will play.

Here’s the Heat’s summer league roster:

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 3.23.24 PM


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.”

Tennessee basketball freshmen receive jersey numbers


The Tennessee men’s basketball team’s roster has been updated to include incoming freshmen, which means we now know the numbers the new guys will wear. The digits:

No. 1 — Lamonte’ Turner (6-2, 180)

No. 2 — Ray Kasongo (6-9, 235)

No. 5 — Admiral Schofield (6-6, 220)

No. 11 — Kyle Alexander (6-10, 200)

No. 25 — Shembari Phillips (6-4, 185)

Three-star 2015 small forward Dikembe Dixson to visit Vols

Monday Update: Dikembe Dixson did not arrive for an official visit Monday. His father, Sam Dixson, told the News Sentinel in a phone interview on Monday afternoon that he expects his son’s visit to be rescheduled for later this week.

Dikembe Dixson, a three-star small forward in the 2015 class, has a Tennessee offer and plans to visit Knoxville next week.

The 6-foot-7, 190-pound Dixson announced on Twitter on Friday night that he is now considering Tennessee along with Mississippi State and Alabama.

A strong push from Tennessee has moved the Vols into the picture as of late, according to Brad Napier, head coach at Mingo Central High School in Matewan, West Virginia.

“I know he was talking to (Vols) coach (Rick) Barnes tonight,” Napier said late Friday night. “They are planning to bring him in for an official visit.”

That visit is scheduled for Monday (May 18).

Napier said Barnes’ staff, specifically associate head coach Rob Lanier, established a relationship with Dixson while at Texas. That interest intensified this week.

Napier said Dixson visited Alabama last week and has a visit to Mississippi State scheduled later this week. He said Arkansas had been in the picture but isn’t any longer.

“He really liked Alabama last weekend,” Napier said. “He’s really excited about Tennessee now that it has come into the picture here lately. He had a good relationship with the staff when they were at Texas.”

Napier said Dixson averaged 22 points and 10.5 rebounds as a senior this season. He describes him as a “very athletic” player who excels in transition.

“He’s just an elite athlete,” Napier said. “He can shoot it. He as a really nice stroke. He is just all-around a good player. He needs to get in the weight room a bit, get a little stronger and fine tune his skills.”

Napier said Dixson originally planned to sign on May 26, but that date could be pushed back due to his new interest in the Vols. When asked why the decision has been delayed compared to many recruits in the 2015 class, Napier said Dixson always planned to wait until after his season ended to make his decision.

“He kind of wanted to take his time through the whole process,” Napier said. “His sister played at Marshall. The family knows how the whole process goes.”

Dixson’s sister, Suporia Dickens, played at Marshall from 2011-2014. Dixson’s cousin, Montrell Dixson, is a 6-foot-6, 200-pound shooting guard in the 2016 class who has drawn some Division I interest.

Something that could hep Tennessee: Ruben Kasongo, the younger brother of 2015 Tennessee signee Ray Kasongo, was a teammate of Dikembe Dixson’s at Mingo Central last season. Ruben Kasongo has since transferred, but the players remained friends.

“Those guys communicate,” Napier said.

Tennessee has one scholarship available for the 2015 class — if additional roster defections do not occur. Last week, UT power forward target Ebuka Izundu committed to Miami.

The 247Sports composite ranks Dixson the No. 219 overall prospect and the No. 43 small forward in the 2015 class.