Jan. 17, 2013
HOOPS REPORT: Freshmen Showing Poise
The year 2013 hasn't been kind to the Tennessee basketball team thus far, but a pair of first-year Volunteers have experienced a surge in confidence and production since the calendar turned.
True freshmen Derek Reese and Armani Moore have recently bloomed into key contributors for the Big Orange (8-7, 0-3 SEC). The pair has combined to give the Vols 11.0 points and 6.3 rebounds since the start of Southeastern Conference play.
Reese averages 20.0 minutes played in SEC games, and Moore averages 16.5 minutes. Neither player has committed a turnover against conference opposition.
At hostile Rupp Arena Tuesday, the pair totaled 14 points and eight rebounds against Kentucky.
Reese met with reporters before Tennessee's Thursday practice at Pratt Pavilion, and the Orlando, Fla., native acknowledged that the transition to the college game hasn't been easy.
"(SEC basketball is) a lot faster and a lot more physical (than what I'm used to,)" Reese said. "But I'm getting used to it. I'm adjusting really well. I just want to help the team win, however I can."
Reese's recent success is even more impressive given the fact that he made his UT debut less than three weeks ago. He underwent shoulder surgery Aug. 21 to address a labral tear. Initial estimates for his return were set at six months, but by the time the Vols hosted Xavier on Dec. 29, Reese found himself under the bright lights of Thompson-Boling Arena for the first time.
An ankle sprain caused him to miss one additional game since his debut, but in the four games in which he's played, he is averaging 7.0 points in 20.8 minutes off the bench.
Moore, a native of Kennesaw, Ga., is Reese's roommate at Gibbs Hall. In Tennessee's five games preceding conference play, Moore never left the bench in two, and he averaged just 3.0 minutes of action in the other three.
Moore also watched from the bench when the Vols hosted Ole Miss on Jan. 9. But Vols fans have seen plenty of No. 4 in recent road games at Alabama and Kentucky.
Against the Crimson Tide, Moore scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting. He also added four rebounds, one assist and a blocked shot. It was more of the same against the defending national champion Wildcats. Moore enjoyed a flawless shooting night - one 3-pointer and two free throws - en route to a five-point, four-rebound effort.
"Those guys are good basketball players," said Vols head coach Cuonzo Martin, referring to Reese and Moore. "They aren't phased by the environment. They know how to play the game, and they have a good `feel' for the game. Those two guys have great futures."