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Returnees' Roles Increase
Scotty Hopson


Scotty Hopson

Nov. 16, 2010

By: Andrew Lentz
UT Media Relations

While much of the talk surrounding Tennessee basketball has been about how its ninth-ranked recruiting class (Rivals.com) can help sustain the program's recent success, the 10 returnees that played a major role in the Vols' historic NCAA Elite Eight run a year ago must not be forgotten.

It's not every year that a basketball program will lose three of its top four scorers as Tennessee did with Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze. But with adversity comes opportunity.

"The face of our team is going to look a lot different," head coach Bruce Pearl said. "So it's going to present a lot of opportunities. We'll play differently. We'll look differently. The system will be the same. So from that standpoint, I think it will be really exciting."

Junior guard Scotty Hopson, the Vols' top returning scorer from 2009-10, will be thrust into the spotlight when the season starts tonight. Hopson earned first team coaches' preseason All-SEC honors after averaging 12.2 points per game last year.

"I think Scotty can make plays, and Scotty can score," Pearl said. "And that's absolutely not something that's disputable. I think ultimately for us to be a great team, the cream needs to rise to the top. He'd be an example of just one of several guys, I think, that would need to do that in order for us to be a great team."

When a team loses four seniors to graduation, they leave a void not only on the box score, but in the form of leadership as well. In a game where leadership starts with the point guard position, it's fitting that Pearl cited Melvin Goins as an individual that's stepped into his role nicely.

 

 

"I think Melvin Goins has stepped up as a leader," Pearl said. "I think both on and off the court, with his play, with the way he communicates to the team."

Goins is looking forward to the challenge and relishing the opportunity.

"Being in the position to lead this team is a blessing in itself," Goins said. "It's something that I can look forward to leading these great guys to something we want to accomplish."

Goins is one of five seniors the Vols return this season with Josh Bone, Michael Hubert, Steven Pearl and Brian Williams rounding out the elder class.

Williams, who increased his production in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 9.3 points and 11 rebounds over the Vols' final three games, expects more of the same this season.

"I'm stepping into the same role that Wayne had as a big man and a senior leader," Williams said. "I'm ready and I've worked hard enough to take over that responsibility."

While Bone and Pearl don't jump out on the box score, each have provided key intangibles and stout defense during their time at UT. Pearl saw action in a career-high 31 games last season, while Bone played a key role off the bench during the Vols' tourney run in March. UT will need both players' experience throughout this year. After playing in four games in 2009-10, Hubert suffered a knee injury in practice that cut his season short.

Other returnees for UT are juniors Cameron Tatum and Renaldo Woolridge along with sophomores Kenny Hall and Skylar McBee.

Tatum is a proven scorer who contributed 19 double-figure games a year ago and will have "as big a change in his role as anybody," according to Pearl. Woolridge is a versatile Vol who can play both forward positions and create tough matchups.

Hall put in a lot of extra work over the off-season and gives UT another solid presence on the low block while McBee has the green light to shoot every open shot that becomes available to him. The sharp-shooter worked hard to improve his playmaking abilities and is more capable of penetrating if the defense takes away his shot.

While the make-up of UT basketball will look different, much of it will stay the same. Judging by the recent results, the Vols have every reason to expect great things this season.

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