TIREY: Lofton gearing up for sophomore season

Chris Lofton won a Kentucky Sweet Sixteen title at Mason County. The cries of the big blue faithful could be heard across the state when Tubby Smith couldn't find a spot on his Kentucky roster for Lofton. Now those who were crying can say ‘I told you so' a little, especially after the year that Lofton had at Tennessee last year for then head coach Buzz Peterson.

Chris Lofton won a Kentucky Sweet Sixteen title at Mason County. The cries of the big blue faithful could be heard across the state when Tubby Smith couldn't find a spot on his Kentucky roster for Lofton. Now those who were crying can say ‘I told you so' a little, especially after the year that Lofton had at Tennessee last year for then head coach Buzz Peterson. Lofton averaged a little over thirteen points per game, hit more three pointers than any freshman in SEC history, and was second among SEC freshmen in free throw shooting, a lost art in today's game. All that in his first year, and now Lofton has to face the challenge of getting used to a new head coach. Peterson was unceremoniously fired at the end of the season. Enter stage left, Bruce Pearl, former coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Lofton says the big start to his SEC career is only that – a beginning. "I always had confidence in myself," said Lofton, "and I had big expectations for last year. It's going to be the same for next year. I've had a lot of doubters throughout my career that said I couldn't and I still have more eyebrows to raise."

A new coach is a chemistry thing. Either you hit it off or you don't. There's not a lot of happy medium there for a guy that didn't recruit you in the first place. At least Lofton seems to be saying all the right things about his new head man. "I was a little disappointed when Coach Peterson was gone, but life goes on. I just had to move on and just play with the new coach. Coach Pearl is a great coach and we're going to be playing the style of ball I really like to play. We are going to be more of an up and down team this year. I like being able to have open threes and transitions and all that type of stuff." Things will be different defensively, as well, for Lofton. "We are going to be pressing, pressuring up full court, and getting in people's jockstrap, man to man, full court."

When Kentucky fans heard that Peterson had been let go, thoughts of Lofton in a Kentucky uniform briefly danced in their heads. Would he transfer? Would he look at Kentucky? Would Tubby take him? Lofton says it never got that far. "I had thought about it for a minute, but then I thought about how I would have to sit out a year and I really didn't want to do that." Did he think about Kentucky in that minute? "No, I didn't," said Lofton.

When Tennessee plays the Wildcats, Lofton tends to play a little harder and give a bit more effort. "I think I did, because since I was from Kentucky, I felt like I had something to prove. Against Kentucky, I feel like I could have done a lot better. When we played at Rupp, we thought we could beat them, but then I went out because I caught cramps real bad. They went on that big run, and we didn't pick up after that."

So what is Chris working on this off season, to get ready for next season? "I am working on lifting weights, working on my ball handling and agility drills. Just trying to improve my game." Lofton better start running now to get ready for Pearl's coaching this upcoming season.

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