Big man on campus

The biggest member of Tennessee's basketball program may be the biggest key to the 2010-11 season.

Brian Williams, a 6-10, 270-pound senior, suddenly finds himself inheriting the center position manned by Wayne Chism the previous three years. He also finds himself inheriting the leadership role filled by Chism, J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze last year.

Based on the determination in his eyes and the effort in his workouts, Brian Williams understands that it's time for him to make the transition from role player to key player, from follower to leader.

"Definitely, I've stepped into a role that a lot of people can't take right now," he said recently. "We lost three seniors. We learned from them. We can't replace them but we learned from them what we can do to make this a championship team."

Tennessee needed no leadership from Williams last season. That's because 2009-10 seniors Chism, Prince and Maze provided exceptional leadership. Now that they're gone, Williams recognizes that he must exhibit a heightened level of dedication and urgency.

"Definitely," he said. "I'm coming to practice to work hard and get better. That's what practice is for. I used to go to practice like it was just like a job ... I was clocking in. Now I'm coming to work and coming to do my job because it's fun to me now and I like to work."

It has been well chronicled that Williams dropped roughly 100 pounds in high school and prep school. He has continued shedding weight during his four years as a Vol. He appears to have dropped another 10 pounds since last season.

"I lost a couple more pounds due to our strength and conditioning coach," he said. "Obviously, it's tough (in practice). We're going hard and everybody's feeling sore but we're all getting better from it."

Although Williams always had good feet, his mobility clearly has benefited from the weight loss.

"A lot," he said. "My whole mindset on the game is different. It's making me want to work hard when I get tired. That's the whole thing in basketball; when you get tired, moving through that fatigue and running the same speed as when you started. I think I've improved a lot on that."

Actually, Williams has improved a lot in an assortment of areas. He started the final 11 games of 2009-10. And, although he averaged just 5.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 19.1 minutes per game last season, he bumped those numbers to 7.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 27.8 minutes in NCAA Tournament play. His inspired post-season work helped Tennessee reach the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

Still, he says last year's success - glorious as it was - will have little impact on this year's outlook.

"It was definitely a great experience but only like four or five of us was on that team," Williams said. "Right now the whole goal is to get to the Final Four and win a national championship.

"All that we learned from that (last year's Sweet 16) was what to do and what not to do to get past that game."

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