Frosh duo likely to start

Two freshmen appear likely to start when Tennessee's basketball team plays its exhibition opener Wednesday night at 7:30 vs. Brevard (N.C.) College.

Tobias Harris, a 6-9, 226-pound power forward, and Jordan McRae, a 6-6, 180-pound small forward, worked with the first unit in Monday's practice. McRae actually alternated first-team reps with junior Cameron Tatum but Tatum will not participate Wednesday night after missing considerable preseason work due to a bone bruise in his knee.

"Even if he's available (by decree of the team trainer) he won't play," head coach Bruce Pearl said following Monday's practice. "But I don't think he's going to be available."

Also working with the first unit in practice were 6-9 senior center John Fields, 6-7 junior shooting guard Scotty Hopson and 5-11 senior point guard Melvin Goins. Fields is a transfer from UNC-Wilmington who moved up to the first unit while 6-10 senior Brian Williams was recovering from a sprained ankle late last week.

Harris' ascension to the first team is no surprise, since he is one of the most celebrated recruits Tennessee has ever signed. He was rated the No. 1 power forward prospect in America last winter by after averaging 24.7 points and 14.4 rebounds per game.

McRae, who might be the most electrifying athlete in Vol hoops history, has dazzled practice observers with dynamic moves and spectacular dunks. What earned him a spot with the first unit, however, was the fact he also shot the lights out in preseason scrimmages.

"Jordan has been our second-leading scorer in practice," Pearl noted, "and he's been second on the team in field-goal percentage and first in 3-point percentage. But he's got to learn to play team defense.

"He has shown a really good feel offensively. He has the ability to score, the ability to shoot. Like all newcomers, though, the learning curve defensively is tremendous. Jordan's got a way to go there but he has put up great offensive numbers."

One of the most interesting developments of the preseason was the re-emergence of sophomore guard Skylar McBee. After playing significantly as a true freshman walk-on during the 2009-10 regular season, he virtually disappeared - seeing less than one minute of action in Tennessee's Round of 32, Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games last March. McBee is back in the mix this year, however, thanks to his 3-point accuracy and his ability to play both shooting guard and point guard.

"Skylar has established himself that right now he's in the rotation," Pearl said. "That's what he did a year ago - he got himself in the rotation. How much (he'll play) and where ... we'll kind of go from there."

Tatum and Williams were among three players who returned to the practice floor on Monday. The other was 6-3 senior guard Josh Bone.

"Only Brian would probably be in a position to play (if the Vols had a game) today," Pearl said. "Josh Bone would be next. My guess is that Josh would be available."

PROMOTIONAL NOTES: The first 2,500 fans who show up for Wednesday night's exhibition game will receive a free UT schedule poster. Any fan who donates a book to the Knox County Library will get in free.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories