Summer help

Because defense and team play are often lacking, some folks think Tennessee's basketball players pick up bad habits participating in the Rocky Top League each summer.

Kenny Hall is not one of these folks. The 6-9, 225-pound sophomore center believes he benefited greatly from his Rocky Top League experiences the past two summers.

"Most definitely," he said recently. "The Rocky Top League helps you work on your game and focus on areas you're weak at. That's what I took advantage of."

Hall featured obvious skills as a defender and rebounder when he signed with the Vols in November of 2008. As a result, he worked hard on upgrading his offensive skills during his two years of Rocky Top summer action.

"I shot a lot," he said. "Coach (Bruce Pearl) told me to get up a lot of shots and put the ball on the floor, going to my left and scoring with both hands."

Hall did as instructed and became a much more proficient scorer during his second season in the summer league. He hit 12 of 19 field-goal tries and 4 of 4 free throws en route to 28 points in his most productive Rocky Top League game. He had a 25-point effort that saw him make 10 of 13 field-goal attempts. Hall also had 18- and 17-point outings among his team's six summer-league games.

Now he's exhibiting those fine-tuned offensive abilities for the Big Orange. He hit three of four field-goal tries and scored a career-high 8 points in last Tuesday's 86-56 defeat of Middle Tennessee. His only miss was a 3-pointer. The mere fact he attempted a 3-pointer underscores the new-found confidence he has in his scoring skills.

"Where I've improved most is probably my jump-shooting ability and my ability to put the ball on the floor more," he said.

Still, the arrival of senior John Fields, a 6-9, 240-pound transfer from UNC Wilmington has cut into Halls' playing time. After averaging 12.4 minutes per game as a freshman in 2009-10, Hall is averaging just 6.5 minutes per game this season. After playing just 11 minutes in Games 3, 4 and 5 combined, however, he got back into the flow of things by playing nine minutes vs. Middle Tennessee.

"It felt great to get back out there," he said. "To get up and down the court, get a little burn in."

Despite the reduction in minutes, Hall has exhibited no reduction in effort. He still plays with as much determination and energy as anyone on the Vol roster.

"I've been working on my game," he said. "I'm pretty much that energy off the bench, coming in and providing buckets for the team."

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