Point blank

The only proven point guard in Cuonzo Martin's Tennessee basketball program is 40 years old and has no eligibility remaining.

Still, first-year assistant coach Tracy Webster's first-hand knowledge of the critical position should help the Vols considerably in 2011-12. Tabbed the sixth-best Chicago-area prep point guard ever by the Sun-Times newspaper in 1992, he was a three-time All-Big Ten pick at the University of Wisconsin, setting school records for single-season assists (179 in '92-93) and career assists (501). He also posted the best 3-point shooting percentage in program history (49.0 in 1991-92).

Webster, who joined the Vol staff after assisting at Nebraska in 2010-11, is optimistic about rising sophomore Trae Golden, a 6-1, 207-pounder. Golden started last season vs. Missouri State and backed up senior Melvin Goins the rest of the time.

"I think Trae Golden is going to be really good," Webster said recently. "Melvin missed the Missouri State game, and that game helped Trae a lot. He's been through one year, so he's faster and more vocal. Hopefully, he'll continue to build his confidence, and that always helps."

Rising junior Skylar McBee saw some action at the point last season and will compete for playing time there again in 2011-12.

"I haven't had the chance to watch Skylar where he had to handle the ball against a ton of pressure," Webster said, "but he seems like a smart enough player to get us started in the offense."

The new assistant coach is convinced that a high basketball IQ is vital at point guard.

"You have to be that coach on the floor," Webster said. "You have to direct traffic, tell those wings and those bigs what they're supposed to be doing. Now that makes you more accountable, too, so you have to be on top of your job.

"As the point guard you're an extension of the head coach. You've got to know when to go and when to pull back. Some point guards want to look to score but you've got to find a way to get Kenny (Hall) involved. You've got to find a way to get some easy shots for (Jeronne) Maymon. You've got to find a way to get (Cameron) Tatum some open looks. When a point guard understands that it can't be 'me first' all of the time, you end up being a pretty good point guard."

Webster believes a point guard's personality can be a valuable part of his makeup, as well.

"I think the point guard needs charisma, too," the coach said. "If he has that great personality off the floor, he's going to be a good point guard on the floor. I truly believe that."

Although he believes the elite point guards are born with special gifts, Webster thinks quality point guards can be developed through hard work.

"Some guys are born with that charisma, that knack for getting the flow of the game, knowing how to pinpoint passes through those tight openings, knowing how to penetrate and kick," he said. "But if you weren't born with that, you can still develop your skills through experience. Experience is huge."

Tennessee has three high school players signed who boast point-guard experience - Wes Washpun of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Josh Richardson of Edmond, Okla., and Chris Jones of Memphis.

"I watched some film of Wes when I was at Nebraska," Webster said. "He's a very athletic player, tough, hard-nosed - the kind Coach Martin likes. I think he'll end up being a pretty good player."

Although he hasn't seen much of Richardson, Webster noted that, "We were talking about Josh on my previous staff (Nebraska)."

Jones is the most heralded of Tennessee's point-guard signees but he appears headed for junior college first.

"I've seen Chris Jones before. He's a guy that can really get some things done," Webster said. "He's tough and can take over a game. With all of that, you just want to make sure everything else (academically) is OK."


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