Richardson's RTL debut

In his first appearance before Tennessee fans, Vol signee Josh Richardson was just what head coach Cuonzo Martin said he'd be.

He was long. He was athletic. He was all-out hustle. He was a determined defender.

And he was 2-for-9 from the field en route to six points.

Josh Richardson fell short of a dazzling debut in Wednesday night's opening session of the Rocky Top Summer League at Bearden High but the slender combo guard was philosophical about the outcome.

"It was a tough first game," he said. "I just couldn't get anything going. I hope I can get it going next game."

Like all summer leagues, this one features a lot of one-on-one play and a lot of scoring, coupled with very little teamwork and virtually no defense. Still, Richardson was impressed.

"It's good competition, better than I thought it would be," he said. "There was a really nice atmosphere."

The Rocky Top League's unofficial motto is "No blood, no foul," with only the most blatant infractions called. Despite packing just 180 pounds on his 6-5 frame, Richardson adjusted quickly to the rough-and-tumble nature of the game.

"I kind of like it," he said.

When asked to describe his game, Richardson paused, chuckled, shook his head and finally responded: "I don't really know. I just do whatever's needed so we can win."

His versatility was apparent in his high school stats. He averaged 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and 3 steals per game as a senior. That versatility was apparent Wednesday night, too. He handled the ball well, made some nice passes and displayed some explosiveness by soaring to block a layup attempt by Tennessee sophomore Trae Golden from behind as the ball was mere inches from the rim.

In a league where most players saved their energy for the offensive end of the floor, Richardson's hustle on defense really stood out. He obviously takes great pride in that aspect of his game.

"I try to make it that way," he said. "A lot of guys worry about scoring. I worry about that but I think you have to play everything to get playing time."

Richardson played just as aggressively on offense as on defense but his shots simply were not falling. When asked if he felt a little nervous in his first appearance before the hometown fans, he shook his head.

"Not really," he said. "I tried to get it going; I just didn't."

Richardson has enrolled at UT for the first session of summer school and already has played in several pickup games with his Vol teammates. He's enjoying those immensely.

"Those are fun," he said. "You think everybody's not working very hard but once you get on the court, everything's a lot faster."

Richardson needed just one pickup game to realize that the Vol veterans are a lot different than the high school athletes he faced back in Edmond, Okla.

"Everybody's bigger, stronger and faster than high school," he said.

Richardson picked Tennessee over Penn State, TCU, Georgia Tech and Missouri State, the school Cuonzo Martin left three months ago to take the Vol reins.

"I picked Tennessee because I like Coach Martin," Richardson said. "He's been recruiting me since my sophomore year, and he was always real. He didn't sugar-coat anything. A lot of coaches try to tell you all kinds of stuff, but you can kind of pick out the liars and the non-liars. He just seemed like a straight-forward guy."

Martin's analysis of Josh Richarson certainly was straight forward. And, based on the Rocky Top League's opening night, it was spot-on, as well.


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