Vols chase 'athletic freak'

A lanky young man with tremendous upside has shown up on Tennessee basketball's radar. Sign in or subscribe now to read all about him.

Watching a towering kid one day past his 17th birthday grab a rebound and weave his way through five defenders on a coast-to-coast drive was not what fans attending the recent KnoxVegas Heat Invitational basketball tournament expected ... unless they had seen Shane Hall previously.

Hall is an enigma — a 6-foot-8 player with the ball-handling skills of a 5-foot-8 point guard. He displayed these skills on a regular basis in leading Hoop Dreams to a 71-52 defeat of the Cincy Royals. Sinking 5 of 7 field goals and 5 of 5 foul shots, he produced 15 points despite playing just 25 minutes. Still, his scoring was overshadowed by his ball-handling. In addition to several coast-to-coast drives, he made a surprisingly smooth behind-the-back dribble under double-team pressure in the open court.

"We play all around the country in a lot of big events but I have yet to see a kid as athletic as him, as skilled for a big man as he is," Hoop Dreams head coach Josh Maxey told InsideTennessee. "He can take the ball from rim to rim, and a lot of big men don't have that skill yet."

Hall's ball-handling skills are no recent development.

"I played point guard up to the fourth grade, even though I was 5-10 and the tallest player on the team," he said. "I like to drive a lot. If I don't have a layup or a dunk, I kick it outside for a 3."

Hall says opposing coaches always react the same way when he sets off on one of his coast-to-coast drives.

"They always say, 'Take it from him!'" he said with a smile. "They don't know I can handle it."

Hall, a sophomore at Johnson Central High School in Paintsville, Ky., is getting a lot of interest from high-major universities.

"Indiana is calling the most," he said. "I like Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Florida."

Although he scored all of his baskets from inside against the Royals, Hall showed his range by swishing 18-foot jumpers with surprising regularity during pre-game warmups.

"Shane can shoot the ball; he's just not had to show it yet," Maxey said. "I'm not saying he's a deep-ball threat every time but he can shoot the ball."

Scout.com basketball recruiting analyst Brian Snow calls Hall "an athletic freak who can really play." Hall's AAU coach agrees.

"Last summer I took him to the Super Soph Camp in Atlanta, where they had the best kids I've ever seen in one group, and he did it against the best of the best," Maxey said. "It's not a fluke. He really can do it, no matter who the competition is. That's him."

Although Hall suffered a hip injury that kept him from playing in Hoop Dreams' KnoxVegas quarterfinal setback on April 15, the day wasn't a total loss. He paid an unofficial visit to the Tennessee campus, one of the schools recruiting him the hardest.

"It went great," said Brad Hall, Shane's father and a Hoop Dreams assistant. "He got to meet Coach (Cuonzo) Martin. I had talked with Coach (Kent) Williams by phone. Those guys are pretty impressive."

Shane Hall is impressive, too. Once he adds some muscle to his slender 202-pound frame, he could play just about anywhere on the floor.

"When people ask me what position Shane plays, I tell 'em he's an athlete," Maxey said. "I can't stereotype him as a power forward or a small forward. He does a lot of things. He posts up a lot but he does a lot of things. He's fun to coach."

Asked for his impression of Cuonzo Martin, young Hall replied: "He's a good coach, and he's going to get more talent to develop."

Perhaps that talent will include Shane Hall.

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