Who's behind Trae?

Tennessee's basketball team appears two deep at every spot for 2012-13 except one. Sign in or subscribe now for a look at this critical position.

Now that scholarship freshman Wes Washpun and Clemson transfer Cory Stanton have bolted for other schools, Tennessee's basketball program finds itself with just one guy who has seen meaningful action as a college point guard ... 2011-12 starter Trae Golden.

Cameron Tatum got some backup action at the point last season but he has exhausted his collegiate eligibility. Rising senior Skylar McBee started one game at the point last season but is much better suited to shooting guard. Rising junior Jordan McRae played a few possessions at the point last season but, like McBee, is much better off the ball than on it. Ditto for rising sophomore Josh Richardson. Freshman walk-on Brandon Lopez played point guard in high school but failed to record a point or an assist in his 10 minutes of playing time last season.

Since the Vols have no point guard in their 2012 signing class, many fans wonder: Who will provide depth behind Golden?

Cuonzo Martin is wondering, too, but he isn't worried. He says there is no shortage of candidates to give Golden an occasional breather.

"We've got plenty of guards," Tennessee's head man said recently. "In our program we call 'em guards unless you've got a traditional point guard. Trae is not a traditional point guard; he plays the point for us."

Martin then mentioned the Vols' point prospects in rapid succession.

"You've got Trae, and you've got Josh, Jordan and Armani (Moore)," the coach said, closing with a combo guard who signed with Tennessee earlier this spring.

Clearly, Martin is convinced the Vols have enough capable fill-ins to keep Golden from having to play 40 minutes per game at the point in 2012-13.

"You've got guys that can handle that position," the coach said. "It will help that we have a chance to go through the spring and summer months with these guys because you've got the practice time in the summer months to put 'em in position."

Tennessee coaches spent time with each of the Vols during individual workouts in April and, thanks to a new NCAA rule, will get two hours per week to work with them this summer. In addition, the team will have more time to jell during an exhibition tour of Italy in late summer. Martin believes these coaching opportunities will help him settle on a point-guard pecking order.

"Going into this past season there were so many unknowns," he recalled, "but I think we'll be fine."

Martin said the new summer workouts "will be great for our guys," adding: "We have two hours a week, so we'll go 30-minute segments four days a week or maybe we'll go (24 minutes) five days a week."

Apparently, the term "summer vacation" is a misnomer in regards to the Vol basketball program.

"We also have to balance things," Martin said. "You have eight weeks in the summer but we also have 10 days to practice for the Italy trip. We'll have a lot of time to be with our team, and I think it will really help us. For us, as a staff, it's a balance of not overworking guys, if there is such a thing."

One huge benefit of summer workouts is that a coach can monitor his players more closely when they aren't scattered across the U.S.

"You have an opportunity to keep your guys on campus," Martin said. "When they go away, these elite guys, all of a sudden you have people (agents, etc.) coming through the doors, and things can happen. For us to have our guys here to be around the program, to get adjusted to campus life, to go to class and work on getting your degree — those things are all important — but also to be around your team."

In addition to the exhibition tour of Italy, Richardson will be competing this summer for Athletes In Action. He'll be sharing his Christian faith while honing his basketball skills. Although he didn't push Richardson to participate, Martin believes the experience will be beneficial.

"He has to want to do it; that's the most important thing," the coach said. "My thing in the summer time is that guys learn at a different pace. Some guys like to get in the gym by themselves the whole summer. I was that type of guy. I didn't want to play in a lot of summer events but some guys like to play in events like this.

"He wants to have an opportunity to play against some good competition but also to be part of the Athletes In Action family. I think it will be good for him."

Josh Richardson

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