Vols host Oakland tonight

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Cameron Tatum wasn't much of a scorer for the 2011-12 Tennessee basketball team but he was an excellent leader — a vocal guy who fought through injuries and played with great passion. Now that he's gone, you wonder who will fill that role for the 2012-13 Vols.

Perhaps a leader will emerge tonight, when the 3-1 Vols host 2-4 Oakland for a 7 o'clock tipoff at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin believes a Tatum-type leader is already on the team and probably filling a Tatum-type role at small forward.

"I think the leaders may be the guys who are similar to Cam Tatum — Josh Richardson and D'montre Edwards," Martin said. "Those guys are fighting for that small forward position."

Although Tatum struggled offensively throughout 2011-12, he made up for that shortcoming with tenacious defense.

"Cam did a good job of defending," Martin recalled. "He didn't shoot it well throughout the season but he really grew as a basketball player and helped our team, leading our team as a senior. A guy like that is tough to replace."

One Vol who projected to be a team leader has yet to suit up this season. Senior power forward Jeronne Maymon, sidelined by knee problems, exhibited considerable leadership ability last season.

"Jeronne has that; he had it last year," Martin said. "He's just got to get out of his element somewhat because he's a low-key type of leader. He likes to lead by example with his work ethic on the floor."

Sophomore Jarnell Stokes believes several Vols are picking up some slack in the leadership department with Maymon out of action.

"It's different (without Maymon) but I think we've made the adjustment," Stokes said. "Somebody had to make up for all of the talking and leadership that Jeronne brings, and I think a lot of guys have."

Once described by former Purdue coach Gene Keady as "the best leader I ever had," Martin says exerting leadership sometimes means taking an unpopular stand.

"It's a matter of confidence and getting on guys when you need to," Martin said. "As a leader, not everybody's going to like what you're saying and what you're doing. As long as you're right, that's all that matters."

So, who do the Vols see as team leaders for 2012-13?

"Besides myself, I'd say Jeronne and Trae (Golden)," senior center Kenny Hall said recently. "They've always been great leaders, demonstrating leadership."

Asked why he qualifies as a leader, Hall replied: "Being a senior in my fourth year, I've been through a lot and seen a lot of stuff. With pretty much the whole team being younger than me, they look up to me and I've got to answer a lot of their questions and give them advice on stuff."

Although he missed the last nine games of 2011-12 on a disciplinary suspension, Hall believes he now provides an excellent example to younger teammates.

"I've changed a lot," he said. "I'm four years older and wiser, so it's just growth and development."

Richardson, soft-spoken as a freshman last season, believes he has found his voice as a sophomore and is evolving into a leader.

"I'm really trying to step into that position," he said. "I'm a lot more vocal this year. I didn't really talk much last year. Jeronne's always been vocal, and Trae's been a lot more vocal this year. I think Skylar (McBee) has done a good job, too. Pretty much everybody has stepped up from last year."

GAME NOTES: Oakland University beat Tennessee 89-82 at Knoxville in December of 2010 and prevailed 89-81 last season at Rochester, Mich. Those are the only two meetings between the Vols and Golden Grizzlies.... Oakland led Pitt by 18 points earlier this year only to fall in overtime.... Junior guard Travis Bader is Oakland's top scorer, averaging 17.2 points per game. He is making 3.7 baskets from 3-point range per game and is hitting a sizzling 91 percent from the foul line.... Vol wing Jordan McRae scored a career-high 25 points in last season's meeting.... Tonight's game will be televised by FOX Sports Net.

D'montre Edwards

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