Vol signee is clutch

InsideTennessee's coverage of Vol hoops recruiting is as good as you'll find. Check out this story on a November signee who is lighting it up for his high school team:

Some basketball players rise to the occasion in the clutch. Larry Austin, who signed with Tennessee in November, appears to be just such a player.

Austin scored 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter Saturday night in lifting Lanphier High to a 72-56 defeat of Southeast in the Springfield (Ill.) City Tournament championship game. One night earlier the future Vol produced 27 points and 10 rebounds in a hard-fought 79-69 semifinal defeat of Sacred Heart-Griffin. The night before that he had 20 points and 11 rebounds in quarterfinal play.

Austin's brilliance as a high-scoring point guard has led the Lions to a 19-0 start, best in program history. Lanphier is ranked No. 1 in the state by The Associated Press and No. 9 in the Midwest by MaxPreps.

Although he averaged 17.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists as a junior in 2012-13, Austin has significantly stepped up his game as a senior.

"He's really worked on his shooting," Lanphier head coach Blake Turner told InsideTennessee. "He's shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line and over 70 percent from the free-throw line. He's more of a vocal leader. He's embraced his role a lot better this year. He's been a tremendous leader, on and off the court, for our program."

Austin's statistics certainly underscore what he is contributing on the court. He is averaging 24 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals per game this season. He hung 36 points on Peoria Richwoods in the semifinals of the prestigious Pekin Tournament on Dec. 27, then posted a career-high 39 against Limestone a day later in the title game, earning MVP honors for the second year in a row.

"Someone has won back-to-back MVPs just three times in the history of the tournament," Turner said. "He's third on the all-time list for points in that tournament. He scored 123 points over a four-game stretch."

Austin isn't just a scorer, however. He excels in several areas of the game.

"I think Tennessee's a great fit for him," Turner said. "He's our best defender, as well, and he plays with a lot of toughness."

Austin is reminiscent of former Vol point guard Ramar Smith because of his remarkable athleticism. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has excellent quickness and the dynamic leaping ability to dunk with ease. One reason his skills are ahead of most high schoolers is the fact he decided early on to focus on one sport rather than divide his time among two or three athletic activities.

"He's a basketball kid through and through," Turner said. "He'd probably be a great wide receiver, though, the way he can jump. He had 20 dunks in the Pekin Tournament in four games – six of those coming in the championship game."

Even with exceptional athleticism, the transition from high school to college is a tough one, especially for a point guard. So, how college-ready is Larry Austin?

"I think right now, with his toughness and basketball IQ and his desire to win, you could put that kid on any team in any conference in the country and he'd make an immediate impact," Turner said. "His numbers speak for themselves. He's always the best player on the floor in every game we play."

Austin also shines in the classroom, where he is an honor-roll student, and in the community.

"He's a great young man," Turner said. "He's a real high-character kid. He's a great student. He's our best worker in the weight room, our best in the community, our best in study hall. There's nothing bad I can say about him.

"You guys are getting a quality kid."

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