Devon makes like Jordan

InsideTennessee is the only source you need for Vol hoops coverage. Check out this story on a newcomer's dynamic debut before the home fans:

No one raised an eyebrow when Tennessee basketball signee Devon Baulkman slammed home a dunk in the opening seconds of Monday night's Rocky Top League opener between DeRoyal and The Knoxville News-Sentinel. The RTL isn't known for air-tight defense.

When Baulkman followed by draining four consecutive 3-pointers, the crowd at Catholic High Gym began getting excited. When he made his next three shots to complete an 8-for-8 start, his fan club included ex-Vol Kenny Hall, who had an up-close view as a starting player for the opposing KNS squad.

"Man, he was looking like a little Jordan McRae … the way he took over out there," Hall said.

That's high praise since ex-Vol McRae was a two-time first-team All-SEC pick and runner-up for the league's Player of the Year Award in 2013.

Baulkman looked especially "Jordanesque" on one spectacular play. After stealing the ball from Boo Jackson, a former NBA Developmental League player and veteran of numerous foreign pro leagues, Baulkman used two spin moves to cross midcourt, then made a beautiful full-speed, no-look bounce pass through traffic to Vol freshman Willie Carmichael for a dunk.

Baulkman cooled a bit after the 8-for-8 start but still closed the half with 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. He shot just eight times after intermission but made five, finishing his RTL debut with 37 points. More important than the points, however, was the way he performed in the clutch.

With DeRoyal clinging to a 103-101 lead in the final seconds, he made another steal and drove for a dunk that bumped the lead to 105-101 with 13.5 seconds left and sealed the outcome.

Given how well he performed in his RTL debut, you had to wonder if Baulkman's hot shooting could continue. The answer? No. He went ice cold in his second RTL experience on Wednesday night, making just 4 of 21 shots, including 1 of 10 from beyond the arc.

Hey, Jordan McRae had some of those games, too.

Whether Baulkman' norm falls closer to Monday's performance or Wednesday's remains to be seen. This much is for certain, though: He's excited about playing for Tennessee.

On his way to averaging 15.5 points per game in 2013-14 for Gulf Coast (Fla.) State College, Baulkman took the best offer available last November. It happened to be from Southern Miss, coached by Donnie Tyndall.

When Tyndall left Hattiesburg in April to accept the Tennessee reins, Baulkman quickly decided to follow his coach to Knoxville.

The key factor?

"Me, him and (assistant) coach (Chris) Shumate had a good relationship," Baulkman explained. "I didn't want to start a relationship with no other coach."

One of eight players added to Tennessee's roster during the spring signing period, Baulkman isn't surprised by the quantity or quality of the haul.

"I think Coach Tyndall knows what he wants and knows how to win," Baulkman said. "I think he's got his pieces."

That raises the question: What exactly are Tyndall pieces?

"People that's going to play hard, listen to what he's got to say, be respectful," Baulkman said. "He's going to do whatever it takes to get victories."

Baulkman signed with Tennessee without seeing the campus or even visiting Knoxville. He knew the Vols play high-major basketball, and that was enough.

"No questions asked," he said. "I knew it was in the SEC, and I like to compete, so that made me come."

Although he put up 48 points in one JUCO game last winter, Baulkman isn't a pure scorer. He can make 3-pointers (33.9 percent last season) but he isn't a long-range bomber. He averaged 2.4 assists per game but isn't a true point guard. He averaged 4.9 rebounds but isn't thick enough to be a small forward. Basically, he's one of those guys who can do a little of everything.

And that's the role he sees himself filling for the 2014-15 Vols.

"I'm going to bring whatever Coach Tyndall wants me to bring," he said. "I'm not going to say I'm going to bring this or that. I'm going to do whatever he wants me to do. My strengths are I can shoot the ball, score the ball, play defense … just whatever Coach Tyndall wants me to do."

The jump from JUCO basketball to high-major ball is significant. So is the jump from Panama City, Fla., to Knoxville. Baulkman believes he's adjusting well to his new home, though.

"I was kind of nervous at first. I'm from the South, and it looks Southern a little bit," he said. "There are new places, new restaurants I'd never seen before. But I like to do new things."


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