Vols need leadership

You can make a case that the Tennessee basketball team's futility on the road (lopsided losses at Nebraska, Florida and South Carolina) can be traced to a lack of on-floor leadership.

Winning in a hostile environment requires little fire and a lot of poise. Casey Clausen has these attributes, which is why the Vol football team went 14-1 in his 15 starts as a road quarterback the past four seasons.

Conversely, there is no natural leader on the Vol basketball team. The most natural position for a leader, point guard, is manned by the ultra-quiet C.J. Watson. He's a fine player but his low-key personality makes him the ultimate lead-by-example guy.

Leading scorer Scooter McFadgon is assertive on offense but not assertive in his personality. The fact is, Tennessee's starting is filled with low-key guys. Brandon Crump stands out in height (6-10) but not in personality. Ace rebounder Jemere Hendrix isn't a take-charge type of guy. Nor is explosive but erratic Stanley Asumnu.

Reserve guard John Winchester shows some leadership skills but his play isn't consistent enough to command a whole lot of respect. Dane Bradshaw also has some leadership skills but he's a freshman who hasn't had time to develop the confidence to assert himself.

Reserve post players Major Wingate and Boomer Herndon are unusually unassertive for big men -- on the court, as well as off the court.

''I just want somebody out there who is going to challenge some of the other guys in adverse situations,'' head coach Buzz Peterson said. ''We're trying to get somebody on the team to step up and be accountable.''

The closest thing to a natural leader on the roster is junior Justin Albrecht, and he rarely leaves the bench. That could be changing, though. Peterson may soon give Albrecht a try, figuring the Vols can sacrifice a little athleticism in order to get more leadership on the floor.

''Albrecht wants to (lead) but it's hard for him because he doesn't get the playing time of some of the other guys,'' the head man said. ''Maybe I need to look at that -- giving him more minutes, so maybe he can be a leader for us. The guys on the team respect Justin when he talks.

''Every good team has a tremendous leader on it, and I'm trying to have somebody step up and give us that.''


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