Vols are too passive

Tennessee's basketball team -- a loser in six of its last seven games -- showed some uncharacteristic fire near the end of Saturday's 77-62 homefloor loss to Georgia Tech. Unfortuntely, it all came from head coach Buzz Peterson.

When Brandon Crump was called for a moving screen, nullifying a jumpshot by C.J. Watson that would've pulled Tennessee within six points in the closing minutes, Peterson went so ballistic that he was hit with a technical foul. Tech made both free throws, then added three more points on the ensuing possession, and that seven-point swing (down 6 to down 13) doomed UT's comeback hopes.

At least Peterson didn't go quietly, which is more than could be said for his players. The Vols desperately need someone with a forceful nature to take control when the game is slipping away and will his teammates to victory ... as Al Wilson did repeatedly throughout the 1998 UT football season.

Sadly, the 2003-04 Basketball Vols are seriously lacking in forceful personalities. Peterson admits that the quiet nature of UT's big three -- Scooter McFadgon, Brandon Crump and C.J. Watson -- is an ongoing problem.

''It's tough,'' the head man said. ''I've always said that when your upperclassmen and your top scorers are vocal and the hardest workers on the team, you've got something special. But I've got three guys who are pretty quiet.''

Peterson isn't alone in that opinion. He hired a personality profiler two years ago to assess the mental makeup of his players. The results were not encouraging.

'''The guy said, 'If you come down to the end of a ballgame, you don't have five guys to finish the game,' '' Peterson recalled. ''He said, 'You don't have five players who want to be out there and take that last-second shot. You just don't have it.' ''

Instead of five such players, the Vols had one -- Ron Slay -- and now he's gone. Otherwise, the personality profiler found a team full of followers, not leaders.

Noted Peterson: ''He said Slay was off the chart (in leadership skills), that (Jon) Higgins may be somebody who'd be able to put it in there (at game's end) and, on an outside shot, maybe (John) Winchester.''

The profiler was particularly concerned by point guard Watson, the so-called ''Quiet Storm'' whose personality is anything but stormy.

''His (profiler's) concern was Watson -- how quiet he was and how he wasn't (inclined to) step forward and be more aggressive,'' Peterson said.

So, why hasn't UT made forceful personalities a higher priority in its recruting assessments? Well ... it has. That's one reason the Vols signed Memphis guard Dane Bradshaw a year ago instead of Maryville's Lee Humphrey and talented Texan Dez Willingham.

''Bradshaw, we feel like, is a winner,'' Peterson said. ''He's been on state championship teams, and he can do that (be a vocal leader). He's a freshman this year, and that makes it hard on him, but he has the capabilities.''

The only other scrapper on Tennessee's roster is forward Jemere Hendrix, a sophomore transfer from Clemson who is UT's best rebounder by far. Like Bradshaw, however, he is in his first year as a contributor is still earning the respect of his teammtes.

''Dane and Jemere have the capabilities,'' Peterson said. ''They can be leaders for us but they need another year, and probably some more playing time would help Dane out a lot.''

One thing's for certain: As long as all of the fire is coming from Tennessee's coach -- not Tennessee's players -- the outlook for the Vol basketball program won't get significantly better.


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