Hoops Vols land Lofton

Tennessee's basketball program got some much-needed help Wednesday night, when Kentucky's ''Mr. Basketball'' for 2003-04 committed to Vol coach Buzz Peterson.

Chris Lofton is a 6-foot-2 guard who averaged 26.7 points per game as a senior at Mason County High of Maysville, Ky. He shot a sizzling 46 percent from 3-point range for his career. He will sign with the Vols next week.

Lofton was not offered a scholarship by Kentucky or Louisville, so he held off until the spring signing period to see if that would generate more interest. It did. Cincinnati came calling and so did Tennessee, which recently lost two players to transfer -- post John Winchester.

Lofton scored 39 points in the state title game his junior year, nailing nine of 12 from 3-point range as Mason County beat Louisville Ballard for the championship. He guided the Royals back to the state title game in 2004 but they fell to Warren Central and finished runnerup.

All things considered, signing Lofton is a win-win situation for the Vols. Here's why:

1) They need bodies. With Herndon and Winchester gone, Jackie Butler jumping to the NBA and fellow signee Damion Harris probably headed for prep school, the Vols are down to 10 scholarship players. That's barely enough to scrimmage in practice.

2) UT needs all the outside shooting it can get. Scooter McFadgon was the Vols' only perimeter threat last season, and several foes shut him down by using a box-and-one. Some help will come from Jordan Howell, who redshirted in 2003-04, but another shooter is needed, especially since McFadgon is down to one year of eligibility.

3) Because he was spurned by UK, Lofton will be motivated to play well against the Wildcats the next four years.

4) Signing Kentucky's ''Mr. Basketball'' adds a bit of prestige to the Vol roster and should help the next time UT pursues a prospect from the Bluegrass State.

5) Lofton is an honors student who will boost Tennessee's team GPA.

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