A Look at Vols Best Six Shooters

With today's news that Kentucky long rifle Chris Lofton has signed with Tennessee, we thought it would be a good time to look at six of the top shooters in Vol basketball history.

By the way, Lofton, who was chosen Mr. Kentucky Basketball as a senior, averaged 26.8 points per game and led Mason County to the Class 3A title game. He finished his career with a school record 2,763 points and hit a remarkable 46 percent of his 3-point attempts.

There's no way of knowing how Lofton will fare from beyond the arc in a conference populated with quick, athletic guards, but it's interesting to note the last propsect with his reputation as a shooter to sign with Tennessee was another Kentucky native — Allen Houston.

What follows are the top six shooters in Tennessee basketball history as picked by this writer after surveying the statistics and seeking out other informed opinions.

(1) Michael Brooks: 6-2, 170, guard, Memphis, Tenn., played at Tennessee from 1981-1985. Averaged 12.6 points in 127 games to finish ninth on the Vols all-time scoring list and led team with 17.0 average as a senior. He was an excellent free throw shooter (84.7 for his career) who was called upon to hold the ball and draw fouls late in games before the shot clock was instituted. He was also deadly from the outside in the clutch. He shot 50 percent for his career, hitting 648-of-1300 and shot 51.3 percent as a senior. The amazing thing about Brooks is the average distance of those 1300 shots. Although it was prior to the 3-point line, Brooks must have averaged 20-feet in distance on his attempts. Because he wasn't particularly tall, nor did he have a great vertical leap, Brooks had to create his distance horizontally to get a clear shot. That means he was often pumping in jump shots from 25 feet with total impunity. A tribute to Brooks' shooting prowess occurred when the Knoxville News Sentinel ran a full page spread entitled: "The Art of the Jump Shot" breaking down the mechanics of Michael's splendid stroke. Had he played with a three-point line, he'd probably be among the top five scorers in Tennessee history and one of the top three-point shooters in college history. To fully appreciate just how good Brooks was consider this. Tennessee head coach Don DeVoe demanded great defense and high percentage shots of his players. Brooks started for three seasons under DeVoe and didn't provide either.

(2) Allan Houston: 6-6, 200, guard from Louisville, Kentucky, is actually the only player on this list who played with the benefit of the 3-point shot in college. Houston hit 346-of-817 (42.4 percent) of 3-point shots for his career despite facing a constant array of defenses designed to stop him first. Tennessee's all-time leading scorer averaged 21.9 points over his four-year college career, hitting 84.9 percent of his free throws and 46.0 from the field. Houston got his first chance as a collegian to go against a normal defense that didn't concentrate on him when he played for a college all-star squad that went up against America's first Dream Team. He burned the best basketball team ever assembled for eight three-pointers and he's been lighting it up in the NBA ever since. Houston's height enables him to get a good shot off over smaller guards and his ability to create space off the dribble gives him a cushion to take advantage of his quick release. Houston has one of the most fundamentally sound shots in the NBA today.

(3) Dale Ellis: 6-7, 205, forward, Marietta, Ga. was one of the greatest post-up players in Tennessee basketball history. So what's he doing on this list? Well, Ellis moved out to the perimeter frequently during his senior campaign and showcased the shot that would become among the most feared in the NBA for the next 17 seasons. An outstanding leaper with a cool disposition, Ellis appeared suspended in air when he released his silky smooth jumper at the the pinnacle of his leap. He hit an incredible 59.5 percent of his field goal attempts for his college career which is actually one-half point higher than Vol great Bernard King. He also shot a sizzling 60.1 percent during his senior campaign when he started to step out to the perimeter to display a sweet stroke. In addition to becoming one of the top 3-point shooters in NBA history, Ellis also has the distinction of once beating Larry Bird in a three-pointer shooting contest held at the league's all-star game. Ellis is fifth in career scoring at UT averaging 17.5 and he shot 76.5 percent from the foul line. He often, unfairly, played second fiddle to the more flamboyant Dominique Wilkins in the press and is arguably the most underrated player in the history of the SEC.

(4) Tony White: Listed at 6-2, 170, this high-soaring, high-scoring guard from Charlotte, N.C., was a lot closer to 6-feet-tall. He came in as a late signee who held out in hopes of latching on with the Tar Heels in the spring of 1983, but was never offered a scholarship. So instead he came to Tennessee and became a superstar. White developed into a better player during each of his seasons at Tennessee climaxing with a senior campaign in which he averaged 24.5 points per game, shooting 49 percent from the field and 90.2 percent from the foul line. That was also the season White set the Tennessee single-game record for scoring with 51 points against Auburn. White's best shot was a pull up jumper from about 15 feet, but he could also shoot a rainbow J from the cheap seats that would bring rain before draining the hoop. White was an exceptionally quick jumper in addition to having great vertical clearance which made it hard for even a much taller player to obstruct his shot. Tennessee's third leading scorer all-time with 2219 points, White averaged 17.5 a game for his career while connecting on 50 percent of his field goals and 84 percent of his free throws. White loved to drive around a defender playing him too close, but if the three-point shot had been in effect he would have lived and killed from behind the arc.

(5) Ernie Grunfeld: 6-6, 225, forward, Forrest Hills, N.Y., was a versatile performer capable of playing four different positions including both guard and forward slots. Got significant playing time at point guard for both the Kansas City Kings and the 1976 USA Olympic team. He was also excellent player in the post with a variety of spin and power moves. Grunfeld, the second leading scorer in Tennessee history, averaged 22.3 points over the course of his career while shooting 51 percent from the field and 79 percent at the foul line. Grunfeld had the touch and strength to pose a threat to any zone defense. A great clutch shooter who could also beat defenders off the dribble, Grunfeld would have been a force to contend with from three-point range.

(6) Mike Edwards, 6-2, 180, Greenfield, Ind., goes back to the era of the early 70's at Tennessee. Dubbed the Greenfield Gunner by Voice of the Vols, John Ward, Edwards lived up to that name during his three seasons at Tennessee. (This is before freshman were eligible to play for the varsity). He averaged 17.4 points during his career, most of which came from long range. Possessing the best standing jump shot in UT basketball history, Edwards used it to bust up zone defenses like a wrecking ball. He shot only 45.2 from the field for his career, but that's deceiving. Because when Edwards backed up to take a long shot he checked the sideline instead of a three-point line. Interestingly, Edwards was recruited by UCLA's legendary John Wooden out of high school, but chose Tennessee. He was widely considered the country's best pure shooter coming out of high school.

Okay that's the list we settled on here at Inside Tennessee. Obviously, there were some fine shooters we overlooked and you can let us know about it on the message board.

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