High Risk Prospect Might Yield Big Reward

For a basketball player oft cited by talent evaluators as lacking in strength and quickness, Chris Lofton has consistently shown he can carry a team on his back by putting points on the board in a hurry.

Last weekend the Mayfield, Ky., sharp shooter and 2004 Mr. Kentucky Basketball scored 41 of his team's 89 points to pace the Kentucky All-Stars past the Indiana All-Stars 89-81. Lofton connected on 13-of-24 shots, including 6-of-16 from 3-point range and 9-of-16 from the foul line. He also had six rebounds, four assists and four steals.

That type of performance is not unusual for Lofton, who scored 39 points in the 2003 Kentucky Class-2A title game with a state record nine 3-pointers (9-of-12 from the field). During his senior season, Lofton once scored 87 points in two games played on the same day to lead Mason County High School to the River City Classic Tournament championship. In the semifinal play at noon that December day, he knocked down 50 points in a victory over Louisville Doss. Six hours after that win, Lofton scored 37 points in a triumph over Clark County.

As a senior the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Lofton led the Royals to a 33-3 mark, averaging 26.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.2 steals per game. His efforts helped him win the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year award as well being named the Bluegrass State's player of the year by the Associated Press.

During 10 career state tournament games, Lofton averaged 25.2 points per contest to finish third on that list. He finished his career with 2,763 points, shooting a sizzling 46.2 percent (353-of-764) from 3-point range. He also won the 3-point shooting contest in the prestigious Derby Festival Basketball Classic in Louisville and was a nominee for the McDonald's All-American team. As a junior, he averaged 21.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and compiled 104 assists and 97 steals in leading Mason County to a 35-2 record and its first ever state championship.

Lofton led the Royals to a superlative 68-5 record in his last two seasons and to the Region 10 title all three years of varsity play.

Despite these achievements he wasn't offered a scholarship by Kentucky while Louisville wanted him to wait a year before extending a scholarship. He finally signed on as the Vols only member in the Class of 2004, turning down offers from Western Kentucky, Valpariso and Arkansas State as well as a couple of conditional offers. Considered a solid mid major prospect, Lofton is generally regarded as a catch-and-shoot guard who will have trouble creating his own shot and who may not rate as a man defender in the athletic SEC.

Peterson took a risk in signing Lofton, but it might prove to be one of the best recruiting moves he has made at Tennessee if the guard can become a zone buster off the bench as a freshman for the Vols.

Lofton still has to prove he can rise to the competition, but he has clearly exhibited his ability to rise to the occasion. And that's a strength that can't be quickly dismissed.

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