Childress Has the Right Tough

By his own admission, Tennessee basketball signee Ryan Childress isn't an outstanding athlete, but he is a great competitor and he's as tough as they come.

The Cincinnati Moeller forward is also the first rock personally quarried by Bruce Pearl to rebuild the Vols' troubled basketball program, which tells us a lot about both the player and the coach. It tells us the coach values a physical presence on the front line that's not afraid to mix it up inside. And it tells us the player doesn't back down from a challenge. That's a trait that was in short supply during the recent decline of Tennessee's basketball fortunes and one that is essential to any success the Vols might enjoy in the near future.

"Coach Pearl has had success at every level with just hard playing, skilled, tough four-men," said Moeller head coach Carl Kreamer. "It fits his system well. It did at Southern Indiana. It did at Milwaukee-Wisconsin. I think Ryan just fit into what Coach Pearl was looking for."

At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds Childress has the imposing size Pearl is looking for, but he also has a background that suggests he'll mix it up and isn't intimated by they type of physical play that often distinguishes SEC basketball.

"He's a tall kid, naturally strong," said Coach Kreamer. "His dad was a college football player. He played at the University of Cincinnati and was a very good player. His dad never played basketball and Ryan was probably going to be a football player here, but he decided to concentrate on basketball. But he's a very tough kid. He's got a football mentality to how he plays. He's very aggressive and very strong. Guys just bounce off of him. He's an outstanding rebounder. He goes and gets the ball like it's his."

Childress has a surprisingly sound skill set that includes the ability to shoot and pass the ball.

"He's a very good shooter," said Kreamer. "He can go a couple of feet beyond the three-point line. He's a big, strong kid who's not going to beat defenders off the bounce in the SEC. He's not a kid who can do that, but he can set screens, step back or trail the break and if they don't get to him he'll knock down an open three."

Although he isn't the type of post-up forward who can consistently hurt opponents by scoring with his back to the basket, Childress could develop into one over time.

"I think he's good with his back to the basket, but I don't think he's great with his back to the basket," Kreamer stated. "The athletes in the SEC I think Ryan would have trouble being able to score consistently that way. Now he will develop that if he gets great coaching in college. I think his best game is out of the perimeter setting ball screens and stepping back."

That ability will no doubt optimize the game of Chris Lofton as a perimeter shooting threat as well as C.J. Watson's dribble penetration. As a outside scoring threat, Childress will force opposing pivots out of the paint and help create the type of spacing that's conducive to offensive flow in the half-court game. His knowledge of basketball and his experience as a three-year starter in one of the country's premiere high school programs will also prove an asset.

"He understands the game and he's a competitor," Kreamer said. "He wants to be good. I think he's driven. He has great chemistry with Coach Pearl and I think he'll flourish. Again he's not a guy that will dominate SEC competition. Let's face it, there weren't a lot of schools in the SEC recruiting him. DePaul ended up offering him a scholarship out of the Big East, but for the most part he was recruited by mid-major schools. I think Coach Pearl sees him as a very good role player who fits what their trying to do. I'm going to tell you as his high school coach I think Ryan can do that."

During Childress' three seasons at Moeller, the team posted a 67-11 record with one state title, one final four and one elite eight appearance. The victory total was the highest achieved during the tenure of any starter at the school.

"I will tell you the league that we play in is known as one of the most hard-nosed leagues in the country," Kreamer said. "It's got a reputation for being physically intense and Ryan might have been the most physically intense kid in that league. I think you're going to see a kid that's ready to compete and bring a little attitude to the floor."

A little of the right attitude could go a long way at the Summitt.

Editor's Note: This is a condensed version of an in-depth feature scheduled to run in the next issue of Rocky Top News. If you're not a subscriber to RTN you're only getting half the story.

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