'A lot to prove'

He has been Tennessee's starting point guard for three years. He has represented his country in international competition. He has been the SEC assist leader (league games only) two of the past three years. He ranks fifth on UT's all-time list in assists, seventh in steals and eighth in 3-point baskets. He soon will become just the third player in program history to post 1,000 points and 400 assists.

Even so, C.J. Watson is far from satisfied.

"I still have a lot to prove to everybody – just to win some games as a team and let everybody know I am one of the best point guards in the country," he said recently.

Watson's job description is changing this year. He's still managing the offense but it won't be the offense he ran as a freshman, sophomore and junior. New coach Bruce Pearl is installing an up-tempo attack that is in stark contrast to the deliberate offense UT played the previous three seasons.

"I like it a lot," Watson said of Pearl's system. "It's going to benefit me and the team. I'll handle the ball more. I'll try to get more shots and take better shots. I'll get my teammates some open shots … just try to break people down and then finish plays."

Watson played an up-tempo offense in high school, so he's eager to return to fast-paced basketball. He believes his teammates feel likewise.

"Everybody likes it a lot," he said. "Everybody's energetic, hyper. Sometimes we used to dread practice but now it's fun again. There's more energy. Everybody's trying to work hard and win."

Since Tennessee's roster lacks overall speed and athleticism, you wonder if the Vols are capable of playing the high-octane style Pearl is installing.

"I think so," Watson said. "We've got Stan (Asumnu), JaJuan (Smith) and a couple of big men who can help us out. I think we'll be all right."

Like his teammates, Watson is impressed with the members of Tennessee's new coaching staff.

"They're all energetic," he said. "They condition with us and they're all together most of the time. It's like a family."

Minus Scooter McFadgon (14.3 points per game) and Brandon Crump (11.3 ppg) from last year, Watson will be looked to for more scoring in 2005-06. Could he bump his average from 11.9 to, say, 15 points per game this season?

"I think it's very attainable," Watson said, "especially with the new offense and the fast pace we're going to be playing."

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