Pearl lacks numbers

New Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl has some players; he just doesn't have ENOUGH players. That could be a problem when the Vols host Southern Indiana in their exhibition opener Thursday night at 7:30.

"I'm really happy with the guys in practice and how they're performing, how they're learning, how they're growing," Pearl said this week. "My big concern is still our numbers. They're a tremendous challenge."

That challenge was painfully evident near the end of Monday's practice. Stanley Asumnu had to leave early for a late afternoon class. With JaJuan Smith sidelined by a hip pointer and Andre Patterson relegated to the scout squad by a disciplinary suspension, the already short-handed Vols were dangerously thin.

"I had Jordan Howell at 2 (shooting guard) and Eddie DeBro at 3 (small forward)," Pearl said, shaking his head.

Howell played just 116 minutes all of last season, shot 24.1 percent from the floor and averaged 1.1 points per game. DeBro, a 5-11, 190-pound senior walk-on, saw seven minutes of action last season.

"Those guys did fine but that is a challenge as it relates to the kind of schedule we're playing," Pearl said. "I'm happy with Jordan Howell and Eddie DeBro because they played well."

Tennessee's depth is so thin that 6-foot-3 Dane Bradshaw is going to start Thursday's exhibition game at power forward. He'll also serve as chief backup to point guard C.J. Watson.

"Dane Bradshaw will be the only college basketball player in the country who will start at power forward and be backup point guard," Pearl said, laughing at the irony. "At Southern Indiana in Div. II, I never would've had a 6-3 power forward as my backup point guard. And Southern Illinois-Edwardsville's not on the schedule."

Tennessee's depth will be a little better when Pearl lifts Patterson's suspension and allows him to rejoin the varsity next week.

"He's on the scout team right now," Pearl said. "He had a good practice Monday, his first day back. I can see him working his way off the scout team after this game and trying to get into the regular rotation.

"This team's prepared to play Southern Indiana without him. But getting him back (at practice) now puts him in position, starting next week, to get himself back into the fold."

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