Major's a huge key

If Tennessee's basketball team is to have any semblance of an inside game this season, Major Wingate will have to provide it.

Freshmen Ryan Childress and Damion Harris lack experience. Veterans Andre Patterson and Dane Bradshaw lack size. So, the Vols' inside game rests squarely on the broad shoulders of Wingate, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound junior with loads of untapped potential.

Wingate showed flashes as a sophomore in 2004-05, scoring 13 points against Louisville and 14 against Kentucky. He was generally passive, however, routinely kicking the ball outside rather than taking it to the basket.

The buzz this preseason was that Wingate had developed a newfound offensive aggressiveness. Still, he attempted just five field goals in the exhibition opener against Southern Indiana, a team whose tallest starter stood 6-6. Wingate finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds but was hardly the force his big body suggests he can be.

"It was good that Major had a double-double but Major's capable of a lot more," Vol coach Bruce Pearl said. "Southern Indiana was smaller but quick, and we couldn't get close enough to get him good enough looks. But Major can play better."

Given that his fellow post players are either undersized or inexperienced, Wingate will have to play a lot of minutes this season. He played 34 against USI and seemed reasonably fresh at the finish.

"Major showed stamina, playing as many minutes as he did, and stepping up and hitting some free throws late in the game," Pearl said. "I was pleased with that."

Like Tennessee's team as a whole, though, Wingate is a work in progress. He must improve steadily if the Vols are to have any chance of posting a winning record.

"We talk a lot about the process," Pearl said. "It's not where you start, it's where you finish. We've got a lot of work to do as we progress through our schedule."

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