Andre looms large

Andre Patterson won't make All-America this year. He won't even make All-SEC. But he can make Tennessee a much, much better basketball team than it was in last week's 86-78 exhibition defeat of Southern Indiana.

With Patterson sitting out the game on a disciplinary suspension, Vol coach Bruce Pearl was forced to use 6-foot-4 junior Dane Bradshaw and 6-foot-10 freshman Ryan Childress at the power forward spot. Both struggled to contain USI 's Chris Thompson, who routinely exploited them en route to hitting 7 of 11 field goal tries.

Thompson finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Bradshaw fouled out trying to guard him and Childress played much of the second half with four fouls. Tennessee clearly could've used Patterson. The 6-foot-7, 217-pound senior has the height and inside skills Bradshaw lacks, plus the quickness and experience Childress lacks.

Patterson joined practice eight days ago but was relegated to the scout squad. He hopes to work his way back into Pearl's good graces – and back onto the varsity roster – with some quality performances on the practice floor this week.

"Right now he's on the scout team," Pearl said. "If he plays well enough in practice to get himself off the scout team, we'll work him into the rotation."

The Vol coach envisions using Patterson at two positions. Interestingly enough, neither of them is power forward, the position he played last year. Instead, Pearl plans to use him at small forward and center. That way, Childress can concentrate on learning one position, instead of having to split time between center and power forward.

"With Ryan having to learn offensive plays and defensive sets for two positions, that's an awful lot of ‘Where am I supposed to be and when am I supposed to be there?' for a freshman to learn," Pearl said. "We'll get Ryan to play one position (power forward) and Andre, as a senior, will probably be able to play two a little bit more readily. That'll give us eight (scholarship players) and that's a number we can work with."

Senior point guard C.J. Watson sees Patterson's return as a big boost for the Vols.

"I think it'll help us a lot," he said. "It'll help with our rebounding and our inside scoring. He can run the floor and finish. He's athletic and he can knock down jumpers. He brings a different presence."

Stanley Asumnu, who started at small forward against USI, also views Patterson's availability as a real plus.

"It'll help," he said. "It's another post player, another big body who can get on the boards and give the freshmen (Childress and Damion Harris) some time to learn."

Until Patterson joins the mix, 6-foot-10, 250-pound junior Major Wingate is the only proven inside player on the Vol roster. The other posts are too small or too young to provide much help at this point.

"Right now the problem depth-wise is in the front line," Pearl conceded. "I'm rotating Dane, Ryan Childress and Major Wingate. Damion Harris is the only other big guy available to me and he's just not ready. That's where we need the help."

Andre Patterson is the best bet to provide it.

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