Back with a vengeance

While his teammates were facing Southern Indiana in Tennessee's exhibition basketball opener, suspended forward Andre Patterson was realizing how much he missed the game.

That helps explain why he returned with a bang last Friday in Exhibition No. 2, hitting all seven field goal tries en route to 17 points in the Vols' 106-73 defeat of Carson-Newman.

"I was just happy to be out there, having the opportunity to play basketball again," he said. "You take things for granted, and when you get them taken away, you appreciate them more and realize what you missed. I was just having fun on the basketball floor again. That's why I started playing basketball: The game is fun. You play for fun. I just tried to put effort back into the game."

Despite his perfect night from the floor, the 6-foot-7 Patterson described his performance as "all right," adding: "I'm still a little rusty. I had two bad turnovers; I forced two passes. Other than that, I came in and tried to ease my way into the flow of the team. I didn't really try to make an impact on offense. I just let the game come to me."

Head coach Bruce Pearl says Patterson has done everything asked of him since returning from his disciplinary suspension.

"He has," Pearl said. "He's got some work to do in all areas but I thought his attitude was excellent. He certainly was productive in his play. He's really glad to be out there, and I think he understands the game pretty well."

Given how modest his role was last season, Patterson's performance last Friday surprised many observers. He insists it didn't surprise him, however. He thinks he has improved his game considerably since the 2004-05 season.

"I've been working all summer," he said. "Just because I was suspended and got in a little bit of trouble, that didn't stop me from working out. I just wanted to come out (vs. Carson-Newman) and get a good start, a confidence boost going into the next game."

After playing the 4 (power forward) last year, Patterson is splitting time between the 5 (center) and the 3 (small forward) this year. He says that's fine with him.

"It doesn't matter to me," he said. "The 4 and the 5 and the 3 … it's all the same position to me. I'm still going to be on a bigger guy."

Although he isn't an exceptional shooter or ball-handler, Patterson insists he can play effectively as a small forward on the wing. In fact, he relishes the opportunity.

"It allows me to be athletic and get on the break," he said, "and that's what I like to do."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories