Big men on campus

When Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl dismissed 6-9 senior Jemere Hendrix in preseason, it appeared the Vols might be forced to throw towering freshmen Damion Harris (6-9, 270) and Ryan Childress (6-9, 250) to the wolves by playing them before they were ready.

To date, Pearl has resisted that temptation. He got 15 solid minutes from Childress (5 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) in last Friday's 92-58 blowout of Eastern Kentucky but kept Harris on the bench in order to preserve the possibility of red-shirting him.

Harris signed with former UT coach Buzz Peterson two years ago but didn't qualify for admission. After a year at prep school, he re-signed with Peterson last November. Recognizing Harris was still very raw, Pearl last spring signed Childress, whom he earlier had signed while at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Childress also is raw but he's a little further along in his development than Harris.

Since the Vols have just two veteran players who stand taller than 6-5 – Major Wingate (6-10) and Andre Patterson (6-7) – Childress has been thrust into the playing rotation a little ahead of schedule. He played 10 minutes in Game 1 vs. East Tennessee State, five minutes in Game 2 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and 15 minutes in Game 3 vs. Eastern Kentucky.

"It was good to see Ryan Childress get out there," Pearl said after the EKU game. "You can see he's already becoming a bit of a crowd favorite. He goes out and works really hard. We put Ryan in a tough position as a freshman to come in here and play.

"He was a real solid mid-major prospect. He's not a big-time, high-major freshman. But he's strong, he's tough and he's giving us some solid minutes. We need more of that from Ryan."

As for Harris, the Vol coach is still hoping to hold him out this year to protect his four years of eligibility.

"We're still considering it," Pearl said. "I don't know if we'll have that luxury. We'll have to see. It's my job to put guys out there in a position to be successful. Right now he's just not ready.

"But I feel he's got a good future."

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