JaJuan's coming on

Tennessee basketball player JaJuan Smith is not a complicated guy. He plays as hard as he can for as long as he can, then sits on the bench and waits for his next opportunity.

After scoring 16 points in Tuesday's 93-68 defeat of Alabama A&M, Smith had an equally uncomplicated explanation.

"My shot was falling tonight," he said. "I kept shooting it, and it kept going in."

Smith contributed more than just points, however. The 6-2 sophomore dished out five assists, including an alley oop to Stanley Asumnu for a spectacular dunk. He played 25 minutes without a turnover. Moreover, he helped limit A&M's star guard, Obie Trotter, to just 3-of-13 shooting.

Clearly, JaJuan Smith has become a key element for the Vols. So, how does he see his role?

"I'm just coming off the bench, bringing energy on both offense and defense, bringing a spark," he said. "I'm being a good role-player right now."

Smith is one of those heart-warming success stories that come along all too rarely. Growing up in nearby Decatur, he dreamed of playing for Tennessee … even going so far as to decorate his bedroom with orange and white memorabilia. When UT declined to offer him a scholarship out of high school, he walked on and won a grant with his dedication on the practice floor. Now he's paying huge dividends.

Smith's quickness makes him a great fit in Tennessee's up-tempo attack. It also makes him a great fit in the Vols' fullcourt pressure defense. Anything he contributes as a scorer is just gravy but JaJuan has been stirring up a good bit of gravy lately. Counting a 12-point effort at Texas in Game 6, he has hit double figures in two of UT's last three games.

"I'm feeling real comfortable right now," he said. "I'm looking at it like Coach Pearl is looking forward to me coming off the bench and doing the things I'm doing."

With a 7-1 record heading into tonight's game with Lipscomb, Tennessee is one of the surprise teams in college basketball. And the surprising play of JaJuan Smith has played a big role in that start.

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