Showcasing Shawne

Two years ago Tennessee finished second in the recruiting battle for Memphis high school basketball star Shawne Williams. That might be the determining factor when the Vols visit the fourth-ranked Memphis Tigers tonight (8 o'clock EST tip-off) at FedEx Forum.

After a year at Laurinburg (N.C.) Prep, Williams has emerged as a budding star for his hometown Tigers. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound power forward is averaging 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a freshman. What he might mean to a UT squad that starts 6-foot-4 Dane Bradshaw at power forward is beyond estimation.

So, how good is Williams? Well, he's good enough to warrant comparison to LSU freshman Tyrus Thomas, who burned the Vols for 17 points, 9 rebounds and 9 blocks last Saturday night.

"Williams is such a brilliant player," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "He's different than Thomas. Thomas doesn't have Williams' skills. Williams has got game. He can put it on the floor, he can shoot it, he can pass it. He's long and athletic also but he's not a freak. Thomas is a freak (athletically) and special like that. I mean that in a very positive way. He's just special.

"But Williams is a great player. He's already got skills. He's already got game."

Memphis' frontcourt also features 6-9, 265-pound Joey Dorsey (7.2 points, 7.8 rebounds per game) and 6-7, 205-pound swing man Rodney Carney (17.9 and 4.4). The starting guards are Chris Douglas-Roberts (8.8 points per game) and Darius Washington (12.7 points, 4.1 assists per game).

Although Tennessee lost 88-74 at LSU, the Tigers UT will face tonight could be even tougher than the ones that beat them by 14 points last weekend.

"I think Memphis is a better team because they're deeper and because they've got a great backcourt, as well," Pearl said. "Carney is an NBA player and Darius Washington is probably an NBA player. Then they've got four freshmen (including Williams) who are averaging 40 points per game."

Perhaps the best illustration of Memphis' skill level is the fact the Tigers pushed unbeaten and top-ranked Duke to the hilt before bowing 70-67 earlier this season.

"It's a tie ballgame with under a minute left against Duke," Pearl said. "It was a great, great game. They're the only team that really has been able to challenge Duke."

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