Dane is UT 'identity'

Moments after 6-foot-4 Dane Bradshaw speared 12 rebounds in Wednesday night's defeat of Vanderbilt, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl was asked if Bradshaw's success on the boards is because foes focus more attention on boxing out 6-foot-10 teammate Major Wingate.

"Bradshaw would get rebounds no matter who he was playing with," Pearl answered, grinning broadly. "He is what makes this thing go. He's the glue. He is our identity. He is this team's identity."

That might be the ultimate compliment Pearl could pay. Everything that is right with UT basketball this season is clearly evident in Dane Bradshaw. He plays hard. He plays smart. He plays aggressively, refusing to back down from opponents who might be bigger, faster, stronger or more talented. He also plays unselfishly, routinely downplaying his role in Tennessee's 15-3 record and No. 13 national ranking.

For instance, when asked about his dozen rebounds vs. Vandy, Bradshaw shrugged and replied: "They had some long misses on some 3-point shots, and that helped me get some defensive rebounds."

There is a quiet confidence about Bradshaw that is refreshing. He is enjoying Tennessee's success but refuses to get caught up in it. Reminded that the team already has beaten SEC East foes Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina, he calmly noted: "We're doing well right now but we have to realize we're not even halfway through conference play, so we have to stay with it and continue to get better."

Bradshaw understands basketball better than most. He realizes there's more to the game than meets the eye. That's how the Vols were able to shoot 36 percent from the floor but still prevail against the Commodores.

"We didn't shoot well but we got to the free throw line 20 more times than they did," Bradshaw said. "Coach wasn't real upset that we were missing shots. He just wanted us to run our stuff hard. They (Commodores) got some open looks but they missed ‘em because they were worn out from defending our flex offense."

As usual, Bradshaw kept his poise, even with Vanderbilt leading entering the game's final minutes. He was confident the Vols would find a way to win … which they did.

"It's great to come from behind and get these victories," he said. "It really shows the character of the team. Coach was talking about, as tired as we felt, the opponent was just as tired, so it was about mental toughness."

Ah, yes. Character and mental toughness – two more Dane Bradshaw attributes that qualify him as the player who best exemplifies the identity of this scrappy Tennessee basketball team.

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