The Cinderella tag and glass sneaker still fit Tennessee, but the glass belongs to UT's opponents. Alabama out rebounded the Vols 40 to 30, while Arkansas held an even more decisive 45-24 advantage. That's a collective rebounding difference of 85 to 55.
The story was more of the same in UT's other SEC setback against LSU as the Tigers controlled the boards to the tune of 43 to 25. If you see a pattern here you won't be surprised that in UT's only other loss, 89 to 73 at Oklahoma State, the Vols were out rebounded 38 to 25. All totaled Tennessee was beaten on the boards by an aggregate of 166 to 105 in its four setbacks, an average of 15.2 per game.
To say Bruce Pearl needs rebounders is like saying Rip Van Winkle needed a wake-up call. When the Vols can't keep their opponents off the boards it not only results in second chances and easy scoring opportunities, it also deprives UT of transition points and creates a slower paced contest.
Luckily, help in the form of two tenacious tigers on the glass, is on the way. Bolivar standout Wayne Chism, 6-9, 235, who signed with UT last fall, is not only a physical player inside he actually enjoys rebounding. Moreover, he has the agility to trigger the break from one end, fill a lane and make a lay-up on the other end.
Chism is averaging 16.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game this season for a Bolivar team that's 26-9 following last Wednesday night's win in the District 12-AA championship. He is currently nursing an injured ankle, but is aiming to return to action in time to help Bolivar to consecutive Class-AA state titles. Chism has a high ceiling, excellent work ethic and should flourish in Pearl's up-tempo system.
"No doubt his best basketball is ahead of him," said Bolivar head coach Rick Rudesill. "I think his desire and will power are his greatest strengths. He takes pride in doing the little things, taking the charges, getting rebounds, making the outlet passes and following up the break. He's great off the help side but on the ball he does a good job too. The way he rebounds, kicks it out and runs the floor I think they're going to love him either trailing that break or out on the wing finishing it."
Chism first rose to national attention last spring while matching up in an AAU tournament against the nation's No. 1 prospect, 7-foot center Greg Oden.
"Talking to people they said Oden would turn and put an elbow in his face and Wayne would not get rattled or upset," said Rudesill. "He'd come down the floor and battle him right back. The old Wayne wouldn't have done that, he would have let his emotions take over, but he's done a get job of controlling that, maturing on the floor. His physical ability I've not doubted that ever, not even against Oden, but his maturity and mental ability have come so far."
Chism will be joined in the front court next fall by Duke Crews, 6-7, 230, of Bethel High School in Hampton, Va. An incredible leaper with extraordinary athletic ability, Crews has a nonstop motor and loves a challenge. He averages 18 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and two assists per game.
Crews served notice of his talent during a Nike Camp last year when he outplayed a number of premiere prospects rated higher than he. Then he turned down several offers from ACC schools in order to sign with Tennessee.
Neither of these prospects are true centers or even prototypical post players. However they are effective rebounders who depend on timing and desire more than size and strength.