Winchester to be new Wiz?

The first time they see John Winchester on the basketball floor, many UT fans will be reminded of ex-Vol Tony White. That's quite a legacy to live up to, but Winchester has the goods to deliver.

Winchester has White's slender build. He has White's nifty moves. He has White's remarkable agility. He has White's bubbly personality. He even hails from the same state (North Carolina). And, while Winchester might be a split-second slower than ''The Wiz,'' he probably shoots the outside jumper a little better.

He's unlikely to match White's scoring prowess (2,219 points for sixth place among all-time SEC scorers), but Winchester has the tools to be an offensive machine in his own right. During one recent two-hour bloc of pickup games with Big Orange teammates, he seemed to hit every jump shot he tried. Still, he says his jumper is a work in progress.

''I start close, then move all the way out past the 3-point line,'' he said. ''We've been lifting, and I'd never touched the weights before, so my body is just getting used to it.''

Lifting weight is important for Winchester but GAINING weight is even more so. His 6-foot-3 build is so slight that he will be overpowered by some of the SEC's bigger guards. He weighs 173 pounds, up 10 from early June, but he hopes to be in the 180s by March.

''I've got to get stronger because I'm light,'' he conceded. ''I can easily get by people but once they put that forearm on me, that's going to slow me down. That's why I've been in the weight room hard.''

Although he is stuck behind senior Jon Higgins at the shooting guard spot, Winchester's playing time could be substantial this season. He also looms as the chief backup to fellow freshman C.J. Watson at the point guard spot.

''I was recruited to play the 2 (shooting guard) but everybody knew I could play the 1 (point),'' he said. ''On my AAU team I didn't have to play the point. I just had to slash and shoot.''

Winchester and Watson are playing together a lot this summer. In addition to the UT pickup games, they are backcourt mates with the Tennessee Thunder AAU team. The two work well together, sometimes swapping roles.

''When we play pickup games here I sometimes play the point,'' Winchester said. ''And, playing with C.J. for the Tennessee Thunder, we sometimes switch up. Sometimes he'll bring it up, sometimes I'll bring it up.''

The pickup games have helped Winchester acclimate to the physical nature of college basketball but they also have helped him recognize areas he needs to upgrade.

''I need to improve my ballhandling to run the point,'' he said. ''I'm going to play a little 2 but if C.J. gets in foul trouble, I can go to the point.''

Given Winchester's explosive quickness and agility, he could become an outstanding defensive player in time. He says he's no stranger to that part of the game.

''I'm pretty good at it,'' he said. ''I always played the other team's best player. I just need to get stronger. I can use my quickness to stay with you but once you use your strength to bump me off, I can't do nothing about that.''


Inside Tennessee Top Stories