Boomer's a work in progress

When was the last time you saw a 7-foot white guy contribute as a true freshman to a major college basketball program? Bill Walton perhaps? The point is, 7-foot freshmen usually arrive very raw and in need of refinement. UT's Boomer Herndon is no exception.

The towering rookie is taking his lumps in preseason pickup games against older teammates who are more aggressive and more physically mature. It's a tough step, but an important one in the development of this gentle giant.

''Things are going pretty good,'' he said following two hours of recent pickup action. ''I'm working really hard in the weight room and out on the floor, trying to get better.''

Because he dominated at the high school level without really asserting himself physically, Herndon lacks the aggressive nature he'll need to compete in the rugged Southeastern Conference. He's acutely aware of this.

''I need to keep my feet moving, be strong and tough,'' he said. ''I have to play hard. I've definitely got to be more physical. That's been the downfall for me lately. I've got to be stronger and play harder.''

Herndon has a nice jump shot but he won't be a factor for the Vols until he develops the temperment and strength to mix it up inside. He also needs to improve his stamina. He is reminded of these shortcomings each time he takes the floor for pickup action against his teammates.

''No fouls are called out here, so you have to play tough,'' he said. ''And it's really teaching me to run the floor, keep my feet moving.''

Although he is convinced he'll succeed in time, Herndon concedes that his progress to date isn't what he had hoped for.

''It's a little slower than I thought,'' he said. ''I'm just going to keep working hard in the weight room. I'm definitely getting stronger and I feel like my footwork is getting better. My shot's been off lately, but if I keep putting in the work it'll pay off. The key is just to keep working hard.''

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