Reducing Ryan

Apologies to the movie "White Men Can't Jump," but Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl says 6-foot-9 sophomore Ryan Childress has improved his vertical leap by eight inches since he enrolled one year ago.

"So now he's jumping 10 inches," Pearl quipped.

"That's NOT true," the coach added, unable to stifle a smug grin. "His vertical's 31 but that (10 inches) was my first reaction."

Ryan Childress' vertical leap has gone up as his weight as gone down. He shed 17 pounds since last season and "has changed his body," according to Pearl.

The towering Cincinnati product says one year of major college basketball convinced him he needed to be in peak condition to hang with the post players scattered throughout the rugged Southeastern Conference.

"I learned last year that you've got to be in the best shape possible to compete in this league every single night," Childress said. "This summer I tried to get with the strength and conditioning coaches so I could get the best out of my body every single day.

"I stayed over all summer, ended up losing some weight, increasing my quickness a little bit and my vertical a little bit."

Asked if the eight-inch improvement in his vertical leap cited by Pearl was correct, Childress smiled and replied: "Something like that. That shows you what I started out with, right?"

Childress played quite a bit during Tennessee's pre-conference schedule last winter. Once the Vols entered SEC play, however, his minutes were dramatically reduced. He simply wasn't athletic enough to compete against the talented post players the SEC is blessed with.

Now that he has lost some weight, gained some quickness, toned his body and improved his leaping ability, Childress should be better able to hold his own against the SEC's top big men.

"Losing the weight and getting in better shape helps," he said. "Your legs get stronger and the weight loss helps you get up a little higher."

The recent dismissal of 6-10 senior Major Wingate leaves Tennessee with no proven post player. Childress is battling 6-9 freshman Wayne Chism to fill the void at center. Childress also could figure in the power forward picture, along with 6-4 senior Dane Bradshaw and 6-7 freshman Duke Crews.

"It's wide open," Childress said of the post outlook. "We've got some talented freshmen in here, plus myself and Dane from last year. The key is to jell and get the rotation that works best for us and keeps the bigs as fresh as they can be."

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