"Dane Bradshaw is the consummate leader," Bruce Pearl said this week. "He leads by example. He leads on the court, he leads off the court, he leads in the classroom. He's a terrific student-athlete. It just doesn't get any better than that."
Bradshaw is the Vols' unquestioned leader for 2006-07 but not merely because he's the team's only senior. No one on the roster works harder. No one on the roster gives more effort. No one on the roster shows more unselfishness.
Bradshaw routinely puts team goals ahead of personal goals. That's why he agreed to play power forward in 2005-06, despite the fact he was seriously undersized at 6-feet-4. And that's why he's willing to play the same position again in 2006-07.
"Because of our depth in the front line it looks like he may very well play a similar role to what he played a year ago, being an undersized inside player," Pearl said. "I was looking forward to the luxury of seeing if I could do something different with Dane but I just don't have that luxury with our front-court depth."
Bradshaw is pleased that his coaches and teammates see him as a leader but says he does not view himself in that light.
"I'm not one to necessarily proclaim myself as a leader; I'd rather let them (teammates) say that," he said. "But I think I have the experience and I can guide them and give them the proper advice to really help themselves in the long run and make it the best for our team."
Bradshaw's guidance will be especially crucial this winter because of Tennessee's overall youth and inexperience. The senior from Memphis will set an example that is likely to influence the team's five freshmen more than any fiery speeches ever could.
"The young people can't hear about it," Pearl said. "They can't read about it. They need to see it first-hand – the way he works in the weight room, the way he handles skirmishes in the pickup games, the way he handles fouls and the way he handles adversity. Dane will put it out there. He's a great role model, so it's a terrific advantage (having a guy like him)."