Where's Lofton?

No one said much when preseason All-America guard Chris Lofton took just four shots and scored a mere 10 points in Tennessee's exhibition opener. But when the 6-2 junior followed with another 10-point effort in Exhibition No. 2, a few eyebrows were raised.

Including those of Bruce Pearl. The Vols' head man doesn't want Lofton's accolades to make him a selfish ball hog, but he doesn't want him becoming so unselfish that he stops looking to score, either.

"I thought Chris passed up some shots," Pearl said of last Friday's exhibition game with Tusculum. "He wasn't coming off the down-screens looking to shoot. He came off a couple of screens and was open but didn't look to shoot the ball."

Perhaps that's because Chris Lofton has a lot on his mind these days. In addition to being a preseason All-American, he's adjusting to freshman point guards Ramar Smith and Marques Johnson after spending two years working in tandem with veteran playmaker C.J. Watson. Lofton also is working on expanding his repertoire to include slashing drives, as well as long-range bombs.

"Chris has been working on trying to take the ball to the basket more, which is good," Pearl noted, "but he still doesn't get to the foul line."

That's a fact. A 90-percent foul shooter last season, Lofton attempted six free throws in Exhibition No. 1 vs. LeMoyne-Owen and zero in Exhibition No. 2 vs. Tusculum. So far, driving to the basket seems to be restricting his offense instead of expanding it.

"We will definitely work on getting Chris to shoot the ball," Pearl vowed.

Typically low-key, Lofton can't understand all the fuss. He says his low scoring outputs in the exhibition outings can be easily explained.

"I wasn't really hitting," he said after the 100-57 blowout of Tusculum. "I didn't get any open looks, except for a couple. I just didn't have a great game. But we still won, and that's the most important thing.

"JaJuan (Smith) was hitting, Duke (Crews) and Wayne (Chism) played excellent and we picked up our defense in the second half. As long as we keep doing that and keep winning, I'm happy."

Lofton had several scoring lulls in 2005-06 but routinely stepped up his point production against the best opponents. This prompted Pearl to note on more than one occasion that "He'll be there when we need him."

Reminded of that comment, Lofton shrugged.

"I guess you could say that," he said, "but I'm just trying to get better every day."


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