Passley passes test

Tennessee's ballyhooed freshmen made major contributions during the Vols' two preseason games, but fans expected that. What they didn't expect was how much help the Big Orange would receive from an obscure transfer.

When Anthony Passley showed up in Knoxville 15 months ago, his arrival hardly created a ripple. Fans were much more excited about the commitment of younger brother Cordell, a prep sophomore who wouldn't be eligible to enroll until the fall of 2008.

Coming off impressive performances in two preseason exhibitions, though, Anthony looms as a key contributor heading into tonight's regular-season opener vs. Middle Tennessee (7:30 tipoff at Thompson-Boling Arena).

Though somewhat obscure, Passley has a nice resume'. He was a three-time all-conference pick at North Central High of Indianapolis and a first-team Indiana all-state selection as a senior. He averaged 10.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game at Redlands Community College in 2004-05 before showing up at UT.

Forced to sit out last season because he had attended one summer school class at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Passley spent last winter learning Bruce Pearl's system and earning the respect of UT's players ... if not UT fans. Though omitted from most discussions of the 2006-07 outlook, he turned heads with his performance in the exhibition opener, sinking 8 of 9 floor shots en route to 17 points. He also chipped in 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a blocked shot in 17 action-packed minutes.

Passley wasn't quite as impressive in Exhibition No. 2 but still contributed 9 points, 3 rebounds, an assist and a steal in a 15-minute relief stint.

Those performances haven't earned him a starting spot but they've earned him a significant role in Tennessee's playing rotation.

"Certainly, JaJuan Smith and Chris Lofton have established themselves as starters," Pearl said recently, "but Tony Passley continues to contribute and show a lot of positive things."

Passley will show even more "positive things" as he adjusts to playing on the perimeter. At 6-5 and 217 pounds, he played mostly inside in high school. He has the quickness and agility to excel once he makes that adjustment, however.

Teammate JaJuan Smith put it this way: "In high school he was guarding the post, so it's going to take a little longer for him to adapt to guarding a guard. Once he adapts, he's going to be a great defender."

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