In case of emergency ...

When the 2006-07 basketball season began, Tennessee's coaches felt they had four guys capable of handling the point-guard responsibilities – Jordan Howell, Ramar Smith, Marques Johnson and Dane Bradshaw.

The ranks were thinned by one a couple of weeks ago, when Howell sustained a fractured bone in his hand that is expected to sideline him until February. Another point guard fell by the wayside last weekend, when Johnson dropped off the team and announced plans to transfer.

That leaves Tennessee with Ramar Smith as the No. 1 lead guard and Bradshaw, the starting power forward, as No. 2 at the position. So who's No. 3 in case of emergency?

It's a good question. Getting a good answer is tricky.

Asked after last Saturday's game with ETSU who the emergency point guard would be, head coach Bruce Pearl hedged.

"Ramar and Dane are playing that position," he said, "and right now that's the two guys at that position."

JaJuan Smith, a 6-2 junior, has the quickness and ball-handling skills to handle the position but he's more of a scorer than a setup man. He'd be willing to shoulder the responsibility, though.

"I've been joking with the coaches about that," JaJuan says. "They just laugh, so I don't see it happening. Hopefully, it would be me, but I don't think it is."

Assistant coach Jason Shay says he isn't sure who the Vols would turn to if, say, Ramar Smith fouls out and Bradshaw sprains an ankle.

"We'll face that if it happens," Shay says. "I'm sure Coach Pearl has a game plan in mind. But right now we're just taking it as it is.

"It could be Josh (Tabb). It could be JaJuan. It could be Chris Lofton. He obviously has done a better job of scoring off the bounce this year."

Or it could be all of the above.

"It probably would be a collective effort," Shay notes. "When Jordan went out, we asked more guys to assume bigger roles, more responsibilities and more minutes. If that happened (Ramar and Dane were sidelined) we'd have to ask more guys to step up and take more minutes and more responsibility."

Although he isn't expecting the call, JaJuan Smith is sharpening his point-guard skills ... just in case.

"I've been working on that in practice," he says. "You never know when an injury is going to happen and the coach is going to call on you. You stay ready for anything."


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