Howell is back

He hasn't played in a game since the University of Tennessee basketball team nipped Oklahoma State Dec. 18 in Nashville, but junior point guard Jordan Howell could be returning to action very soon.

Howell, who broke a finger in a Dec. 22 workout, is back at practice – two weeks ahead of projections – and might get some playing time in Wednesday night's game at Auburn.

Head coach Bruce Pearl said Jordan Howell's availability would be "a game-time decision," adding that he doesn't anticipate utilizing the 6-3 junior "unless we had an injury."

Pearl eventually hopes to get "10 to 15 minutes" of relief duty from Howell. The coach said this "would certainly allow us to have a little more depth in the back court, lengthen our bench and shorten our minutes."

After scarcely playing in UT's early games, Howell beat out freshman Ramar Smith and started at point guard in Games 7 through 11. Smith reclaimed the first-team job with Howell sidelined, however, and has improved dramatically in the past month.

Given Smith's amazing progress, Howell must be satisfied with backup duty for the foreseeable future.

"A lot has changed since Dec. 22, when he injured his hand," Pearl said. "Ramar is obviously playing well, and he's got control of the basketball team. Jordan knows at this point it's his job to come in (off the bench) and play a different role than perhaps he was playing when he left."

Howell started five of UT's first 10 games and was averaging 3.1 points at the time of his injury. He is hitting 32.1 percent from the field (9 of 28), 26.1 percent from 3-point range (6 of 23) and 100 percent from the foul line (7 of 7).

Howell is one of only three Vols to boast a positive ratio of assists (22) to turnovers (8). The others are Smith (52 to 41) and Dane Bradshaw (78 to 29).

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