Lofton will be returning to UT

Any University of Tennessee basketball fans who were holding their breath regarding Chris Lofton's possible jump to the NBA can exhale. As expected, the soft-spoken sharpshooter will be back in orange next season.

The official word comes from Vol head coach Bruce Pearl, who is quoted in an article penned and posted earlier today by senior writer Andy Katz.

Chris Lofton, a 6-2 guard from Maysville, Ky., recently asked the NBA draft advisory committee for an assessment of his draft status. He said at the time that he would not declare for the pro draft unless he was assured of being a first-round pick.

Pearl told Katz that the NBA's Stu Jackson recently confirmed that Lofton does not project to be a first-round pick.

"So, that's not where he's at and he's excited about coming back,'' Pearl told Katz. "It's a good decision.''

Although Lofton's return to UT was considered a virtual lock, Vol fans can breathe a little easier now that the mini-suspense has ended. He led the Southeastern Conference in scoring at 20.8 points per game last winter and was tabbed SEC Player of the Year by the Associated Press.

Lofton is considered by many the premier outside shooter in college hoops. He nailed 41.9 percent of his 3-point attempts last season. With him back for another year, Tennessee looms as a potential Final Four team for 2007-08.

Katz concedes that the Vols should be a team to watch next season, noting that "with Lofton returning, you can pencil in Tennessee as the SEC favorite, not just in the East, but overall."

The Vols went 24-11 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in 2006-07 before losing by a point to Ohio State at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Pearl told Katz that the Vols' theme for 2007-08 will be "Remember the Alamo."

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