"That's our goal ... the last game," senior guard JaJuan Smith said this week. "If our goal is to be playing in the last game of the season I believe we'll go into every game hungry. I think that's a good standard for us – it's real high for us – but I think we're ready to step up to the plate."
To help the Vols "step up to the plate" this season, head coach Bruce Pearl has arranged a European exhibition tour (Aug. 8-19) that includes stops in Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic. Tennessee will play at least five games, possibly six, while overseas.
Transfers Tyler Smith (Iowa) and J.P. Prince (Arizona) are not eligible for the trip. Nor are incoming freshmen Brian Williams and Cameron Tatum. Still, the extra 10 days of preseason practice should help the Vols jell into a better team.
"It's going to help a lot, on and off the floor," Smith said. "We'll get back in the flow of how we do things. We'll be together for two weeks. I feel like we'll go over there and see just how good we are. And we'll know, with the guys that didn't go, how much better we can be when they're with us."
Sophomore point guard Ramar Smith also believes the Vols will reap considerable benefits from their upcoming tour.
"It's going to help a lot," he said. "It's going to bring us together more. They play different over there – physical – and it's going to get us ready."
Pearl, who previously took teams on foreign tours while coaching at Southern Indiana and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says the trips are tremendously beneficial – both athletically and culturally.
"I think we'll definitely be building memories," he said, "and probably some chemistry."
The top priority, of course, is building a better basketball team. Pearl hopes the Vols can accomplish three major objectives during their 10-day tour.
"First of all, learning how to play without Dane Bradshaw," he said. "Then guys accepting some different roles and playing some different positions. And my trying a few new things."
The guys in "different roles" will include Chris Lofton playing some point and Duke Crews playing some small forward. The "new things" are some zone defenses Pearl wants to toy with in anticipation of the 3-point line moving back for the 2008-09 season.
Away from the basketball floor, Pearl hopes to expand his players' horizons by allowing them to make like tourists.
"We're going to travel, we're going to tour, we're going to sight-see," he said. "We're going to try to get a feel for the culture, the people, the food. We're taking along an instructor, so there will be academic components to this trip. There's a lot of things we're looking forward to accomplishing."