Ready for the 'big boys'

As a Southeastern Conference freshman in 2006-07, Tennessee basketball player Wayne Chism found life in the fast lane interesting. He found life in the foul lane even more so.

"The biggest adjustment for me was learning to play tough," the Bolivar native said. "There were some big boys in the SEC last year, and there's going to be some more big boys in the SEC this year. Now I'm getting more physical, so I'm better prepared for it."

Packing 240 pounds on his 6-9 frame, Chism is one of the keys to Tennessee's 2007-08 season. The Vols were overmatched on the inside at times last season. Chism's added strength and polish can help ensure that doesn't happen again this season.

So, how is Wayne Chism better than last year?

"He's getting better on defense mostly," Chism said, smiling as he referred to himself in the third person. "That's the main thing he's working on."

Like most freshmen, Chism was a little raw when he arrived on campus last fall. He progressed steadily, however, producing a season-high 19 points against national champ Florida in February and scoring in double-figures seven times over the final 13 games.

"I thought I made the most progress last year on offense," he recalled, "but now I've got to really pick up my defense. I know the offense will come."

Chism has the potential to be a tremendous offensive weapon. In addition to improving post moves, he can step out and score from the perimeter with surprising regularity. He would be a great fit at the 4 (power forward) if the Vols didn't need him so badly at the 5 (post).

"I know I'll still be at the 5 and it'll be fun," he said. "I like to play the 5. Wherever Coach puts me I'll play hard and I'll play well."

Head coach Bruce Pearl bolstered Tennessee's post game last November by signing 6-10, 270-pound Brian Williams. The more Williams progresses as a post, the more Chism will get to play as a power forward.

"Yeah," Chism said, grinning broadly. "I'm trying to help him out so he can get to that point."

Several preseason publications are projecting Tennessee as a Final Four team for the season ahead. Chism says the Vols must keep such hype in perspective.

"There's a lot of expectations but we can't just live off the expectations," he said. "We've got to work hard and play better in practice. Then, when the season starts, we've got to play better under pressure, too."

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