JaJuan has more drive

Whenever Tennessee's JaJuan Smith got the ball 20 to 25 feet from the basket in years past, he'd usually jack up a 3-pointer. Everyone in the gym knew this, including the opposing team, which made him easier to defend.

The 6-2 senior wing says fans will see a new JaJuan Smith, however, when the Vols play their exhibition opener against California-Pennsylvania Friday night at 7:30.

"I worked hard this summer on my ball-handling, so they're going to see a lot of me trying to get to the rack," he said. "It's a big change. When people walk into Thompson-Boling Arena they're going to see a big difference."

Basically, Smith is following the lead of backcourt mate Chris Lofton. Like Smith, Lofton was essentially a one-trick pony in 2004-05 and 2005-06 – doing most of his scoring on 3-point bombs. Lofton added slashing drives to his offensive repertoire last season, however, and wound up leading the SEC in scoring. Now Smith is looking to add the same dimension to his game.

JaJuan's dribble-drive isn't the only new development fans will notice Friday night. The availability of transfers Tyler Smith and J.P. Prince, along with freshmen Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams, will give the Vols improved athleticism and depth as the newcomers blend into the playing rotation.

"We're still going to play hard," JaJuan Smith said. "They're just going to come in and play hard with us. It's not last year's team and this year's team. It's just this year's team."

Tyler Smith, Prince and Tatum are all in the 6-6 to 6-7 range and all are exceptionally quick. They'll put the fast in Tennessee's fast break.

"I already see us getting the ball up the floor much faster than we did last year," JaJuan Smith said. "It's different folks bringing the ball up the floor now, instead of just one person. I think that means a lot and that's going to be dangerous for opponents."

With the four newcomers joining eight returnees from last season, Tennessee has by far its best depth since 2000-2001. That's a real plus when a team plays at the race-horse tempo head coach Bruce Pearl prefers.

"I think we're going to be one of the deepest teams in the country," JaJuan Smith said. "When one goes out, one can come right in and either pick up where he left off or do better."

Now that he's a senior, JaJuan is being counted on for leadership, as well as clutch points and sticky defense. He takes his new role quite seriously.

"It's a little different," he said. "In the past I was always told I was a leader on the team but I really didn't believe it because I wasn't the oldest guy on the floor. Now I've been here and the guys look up to me. They're asking me for guidance, so I've got to lead by example, on and off the floor."


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