Tatum's time is coming

Chris Lofton is a fantastic shooter but he's not so different from Tennessee predecessors such as Mike Edwards, Michael Brooks and Allan Houston.

JaJuan Smith is an electrifying presence on the court but his game is somewhat similar to that of former Vol Tony White.

Wayne Chism is a 6-9 guy with exceptional athleticism but he's pretty comparable to former UT standouts Reggie Johnson and Marcus Haislip.

Duke Crews is a small post who plays bigger than his size – much like Tennessee predecessors Howard Wood, Rob Jones, Ian Lockwood and C.J. Black.

Ramar Smith is a slippery penetrator with a knack for getting to the rack, but Tony Harris exhibited similar skills during his Vol tenure.

When you look closely at the players on Tennessee's current roster, a comparable player from the program's past usually comes to mind ... except in the case of Cameron Tatum. The freshman is unlike anything UT fans have seen previously – a 6-6 wing with a lanky frame, long arms, excellent quickness, explosive jumping ability and a flair for the spectacular.

Maybe if Tony "The Wiz" White had been five inches taller he might've been a 1980s version of Cameron Tatum.

Regardless, the talented rookie from Tucker, Ga., has a rare combination of athleticism and showmanship that makes him a SportsCenter highlight clip waiting to happen.

"Cameron's going to be special," head coach Bruce Pearl said this week. "He just lives on a team with two senior wings. Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith are our two leading scorers, and there's this freshman that comes in and is just lighting it up.

"Cameron is going to be terrific. He's here in part because those guys are going to be graduating in a year. But it's hard to come off the bench when you're only going to get a certain number of minutes."

Apparently, it isn't too hard for Tatum. He scarcely played enough to break a sweat Tuesday night against North Carolina A&T but stole the show with 9 points, 3 rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot in six eye-popping minutes. The blocked shot and one of his dunks brought 'ooohs' and 'ahhhs' from the crowd.

Clearly, making things happen is Tatum's trademark. In just 74 minutes of playing time this season – roughly the equivalent of two games – he has produced 35 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 8 steals, 2 blocks, 8 fouls and 8 turnovers.

In spite of the foul and turnover totals, Pearl isn't about to reel in the freshman. He wants the flashy rookie to continue displaying boundless energy, enthusiasm and aggressiveness.

"I told Cameron: 'When you get in there, I want you to do your thing,' " Pearl said. "Usually (a coach says) 'Keep us in the offense, be solid.' But that's not Cameron Tatum. Cameron Tatum is an aggressive player.... He's great to have coming off the bench."

Tatum's length and quickness should make him a fine defender in time. As for his offensive potential, it's mind-boggling. Even playing in a new scheme against a new level of competition, he's hitting a solid 50 percent (13 of 26) from the floor and a credible 37.5 percent (3 of 8) from 3-point range.

"When we get in foul trouble at the 2 or 3, it's 'Cameron, get in there and score,'" Pearl said. "That's a really nice dimension to have."


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