Point platoon

Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl has an interesting dilemma at the point-guard position.

Senior Jordan Howell provides experience, steady play and a long-range scoring threat. He hit five of eight 3's and scored 17 points last Friday against Louisiana-Lafayette. He is a less-than-ideal fit for Tennessee's system, however, because he is not a great penetrator or defender.

Conversely, sophomore Ramar Smith has the penetrating and defensive abilities to be a superior fit in UT's system. However, he tends to get out of control and tends to be erratic as a shooter. He had a 10-turnover game vs. Ole Miss last year and was 0 for 12 from the foul line against Prairie View A&M this year.

Smith started Games 1, 2 and 3 before giving way to Howell, who started Games 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Since each brings obvious strengths and weaknesses to the point position, each continues to play roughly 20 minutes per game.

"Jordan and Ramar played the position last year 100 percent of the time," Pearl said, adding that he "can't see that changing much" for tonight's game at UT-Chattanooga (7 p.m. tip-off on ESPNU).

Pearl's dilemma is about to become even more interesting, however. Howell and Smith soon will be joined in the point-guard rotation by J.P. Prince, a 6-8, 200-pounder who had to sit out the season's first month after transferring in from Arizona a year ago.

"We'll have to look at what the roster looks like when J.P. Prince joins us for the Dec. 15 game against Western Kentucky," Pearl conceded.

Despite his height, Prince may be Tennessee's best ball-handler. He doesn't shoot as well as Howell or penetrate as well as Smith but he might be a better all-around point guard than either of them. He also provides a level of versatility they do not.

"J.P. can play 1 through 4," Pearl said, referring to point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward. "I'm considering him at all four of those positions."

One position Prince won't be playing anytime soon is shooting guard. The Vols already have a preseason All-American (Chris Lofton) and a preseason All-SEC pick (JaJuan Smith) filling that role.

Pearl says his plans for Prince include "possibly playing him at 2," then added: "But that's obviously down the road."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories