Vols brace for 7-foot-7 foe

Like the shepherd boy David of Biblical fame, Tennessee center Wayne Chism will be facing a real-life giant when the Vols host UNC-Asheville Wednesday night.

One of UNCA's key players is 7-foot-7, 335-pound junior Kenny George. He leads the NCAA with an average of 6.3 blocked shots per game, even though he plays just 21.6 minutes per game in a reserve capacity. He also contributes 11.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per outing.

The Bulldog behemoth posted a triple-double in UNCA's 83-71 defeat of Campbell on Nov. 17, producing 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks in 26 minutes. He was 8 of 8 from the floor and 4 of 5 from the foul line that evening, with all 12 of his rebounds coming on the defensive end.

George just missed another triple-double in UNCA's 74-48 drubbing of Lees-McRae on Nov. 11. His stat line that day showed 15 points, 9 rebounds and 10 blocks in 22 minutes. He also had a big game Nov. 24 in an 89-87 loss to East Tennessee State, registering 13 points, 9 rebounds, 8 blocks and 4 assists in 26 minutes.

Despite his size, the biggest Bulldog has a nice shooting touch. He is hitting 74.5 percent (35 of 47) from the floor and 75.0 percent (12 of 16) from the foul line.

"He is an imposing figure," Vol head coach Bruce Pearl said, subsequently adding that George is "very effective when he gets around the basket, both offensively and defensively."

Asked if he has ever had to contend with an opposing player so big, the Vol coach paused thoughtfully before saying he might have during an exhibition tour of China during his days as an assistant at the University of Iowa (1986-92).

"When he gets close to the basket, he doesn't have to jump up to dunk it," Pearl noted. "He can REACH up and dunk it."

Tubby Smith's Kentucky Wildcats boasted three 7-footers two years ago but none played significantly against Tennessee because they couldn't keep the frantic pace the Vols maintain. Whether or not George has the quickness and stamina to keep up Wednesday night remains to be seen.

"Certainly, in the transition game he could be more challenged," Pearl said. "I think that's maybe why he plays only 20 minutes a game, instead of 30 minutes a game … because of the tempo and changing ends."

UNC-Asheville improved its record to 8-2 Monday night by beating South Carolina State 87-76.


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