Little but lethal

The smallest guy on the floor may pose the biggest problem for the Tennessee Vols in Wednesday night's SEC basketball opener against Ole Miss.

Rebel freshman Chris Warren stands just 5-10, but that's no problem because he's rarely standing. He's usually darting through traffic and either (A) draining 3-pointers or (B) dishing the ball to teammates for easy baskets. His play as a first-year college point guard is one of the major reasons the Rebels are 13-0 and ranked No. 18 nationally.

As Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl put it: "If you ask yourself why a team like Ole Miss – who was picked down in the conference (in preseason polls) – can be where they're at right now, the two reasons are Andy Kennedy, who is a terrific basketball coach, and Chris Warren, the point guard.

"He is a terrific freshman point guard. He's as good a freshman point guard as I've seen this year in college basketball. He's their leading scorer and he leads them in assists. He's an absolutely terrific basketball player. "

Besides leading Ole Miss in scoring (15.2 points per game) and assists (74), Warren paces the Rebels in minutes (28.3 per game) and 3-pointers (37), while ranking second in steals (15).

Even as a true freshman, Warren shows up a lot in the Southeastern Conference statistics. He's No. 2 in assists (5.69 per game), No. 3 in 3-pointers made (2.85 per game), No. 9 in assist/turnover ratio at 1.95/1, No. 9 in 3-point percentage (37.8) and No. 12 in scoring.

"I've watched most of their games," Pearl said, "and I can't find a weakness or a tendency."

Because Warren is new to the college game, opposing coaches are unsure exactly what to expect from him. If he has any shortcomings, Pearl has yet to discover them.

"He goes left. He goes right. He can shoot the 3 off the bounce and off the catch," the Vol coach noted. "The only (negative) thing would be he's 5-10 instead of 6-2 but I've always loved smaller guards."

Warren is one of those sleeper-makes-good stories that pop up every now and then. He was not considered a top-notch prospect as a senior at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla., even though he averaged 23.9 points, 7 assists and 4.5 steals per game.

He finally turned some heads with a 38-point performance in the Class 6A state title game, but by then he already had signed with Kennedy. Few people realized what a coup the Rebels had scored but Dave Telep did.

"Chris is a kid Andy and his staff can trust to run their team for the next four years and win a lot of games," Scout.com's national basketball analyst wrote, subsequently adding: "He is a jet with the ball, he's extremely quick and fast, he's a tenacious competitor, he can shoot from anywhere on the move, he can create his own shots, he's an excellent passer and ballhandler, and he's excellent in transition. He has a special aura and presence that not a lot of kids have."

Tennessee's head coach has noticed.

"He doesn't play at all like a freshman," Pearl noted. "Without Chris, I can't imagine them being undefeated at this point."


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