Weird day for Vol hoops

I'm guessing the mood was a bit subdued at Friday night's Tennessee basketball awards banquet, considering what happened in the preceding 36 hours.

First came news that Chris Lofton played his entire senior season while battling the after-effects of testicular cancer surgery and radiation treatments. The malady was kept secret until Thursday.

Just as the Big Orange Nation was clearing its head from that mind-numbing blow, it was floored by the 1-2 punch that rising juniors Duke Crews and Ramar Smith were dismissed from the program earlier today.

The mood at the Marriott could not have been very festive Friday night, even though the banquet was supposed to celebrate the winningest season in program history. The 2007-08 Vols won 31 games, shattering the old program record of 26. They achieved a No. 1 national ranking for the first time in program history and they won the team's first outright SEC title in 41 years.

In addition, Bruce Pearl was named SEC Coach of the Year and the Adolph Rupp National Coach of the Year. Lofton and Tyler Smith earned first-team All-SEC recognition, while JaJuan Smith was a second-teamer. Lofton's 431 career 3-pointers rank third on the NCAA's all-time list. He also earned second-team All-America honors for the second year in a row.

There was plenty to celebrate, making the fact the Duke Crews/Ramar Smith deal put a damper on the proceedings all the more disappointing.

While the banquet's timing sucked, at least it provided a proper send-off for Lofton. The soft-spoken senior picked up a couple more awards on his way out the door - claiming the "Team Before Self" Award and sharing the "Lifter of the Year" Award with fellow senior Jordan Howell.

Tyler Smith won the Burchfield-Moss Most Courageous Award and Wayne Chism won the Lowell Blanchard Most Improved Award.

Pearl emphasizes academics, and several Vols were honored for their work in this area.

Quinn Cannington, Ryan Childress, Chism, Rick Daniels-Mulholland, Jordan Howell, Justin Jackson, Steven Pearl, J.P. Prince, Tanner Wild and Brian Williams picked up VOLScholar Individual Awards.

Childress, Howell, Cameron Tatum, Jackson and Cannington picked up VOLScholar Team Awards.

Wild and Howell shared the award for the Highest Fall Grade Point Average (Term) while Cannington took home the hardware for the Highest Fall Grade Point Average (Cumulative).

Brian Williams was voted Most Improved (academically) and Chism was cited for Best Attitude.

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