A look ahead

Most years, about a week after Tennessee's basketball season ends, I work up a projected depth chart for the season to follow. I'm glad I didn't waste time with that endeavor this year.

Had I projected a 2008-09 two-deep in April rather than May, I wouldn't have included Scotty Hopson (who surprised me by picking UT over Kentucky) and Tyler Smith (who surprised me by picking UT over the NBA). And, of course, I wouldn't have omitted Duke Crews and Ramar Smith, both of whom essentially were dismissed from the program on Friday.

Unless the Vols sign point guard Bobby Maze of Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, it appears their 2008-09 roster is finally stabilized. So, I'll go ahead and offer my advance depth chart now:

My projected first-team lineup features two returning starters – 6-9 junior Wayne Chism at the 5 (post) and 6-7 junior Tyler Smith at the 4 (power forward). Some folks think Chism will move from the 5 to the 4 with Smith moving from the 4 to the 3 this season. I believe Chism will play some 4 and Smith will play some 3 but I don't see them doing so on a full-time basis.

Keeping Chism at the 5 gives Tennessee a tremendous post defender and a "big" who can run the floor. Keeping Smith at the 4 gives him a chance to exploit his post-up game, his face-up game and his interior passing skills.

I believe 6-6 redshirt freshman Cameron Tatum is an ideal fit for Pearl's uptempo style of play, which is why I have him starting at the 3 (small forward). He's blessed with long arms, explosive quickness and rare athleticism. Tatum's jump shot does not appear consistent enough for him to play shooting guard but his agility should make him a dynamo on the backboards and in the fullcourt press from the 3 spot.

I see 6-6 freshman Scotty Hopson assuming the shooting guard position recently vacated by fellow Kentuckian Chris Lofton. The wing tandem of Hopson and Tatum provides the length and athleticism to create matchup nightmares for Vol opponents.

The point position, of course, is the biggest crap shoot of all. J.P. Prince was barely adequate when pressed into service at the position in NCAA Tournament action two months ago. Still, I'm assuming the job is his until incoming freshman Daniel West matures into an SEC-caliber playmaker. Of course, Maze could throw his hat into the ring by signing with the Vols in the next week or so.

With all of that said, here's the way I see the 2008-09 depth chart:

POST

1. Wayne Chism, 6-9 junior

2. Brian Williams, 6-10 sophomore

3. Philip Jurick, 6-10 freshman

POWER FORWARD

1. Tyler Smith, 6-7 junior

2. Ryan Childress, 6-9 senior

3. Steven Pearl, 6-6 sophomore

SMALL FORWARD

1. Cameron Tatum, 6-6 redshirt freshman

2. Renaldo Woolridge, 6-8 freshman

SHOOTING GUARD

1. Scotty Hopson, 6-6 freshman

2. Josh Tabb, 6-4 junior

POINT GUARD

1. J.P. Prince, 6-7 junior

2. Daniel West, 6-1 freshman

Finally, here's my projected breakdown of playing time:

Chism will play 20 minutes per game at the 5. Williams will play 13 and Jurick seven.

Smith will play 20 minutes per game at the 4. Childress and Chism will play eight each, with Pearl getting the other four minutes.

Tatum will play 20 minutes per game at the 3. Smith and Woolridge will get 10 minutes each.

Hopson will play 25 minutes per game at the 2, with Tabb getting the other 15.

Prince will play 25 minutes per game at the 1, with West getting the other 15.

P.S. - I understand this is an exercise in futility ... but I need the exercise.


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