West makes passes, not shots

With a nifty head fake, Daniel West beat his defender, dribbled into the lane and pulled up for a 10-foot jumper. It rattled out.

So did the next one. And the one after that. And most of the ones after that.

Daniel West, a silky-smooth 6-1 Tennessee point guard signee from Saginaw, Mich., finished his first game in the Rocky Top summer league with just 6 points, which suggests he played poorly. Quite the contrary.

He spent Monday evening making crisp moves, making creative passes for assists and making quick-handed steals. He was making everything, it seems, except baskets. It was, in short, one of those nights.

"I can shoot better," West said afterward, clearly embarrassed by his point total. "My shots weren't falling."

To his credit, he didn't let his shooting problems affect the rest of the game. He did an excellent job of controlling the ball, running the offense and setting up his teammates.

"I was passing the ball," he said. "That's what I wanted to do from the jump. Other than that, there wasn't much I could've done. I didn't play my best but I did OK."

Former Vol Ron Slay, who has been playing pickup ball with West in recent weeks, thought the mild-mannered Michigander was being much too modest.

"He's real good," said Slay, whose team was crushed by West's team Monday night. "I've been playing pickup with and against him, and he's impressive. I can't wait to see him when he gets in the open court in Bruce Pearl's system.

"He's very impressive. When he gets in the open court with Tyler (Smith) running the break ... man, it's going to be something to see."

With West providing the assists, Smith scored 32 points Monday night. The two worked awfully well together.

"This was my first time playing with him, and I like playing with him," West said of Smith. "He's athletic, he can run the floor and he can do it all."

West has been spending a lot of time with fellow UT signee Scotty Hopson, a High School All-America wing from Hopkinsville, Ky. The two have become virtually inseparable.

"Scotty Hopson and I are together from sun up to sun down," West said. "I spend time with everybody on the team but pretty much Scotty Hopson."

Hopson, who scored 25 points in his Rocky Top debut, appears to be as good as advertised. His newfound friend and classmate certainly thinks so.

"Man, he's an all-around player," West said. "He can dish it, shoot it and he can jump with the best of them."

West isn't as flashy as Hopson but he could be just as effective in his role as field general and setup man for others. He just needs a little more physical maturity to be ready for the rugged style of play that awaits him against SEC opponents.

"I'm trying to come out here and play physical, like they (Vols) play, work on my strength while I'm here," he said.

Competing against several guys like Slay, who are well into their 20s, should help West adapt to the rigors that lie ahead. In that regard, the Rocky Top League could be a huge benefit.

"It's going to help me a lot," he conceded. "There's a lot of older players out here playing, so I'll get the feel of playing other types of players."

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