Good debut for Negedu

The hectic pace Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl dictates requires quickness and agility ... even playing the post.

That's why freshman Emmanuel Negedu could figure prominently in the Vols' plans for 2008-09.

At 6-7 and 230 pounds, Nigeria-born Negedu is a bit small for a post player. He has all of the other requirements, however, to be a great fit for Pearl's system. That was evident in Monday night's exhibition opener vs. Indianapolis. He hit 4 of 5 floor shots and finished his 12-minute relief stint with 11 points and 6 rebounds (5 off the offensive glass).

"Emmanuel was productive in there," Pearl said. "He was aggressive around the basket, he showed a lot of punch, and I'm very happy for Emmanuel.

"He got to the foul line five times and got five offensive rebounds in 12 minutes. He's a hard-playing guy. He's got a good future."

Originally, Negedu was penciled in to back up All-America candidate Tyler Smith at the 4 (power forward) spot. The rookie lacks the offensive versatility to fill that role at this stage of his career, however.

"When Tyler's at the 4, I'm trying to run stuff to Tyler – put the ball in Tyler's hand and let him make points," Pearl noted. "If his backup's Emmanuel, then the offense doesn't work because Emmanuel can't make plays."

Wayne Chism, Tennessee's best post player, has the offensive skills to fill in at the 4 when Smith needs a rest. That prompted Pearl to switch Negedu from the 4 spot to the 5, where he will back up the 6-9 Chism and 6-10 Brian Williams.

"Given the fact he plays hard and aggressively and is productive, the only other option was to play him at 5, a spot we're pretty deep at," Pearl said of Negedu. "It's Wayne's best position and Brian Williams is playing real well."

Negedu's move to the 5 probably means a redshirt season awaits 6-11 freshman Philip Jurick, although Pearl says he is pleased with Jurick's progress thus far.

Negedu's progress has been even more pleasing. He scored 6 points in a 16-3 spurt that turned a 24-25 deficit into a 40-28 lead on Monday night. He opened the rally with a tip-in, made a free throw moments later, then stunned the crowd – along with his own coach – by bagging a 3-pointer from the right corner.

"He's worked at his 3 but it might not be something you'd want to see (him attempt) in the SEC," Pearl conceded. "But right now I'm not going to inhibit them (rookies) yet. I'm going to have to pretty soon but right now they've still got to show me what they can do. That's the upside Emmanuel has."

Because Negedu didn't begin playing basketball until age 15, his upside is enormous. The opportunity to practice against Tyler Smith each day should hasten his development dramatically.

As Pearl noted: "One of the exciting things about him coming to Tennessee was to be able to play against Tyler every day, to be able to learn from Tyler and Wayne … knowing what his upside was."


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