Tyler's fine at the 4

No one is more eager for Tennessee wings J.P. Prince and Josh Tabb to return to action than their most heralded Vol teammate.

Both missed Monday night's exhibition opener vs. Indianapolis – Prince due to a labrum injury and Tabb due to an academics-related suspension. That forced coach Bruce Pearl to move 6-7 junior superstar Tyler Smith from the 4 spot (power forward) to the 3 (small forward). It is a move Smith makes unselfishly but not happily.

"It's all right," he said, sounding less than enthusiastic. "At the same time, in Coach's offense I am the 4. In the 4 position he tries to put it in my hands a lot more. At the 3, it's kind of different. Really, I want to be in the 4 position."

Prince will not suit up for tonight's exhibition finale against Tusculum (7:30 tipoff at Thompson-Boling Arena). Tabb's status is unclear.

Obviously, the sooner Prince and Tabb return to action, the sooner Tyler Smith can return to his natural position. That should enable him to be more productive, since he has to do more thinking at the 3 spot.

"You've just got to know the different spots," Smith noted. "In the press you've got to be up, instead of back. You've got to really think. Sometimes I get to running back when I'm supposed to be up … or I get to running up when I'm supposed to be back. It's a lot of little things I've got to tune in my head to get right."

Because he is smaller than most NBA power forwards, Smith may be a better fit for pro ball at small forward. He insists he's willing the play that spot for the Vols if it will help them win.

"I'm just trying to be productive," he said. "Whatever my teammates need – scoring or assists – I just try to do the same things I did before."

In addition to freeing him to play mostly power forward, Smith believes the return of Prince and Tabb will be a benefit to all of the Vols.

"That's two guys that's going to be in the starting lineup right there," he said. "We've got a lot of different options we can go with."

Pearl agrees. Not having Prince and Tabb forces several Vols to play roles they are not ideally suited for.

"It's disruptive," the head man said. "Tyler Smith has to go from his best position, which is the 4, to play the 3. Wayne (Chism) has to go from his best position, which is the 5, and play the 4. So it's very disruptive."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories