Tyler at the 3

As a general rule, to play the 3 you've got to be able to stroke the 3.

That's why Tyler Smith may be playing more more 3 (small forward) for the Tennessee Vols in the weeks ahead. The 6-7, 220-pound junior drained 3 of 8 shots from beyond the arc last Saturday, and that was a key factor as Tennessee clipped the Florida Gators 79-63.

Basically, moving Smith from power forward to small forward on an occasional basis is a win/win/win situation. Here's why:

First, it enables head coach Bruce Pearl to give 6-9, 240-pound first-team post Wayne Chism some minutes at power forward, his natural position.

Secondly, it allows Pearl to give reserves Brian Williams and Emmanuel Negedu more minutes at the post. That's a real plus, since the 6-10, 270-pound Williams provides bulk and Negedu provides tremendous energy.

Finally, Smith is not big enough to play power forward in the NBA, so developing his perimeter skills now will help when he makes the transition to full-time small forward in the pros.

For Smith to play meaningful minutes at small forward, however, he really needs to make opposing defenses respect his 3-point shot. He did so against Florida, and that was a huge factor in Tennessee's win.

"I think it was important," Pearl conceded. "Tyler's a guy who has shot it well in practice. He's shot it more. He came back for another year (of college ball) to demonstrate that part of his game."

Although blessed with the quickness to play on the perimeter, Smith has spent most of his career near the basket because of his uncanny ability to score in the paint. Thus, developing perimeter skills at this stage of his career is no small task.

"It's much, much harder to go from being a penetrator and a scorer to being a shooter than it is to go from being a shooter to more of a scorer," Pearl said. "Given his unselfish nature, he knows that if he puts it on the floor he can create one (shot) for himself or for others. It's a productive play.

"He's not certain if shooting an open shot is productive. What we try to convince him of is that it's good for him AND for us."

It's certainly good for Chism, Negedu and Williams. The more success Smith has at the 3, the more Chism can play at the 4 ... and the more Negedu and Williams can get off the bench.

"I do see us continuing to try and create more minutes at the 4 and 5 for Emmanuel and Brian and Wayne, and Tyler looking to get some of the clock behind J.P. (Prince) at the 3," Pearl said. "We've done that for a couple of games now.

"Whether it be Emmanuel or Brian, I would look for them to both continue to be the beneficiary of Tyler playing some small forward."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories