Frosh offer hope for future

The fact Tennessee's basketball team must rely so heavily on freshmen C.J. Watson, Stanley Asumnu and John Winchester does not bode well for the 2002-03 season. However, the lumps they're taking now should make for a brighter future.

Winchester doesn't find much consolation in that, however.

''I'm encouraged about the future but we ain't in the future right now,'' he said moments after the Vols slipped to 7-3 following Wednesday's 74-71 loss to Kentucky. ''We're in the present, so we're just trying to step up right now. We ain't freshmen no more.''

Winchester had the opportunity to be the hero against Kentucky, getting the ball with a chance to make a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds. He faked a UK defender off his feet but his shot bounded off the back of the iron.

''I made a good fake and got a good look at the basket,'' WInchester said. ''I just didn't make the shot.''

Still, being in that situation should help when he's put in it again somewhere down the road. In fact, just playing a team as talented and disciplined as the Big Blue should help all of UT's freshmen.

''I think I gained something,'' Winchester conceded. ''Kentucky was a measuring stick, so you see what you can do and what you can't do. You've got to slow down out there, even though you're anxious to do something.''

Tennessee's veteran players had warned the freshmen that they were in for a whole new level of intensity in the Kentucky game. The warning proved correct.

''They said 'You'd better be ready because they're coming to kill us, so you better be ready to kill first,' '' Winchester recalled. ''We knew we had to be ready to attack.''

Asked if anything about the UK game surprised him, Winchester paused thoughtfully before responding: ''The only surprise was that I'm not watching no more. I'm in the game now.''

Watson was in the game, too ... 36 minutes' worth. He believes he, Winchester and Asumnu are progressing nicely for first-year players.

''I think we've got a lot of upside to us,'' he said. ''We've just got to keep playing hard and giving it our all. ''

Asked if college ball is proving tougher than he expected, Watson shook his head.

''Not really,'' he said. ''It's exactly what I expected. It's the same as when I started my freshman year of high school. You just have to keep growing and getting better.''

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