Rugged Renaldo

If you were rating clean-cut good looks on a 1-10 scale, one Tennessee basketball player might qualify for an 11.

It is his guy-next-door wholesomeness that makes this recent comment by Renaldo Woolridge so deliciously ironic:

"I want to have more of an attack mindset. I just need to get meaner, as far as toughness. That's what I've been working on ... that and attacking the basket more. I'm trying to dunk more and be more of a beast."

Renaldo Woolridge a beast? It's difficult to imagine but, based on Monday night's action in the Rocky Top summer league, it isn't as unimaginable as it once was. Content to lurk near the arc and fire up 3-pointers as a Vol freshman last winter, Woolridge actually did some dirty work on the inside Monday evening.

His first basket, in fact, came on an emphatic follow dunk that was ... well, downright beastly. His second bucket came on another dunk – this time off a lob. Ultimately, only three of his 15 points came from behind the arc.

Is the 6-9, 210-pound Californian evolving from passive perimeter player into feisty forward? Perhaps.

"I think I did OK," he said. "I think I could've done a little more in the post."

Even playing on a sore knee Monday night, Woolridge displayed the hops to be a very effective player around the basket.

"I'm coming back from a knee injury last week and getting used to playing again," he said.

Woolridge had to wait a year for his first taste of the Rocky Top League but he seemed to relish the flavor. He postponed enrolling at UT until the second session of summer school last July, causing him to miss the entire 2008 Rocky Top season. In retrospect, the experience might have done him a world of good.

"I think it would've helped me out ... probably helped getting adjusted to playing in front of a crowd," he conceded. "It allows you freedom but within structure. It allows you to work on stuff and to stay competitive and to have fun in front of fans."

Woolridge had a lot of fun last November, starting six of Tennessee's first seven games. As the season wore on, however, he moved further and further down the Vol bench. By March he scarcely broke a sweat.

He's hoping to become relevant again in 2009-10. A strong showing in the Rocky Top League might elevate his game and restore his confidence. Certainly, Monday night's showing was a good start.

"I thought it was fun," he said. "I had a good time. It's a good atmosphere, and it's a great feeling to see people out here supporting us."

With the top 10 players back from a 2008-09 team that won 21 games, the Vols should have an awful lot of people supporting them in the season ahead. Renaldo "The Beast" Woolridge relishes the thought.

"I can't wait," he said.

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