What's left for Tyler Smith?

He has led his team in scoring, led his team in assists, won an SEC regular-season title, helped set a program record for single-season victories (31), led his team to a brief No. 1 national ranking and made two trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Given all that Tyler Smith has achieved in his first two seasons at Tennessee, you wonder: What is left for him to accomplish?

"What haven't I done? I guess a national championship," he said, grinning smugly.

After a brief pause, the 6-7, 220-pound senior forward added: "If we're going out there and playing as a team, then everything I want to accomplish and the team wants to accomplish will come."

After going 31-5 in 2007-08, Tennessee slipped to 21-13 in 2008-09. That's mainly because the backcourt consisted of three newcomers - freshman Scotty Hopson, redshirt freshman Cameron Tatum and juco transfer Bobby Maze. Given the youth around him, you figure Tyler Smith sometimes felt like the adult supervisor at a playground.

"Nah, I didn't feel like I was on a playground," he said. "I just felt like I was out of pocket. We had a lot of new guys that didn't know what to expect in the SEC. When I first got here we had guys like Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith who had been there and done that. Last year felt kind of different."

With a young supporting cast, Smith had to carry the team for much of 2008-09. Now that Hopson, Tatum and Maze have a full year in Tennessee's system, they should lighten the burden on Smith this season

"Just having the other seniors - J.P. (Prince), Wayne (Chism) and Bobby (Maze) - to help lead the team helps me," Smith said. "Being more free-minded and ready to play takes pressure off of me."

After playing at a frantic tempo in 2007-08, Tennessee slowed things down a bit in 2008-09. Head coach Bruce Pearl is looking to pick up the pace again in 2009-10, and that suits Tyler Smith just fine.

"I love it because we get more transition baskets," he said. "We get more defensive stops. We can wear teams down, so when it comes crunch time at the end of the game we can get that rebound, we can get that last defensive stop."

Smith runs exceptionally well and is virtually unstoppable in the open floor. Thus, he is ideally suited to a fast-paced, uptempo game.

"It'll be better for me - being able to get out in the open court, being able to make decisions and make plays," he said, grinning broadly. "That's something I excel in."


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