Big year for 'bigs'

The biggest problem facing Tennessee's post game this season may be finding a way to divide 40 minutes of playing time among three deserving athletes. Fortunately, one of them can help at another position.

Most observers figured senior Wayne Chism (6-9, 245) and junior Brian Williams (6-10, 270) would share the inside minutes this season. But freshman Kenny Hall (6-9, 220) has complicated matters by performing so well in preseason that he deserves some playing time, too.

Solving the problem is the fact Chism has the athleticism and shooting range to play power forward. As a result, he probably will get roughly 20 minutes per game in the post and another 10 or so in relief of Tyler Smith at power forward. That way he and Smith will play roughly 30 minutes each, with Williams and Hall getting roughly 10 minutes each in the post.

Here's the way head coach Bruce Pearl breaks it down:

"It could be a similar rotation to a year ago in the sense that, if Wayne Chism starts at the 5, then Brian Williams and Kenny Hall could play the rest of the half at that position. Wayne would get a rotation at 5, then may not play 5 again until late in the half. The middle of the half would be played by Brian and Kenny."

Here's a simplistic look at the possible playing time breakdown:

Chism first 5 minutes

Williams second 5 minutes

Hall third 5 minutes

Chism fourth 5 minutes


Regardless of how the playing time shakes out, Pearl readily concedes that the post is Tennessee's deepest position.

"Wayne's a senior and has improved," the coach said. "Brian is scoring more efficiently and rebounding better ... and in better shape. Kenny Hall is a very solid SEC inside player who has great bounce and great upside."

Being a senior, Chism was all set to take Hall under his wing and mentor him. As things turned out, though, Hall hasn't needed a whole lot of mentoring.

"Kenny's coming along," Chism said. "We really didn't have too much to teach but Kenny has learned to be with us and not keeping to his own world. If we keep bringing Kenny along, that's going to be another factor that's going to be helping on this team."

Hall made 9 of 11 field goals and 5 of 5 free throws in the Vols' two exhibition games. He scored 23 points and pulled down 12 rebounds - all in just 27 minutes of court time. He has no bigger fan among Tennessee's players than senior point guard Bobby Maze.

"One of the biggest surprises on this team is Kenny Hall," Maze said. "He's a terrific player. He can shoot inside and out, and he's long at 6-9. I expect big things. I think Kenny Hall can make an immediate impact on this team. He's going to play some key minutes."

Williams had a good preseason, too, producing 11 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocks and 5 assists in 26 minutes. Then there's Chism, who has a surprisingly good 3-point stroke and oozes NBA potential.

"Wayne Chism can shoot the ball with his left or right hand," Maze noted. "He can pick and pop, shoot the jumper. He's a good post-up player. He's worked a lot on his legs. During open gym I saw him doing dunks I'd never seen him do."

Chism always had the potential to be a superstar but seemed to lose focus at times. Now that he's down to his final season of college ball, he seems more intense and serious about his game.

"He seems very serious," Maze said. "I don't think too many people have got him first- or second-team All-SEC, and I can't believe it after playing with him and seeing the things he's done to opposing teams. I think he wants to prove to the world that he's a terrific basketball player and his name ought to be mentioned with any other top post in the country."

Having a motivated player with Chism's skills is a plus for Tennessee. Having backups with the upside of Williams and Hall is an added plus.

As Maze put it: "That's a tremendous advantage for us."

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