Woolridge waits

The good news: He can play two positions. The bad news: The two positions he can play already are well fortified.

That's the situation facing Tennessee sophomore Renaldo Woolridge this basketball season. The 6-8, 208-pounder from Sherman Oaks, Calif., has the strength and rebounding ability to play power forward, plus the agility and shooting range to play small forward.

Here's the rub, part 1: Power forward happens to be Tennessee's strongest position. All-American Tyler Smith starts at the position and is backed by fellow senior Wayne Chism. Further complicating matters is the fact that flashy freshman Kenny Hall, currently playing low post, may be a better long-term fit at power forward.

Here's the rub, part 2: Small forward is in the capable hands of senior J.P. Prince (6-8, 205) and third-year sophomore Cameron Tatum (6-6 197). Prince is a former point guard who excels at breaking down a defense with superior ball-handling and passing skills. Tatum is a potentially explosive scorer who came off the bench to hit 6 of 9 shots from the field, including 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, in UT's 83-54 Game 1 blowout of Austin Peay.

"Cameron Tatum is our sixth starter," head coach Bruce Pearl said today. "Whether he starts (Tuesday vs. UNC Asheville) or not I don't know, but Cameron is playing well enough to start."

So, stuck behind three seniors and a hot-shooting sophomore who deserves to start, Woolridge's playing time may be limited for the foreseeable future.

"I think it's been tough on Renaldo because he lives at a position that J.P. Prince, Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism play," Pearl said. "There's a lot of minutes (already taken) at his best positions. But I would still anticipate that if Renaldo were healthy he'd be playing."

He isn't healthy, however. Woolridge has been battling health problems the past month. First, he was slowed by an injured wrist. Now he's struggling with dental problems.

"He's had a couple of really bad breaks," Pearl said. "The wrist is better but he's got some wisdom teeth that are really bothering him, so he's at the dentist today."

Woolridge did not play in last Friday night's regular-season opener, fueling speculation that he might redshirt this season. Pearl says the player was withheld to protect his wrist, though, not to preserve his eligibility.

Noting that the slender sophomore was "in our rotation" prior to the injury, the coach added: "If he was available to us the other night he would've played."

Finding Woolridge some minutes in a 29-point blowout of Austin Peay would've been easy. Finding him meaningful minutes once SEC play begins in January might be more of a challenge. Fortunately for Woolridge, these things generally have a way of working themselves out. In the meantime, however, he seems to be a player without a well-defined role.

"It's been tough on him," Pearl said. "He didn't come all the way from California to sit."

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