Breakout alert

Mere minutes into Wednesday night's game with North Carolina A&T, Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl looked at his lineup and realized he had a not-so-mobile Wayne Chism playing the post.

Then Pearl looked at his bench and realized he had an exceptionally mobile Kenny Hall waiting in the wings.

Before long Chism was resting his bruised pelvis and Hall was showing how dominating a fleet-footed post can be in Tennessee's uptempo transition attack. He slammed home two dunks - the second giving Tennessee its biggest lead of the first half at 55-23. After the break he scored on four more jams - the last coming off an offensive rebound to give the Vols their biggest lead of the game at 93-57.

The 6-9, 220-pound Hall finished with a career-high 16 points, hitting 6 of 8 field-goal tries and 4 of 4 foul shots. Naturally, his coach was thrilled.

"Kenny did a good job of catching the ball and finishing around the basket," Pearl noted. "I think he had six dunks but the fact he could catch it and finish it was very, very positive."

Hall averaged 25 points and 13 rebounds as a junior at Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Ga., then posted 21 points and 10 rebounds per game as a senior. Rated the No. 29 prospect in America by Scout.com last winter, he was quite a recruiting catch for the Vols.

Hampered by illness and inconsistency, however, he scored just 14 points in Tennessee's first 10 games before exploding on Wednesday night.

"Kenny has a chance to be a great player," Pearl said, "but only if he continues to really work hard at it. It's easy to work hard at it when the reward is playing time.... But when you're not playing quite as much - when it takes an injury to Wayne - it's easy to rest. You sort of protect yourself from hurt by working less hard and not playing."

Hall says the thought of dogging it never entered his mind. He insists that he had no trouble staying motivated, even when he was limited to a few mop-up minutes each game.

"It wasn't too difficult," he said. "I call the other players my brothers, and if I didn't have all of them telling me to keep my head up and stay ready, you never know. But that's what pretty much kept me focused. I just stay humble and stay ready."

He certainly appeared ready Wednesday night, attacking the basket for dunk after dunk.

"One thing the coaches always tell me is to stay ready, that my time was going to come," he said. "My time came, and I was ready. I just put everything I worked on in practice into the game."

With Chism slowed by the pelvic injury, Hall knew there was a good chance he'd play a bigger role Wednesday night than he had played previously. When asked if that prospect excited him, however, he frowned.

"I wouldn't say I was excited," he said. "In high school I never really came out, so I wasn't excited to play but I was very happy to get out there and show what I can do. VERY happy."

Although he produced 16 points, 4 rebounds and a blocked shot in just 13 minutes of court time, Hall was far from satisfied with the performance.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's cool, and I'm happy about it," he said, "but I only had four rebounds, so it's not really too much to brag about."

Several of Hall's dunks came off lobs and entry passes from his teammates, a fact he willingly acknowledged.

"I'm blessed and happy for what I did, and I'm happy for my teammates," he said. "If it wasn't for them I wouldn't have been able to do that much, but I do wish I'd been able to get more rebounds."

Pearl would like more rebounds, as well, but he figures they'll come as Hall begins to tap into his enormous potential.

"Kenny's worked hard enough to be able to show some good things," he head man said, "but he's scratching the surface."


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