Hall honors his 'brothers'

At least one Tennessee basketball player gets it: A team is like a family, and the closer it is, the stronger it is.

That's why Vol freshman Kenny Hall announced in October that he is devoting this season to teammate Emmanuel Negedu, who is sidelined by a serious heart condition. And that's why Hall held up four fingers each time he scored Wednesday night vs. Charlotte - one finger for each of his four suspended teammates.

Never mind that Tyler Smith, Brian Williams, Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins were stopped by police in a car that featured two handguns, marijuana and an open container of liquor. Hall isn't happy with the actions of his basketball brothers but he isn't ready to disown them, either. He proved as much with Wednesday night's four-finger salutes.

"The four fingers definitely was for my four teammates," he said. "I call them my four brothers. I'm very supportive of them. They made a mistake, and that's unfortunate, but it brought us together as a team and made us a lot stronger. We went out there and we were successful."

The Vols were successful, all right, beating Charlotte 88-71. Hall played a significant role in the outcome, hitting 5 of 6 shots and finishing with 12 points, 5 rebounds, a block, an assist and a steal.

"Kenny Hall gave us tremendous energy," coach Bruce Pearl said. "He was strong on the inside, very difficult to keep off the offensive board and he finished well around the basket. He enjoyed being out there."

Hall also showed tremendous poise for a freshman. When a 21-2 Charlotte run trimmed Tennessee's lead to 56-50, he nailed a 10-foot jumper to slow the 49ers' momentum. Pearl wasn't surprised.

"Kenny's got confidence in the things he does well," the coach said. "He's got confidence he can score."

The past two weeks have been strange ones for Hall. He scored a career-high 16 points in Game 11 vs. North Carolina A&T, never left the bench in Game 12 vs. Memphis, then played a career-high 20 minutes in Game 13 vs. Charlotte.

"I give Kenny and my coaching staff some credit for keeping these guys ready," Pearl said. "Kenny did not stop working when he wasn't playing. He's been in the gym and in the weight room. His attitude has been terrific."

His performance vs. Charlotte was pretty terrific, too. That should give the 6-9 freshman an emotional lift.

"Of course, it's going to add to my confidence but that's not going to stop me from working out and going as hard as I've been going," Hall said. "It makes me want to go even harder, so I can be more in shape. I only got five rebounds, and that's not good at all to me. I'm looking for a double-double."

Oddly enough, he got all five of his rebounds off the offensive glass.

"That's just crashing the boards," he said. "Whenever I see a shot go up, I go after it. Unfortunately, on the defensive end the ball just wasn't bouncing my way. I've got to work a little bit harder on going after rebounds that are out of my area."

Tennessee's basketball program has incurred a lot of negative publicity due to the incident involving the four suspended players. Still, the remaining Vols seem to have closed ranks and drawn closer in the midst of this adversity.

"Most definitely, especially because the players we lost were key players," Hall said. "That made everybody have to step it up that much more. We practice with high energy, and we took that onto the floor."

The Vols also took a feeling of brotherhood onto the floor, especially the guy who held up four fingers each time he scored.

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