The next Dale Ellis?

Tennessee freshman Kenny Hall's 12-point, 10-rebound effort Tuesday at Alabama earned a lot of praise but nothing that approached the comments directed his way by former Vol head man Don DeVoe.

"Kenny Hall reminds me so much of Dale Ellis," DeVoe said, "but I think he's a stronger player than Dale Ellis when he was here."

That's pretty close to the ultimate compliment that could be given to a Tennessee player. Ellis, a 6-7, 205-pound forward from Marietta, Ga., was a three-time first-team All-SEC selection and a two-time first-team All-America honoree. After being the ninth player taken in the 1983 NBA Draft, he went on to enjoy a distinguished 18-year career in the pros.

That's a tough act to follow. But Hall, a fellow Peach State prodigy from Stone Mountain, Ga., has tremendous upside.

"Hall has a great set of hands," DeVoe said. "When you throw the ball anywhere around him he catches it. And whenever he gets the ball around the basket he scores. He's got great balance and a great attitude. He knows how to put his body on people and get position. I think he's a special player."

He's special, all right. The 6-9, 220-pound rookie made six dunks en route to a career-high 16 points Dec. 23 against North Carolina A&T, then showed occasional flashes of brilliance before breaking loose Tuesday at Bama. Amazingly enough, 29 of his 52 rebounds this season have come off the offensive glass.

"People have the scouting report on him: You're going to have to keep him off the offensive boards," current UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "He's hard for us to keep off the offensive board in practice. He gets there and competes.

"A double/double as a freshman at Alabama is pretty good. Kenny Hall looked like the kind of (lanky, athletic) forward you always see at Alabama."

One reason Hall's production has increased lately is that his minutes have increased. The suspension of four Vols on Jan. 1 caused a significant boost in his playing time.

"He's benefited a lot from those other guys not being on the team," DeVoe said. "He was playing maybe five or six minutes per game, and now he's playing a lot and playing great basketball."

Teammate Wayne Chism, a 6-9, 245-pound senior who goes against Hall each day in practice, agrees that Hall is making the most of his increased opportunities.

"When he was playing two or three minutes he'd look good here and there," Chism said. "He's out there more now and he's playing his game.

"He's a heck of a player. He's learned a lot. When he started getting more minutes you started seeing a lot of things from him."

In addition to seeing "a lot of things from him," one observer is seeing a lot of Dale Ellis in him.

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