'Bradshaw Lite'

Steven Pearl finally found a niche with the University of Tennessee basketball team ... Dane Bradshaw's.

Aptly dubbed "Bradshaw Lite" by a message-board maestro known as Black5, Pearl exhibits many of the same characteristics as his Vol predecessor. To wit:

- Both are undersized power forwards ... Bradshaw at 6-4 and 215, Pearl at 6-5 and 230.

- Both are limited offensive weapons. Bradshaw averaged 4.8 points per game with a career free-throw percentage of 57.0. Pearl averages 0.9 points per game with a career free-throw percentage of 26.1.

- Both are exceptional passers. Bradshaw led the Vols in assists as a junior (116) and as a senior (165). Pearl averages nearly an assist per game, despite playing just 10 minutes per contest.

- Both are scrappy on the backboards. Bradshaw averaged 5.4 rebounds as a junior and 4.0 as a senior. Pearl averages 1.3 rebounds per 10-minute relief stint, which projects to 5.2 rebounds over the course of a 40-minute game.

- Both are feisty defenders who use quickness, strength and technique to offset their lack of size.

- Both play the game as much with their heads as their bodies. They excel at taking charges, setting picks, tracking loose balls and other skills that don't show up in a box score.

The fact Steven Pearl's game so closely approximates Dane Bradshaw's is no accident. That's the word from Bruce Pearl, Tennessee's head coach and Steven's dad:

"Steven told me a few years ago, after Dane Bradshaw graduated, 'Dad, someday I'm going to be your next Dane Bradshaw.' I said, 'Son, hopefully by that time Dane Bradshaw won't be good enough to play for us anymore.' I was wrong about both. It doesn't matter who I have out there; Dane Bradshaw was going to be good enough to play for us."

There's another similarity in the two players: Bradshaw struggled mightily in his first two years with the Vols before finding his role as a junior in 2005-06. Young Pearl redshirted in Year 1, then scarcely left the bench in Years 2 and 3 before finding his role as a junior this season.

"In Steven's case, we're very fortunate that he stuck around for his fourth year and battled through a lot of practices," Bruce Pearl said. "He has to put up with the same schedule as the scholarship players with none of the rewards - none of the playing time, none of the riches. He stayed ready for his opportunity. He was right and I was wrong, and we're the beneficiary of that."

The turning point in Steven's career was the dismissal of senior power forward Tyler Smith from the Vol program on January 8. Steven played in just six of the first 12 games, averaging 3.5 minutes per contest. He has played in all 18 games since Smith's dismissal, averaging 12.7 minutes per game and bringing considerable intensity and toughness to the lineup.

"Tyler did a lot of that when he was here," Vol sophomore Scotty Hopson noted. "He did a lot of offensive rebounding, a lot of deflections. When he left, Pearl moved into that role just great. He definitely does a lot of dirty work on the basketball floor for us."

Steven Pearl is happy to do the dirty work. It beats the heck out of watching from the bench, as he did his first three-plus years on campus.

"He's contributing," Bruce Pearl said, "and I think his teammates feel that he's another guy they feel good about."

Just as they used to feel good about Dane Bradshaw.

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