Character counts

Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl likes to say that "Adversity doesn't build character; it reveals it." The line applies beautifully to one of his Vol veterans.

Nashville native Josh Bone, a non-scholarship transfer from Southern Illinois, found himself playing critical minutes last January after No. 2 point guard Melvin Goins incurred a four-game suspension. Bone played so well that he kept the backup job for the first few games after Goins returned.

When Tennessee began to struggle offensively, however, Pearl returned Goins to the playing rotation and returned Bone to the bench. It was a bitter pill but Bone swallowed it without complaint.

"Yeah, that's the kind of person I am," he recalled following a recent outing in the Rocky Top Summer League. "That's how my parents raised me - to never give up and never show that you're down. Of course, I was down; I wasn't playing. I've played basketball since I was four, and I started most of that time.

"But you've got to be happy for the next person. It wasn't my time but I got my opportunity at the end and I was happy."

His "opportunity" came in March, when Tennessee drew several perimeter-oriented opponents in the NCAA Tournament. Pearl opted for a smaller, defensive-minded lineup that featured Bone playing significant minutes. His exceptional play helped the Vols advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

"It was fun," he said. "The coach had confidence in me and I wanted to prove to the Vol Nation and my teammates that I belonged."

Clearly, the class Bone showed when he lost his backup role in February had paid huge dividends for him in March.

"My parents and my faith in God taught me to never give up," he recalled. "Then, when your number's called, you'll be ready. I was always ready, then I got better during the season. It was a great opportunity to be a part of."

Bone's run of good fortune wasn't finished, however. Pearl recently gave him a scholarship for the 2010-11 season.

"I found out a couple of weeks before the (post-season) banquet that I was going to have it, and I was excited," Bone said. "It felt great. I knew it was always in me. I always felt I was on the same level as these guys but I had to prove myself.

"It took a long time but my hard work paid off."

Now that two-year starter Bobby Maze has exhausted his eligibility, Goins and Bone will be battling for the first-team job at point guard. The latter vows to make the battle a competitive one.

"I work hard every day on my ball-handling, my vision on the court and being able to knock the jumper on a consistent basis," Bone said. "I've played 2 guard my whole life but I'm a combo guard who can play the 1.

"I'll push him hard. It won't be an easy job for Melvin to start this year."

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