'Hale' of a prospect

Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl won't have to travel far to watch one of the top prospects in America's 2013 recruiting class ... about 85 miles, in fact.

That's the distance from the UT campus in Knoxville to the Science Hill High School campus in Johnson City, where Shannon Hale already is emerging as a budding superstar. He reportedly was one of only two rising sophomores invited to the recent Nike Top 100 Elite Camp.

Science Hill coach Ken Cutlip says the 6-foot-6, 200-pound Hale averaged "11 or 12 points" per game as a freshman last season in helping the Hilltoppers post a 27-8 record.

Asked what separates Hale from most quality players, Cutlip replied: "The combination of his size and skill level. That's unusual for a kid to be the size he is and have the skill level he has - the balance, the coordination and the speed."

Hale can shoot the rock, too. He shoots it so well, in fact, that he reminds his coach of former University of Kentucky standout Tayshaun Prince, now with the NBA's Detroit Pistons.

"Shannon's got tremendous touch from the perimeter," Cutlip said. "It's unheard-of for a kid that age and size to shoot the ball the way he does. He reminds you of a Tayshaun Prince in that regard."

Although Hale didn't attempt any 3-pointers last season, he has shown in practice that he can step out and hit from the perimeter.

"He has the ability to shoot the 3," Cutlip said. "He didn't take any for us last year but he shot some 19-footers very consistently. This summer he's stepped out and made some of those (3s). He has a great touch."

With a little work on his perimeter skills, Hale may be able to play small forward in college.

"He has a chance to play a 3 if he improves," Cutlip said. "He's got to improve his ball-handling but he can handle the ball well enough at that size to beat just about anyone off the dribble to the basket.

"And the way the kid passes the ball is amazing. That's what makes him special. He's a big kid who can step out and make a shot. He understands the game, too. If he gets it inside he can throw it to the other side of the floor to find a shooter."

Although he didn't have last year's stats handy, the coach said Hale's best outing of 2009-10 came against Cleveland High, with around 25 points and 12 rebounds.

"That was early in the season before he was attracting so much attention from defenses," Cutlip recalled.

Still growing, Hale could add another three inches of height by the time he's ready to enter college.

"He's still got some growing to do," Cutlip said. "He could be 6-8 or 6-9. He's still young. He's 15, I think."

Hale could add another 20 to 30 pounds of weight, as well.

"He's not a thick kid but he's not a rail," Cutlip said. "He could put some weight on. It wouldn't be that difficult with his frame because he has good-sized bones."

Whatever height and weight he is when he enrolls at college, Hale has a chance to excel.

"You have great kids that don't have great ability and you have not-so-great kids that have great ability," Cutlip said. "Shane has all the parts.

"He's got a chance (to be special) because he's got great ability and he's a great kid."

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