Instant experience

The player saw an opportunity to join a top-25 program. The coach saw saw an opportunity to add a 6-9 guy with three years of college experience.

Clearly, the pairing of Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl and UNC-Wilmington transfer John Fields projects to be a win/win proposition.

The NCAA recently allowed Fields to transfer to UT without penalty since (a) he already has his undergraduate degree from UNCW and (b) his former school does not offer a post-graduate program in his chosen field, sport management. After carefully weighing his transfer options he chose Tennessee, and he's really glad he did.

"The school is great," he said following some individual workouts at Pratt Pavilion. "The facilities are great. This is all a basketball player needs."

Fields always liked Tennessee from a distance. Now that he is seeing the program up-close, he's blown away.

"The expectation of Tennessee was high," he said. "And, since I got here, it's even higher because of the way people train like a champion, the way everybody competes and how hungry everybody is."

Tennessee reached the NCAA Elite Eight last spring, and Fields thinks he understands why. One thing he has observed in his brief stint on The Hill is that no one puts in more effort than the Vols.

"I learned that everybody really works hard," he said. "This is a different level (of competition) than I'm normally at. I'm getting acclimated to how everybody works hard and everybody wants to win a championship."

Fields should help Tennessee a lot this season. He averaged 10.2 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds per game at Wilmington last season. Counting the two years he spent at East Carolina prior to that, he has a three-season total of 163 blocked shots.

"I want to bring shot-blocking and rebounding ... just anything to help the team win and get to that next level they want to be at," he said.

Although he packs 240 pounds on his lanky frame, Fields quickly discovered that Tennessee's inside players offer a lot more resistance in practice than what he faced at his previous two stops.

"The competition is great," he said. "Big Baby (Brian Williams) is really good, Kenny (Hall) is really good and Jeronne (Maymon) is really good. The competition among the posts is good - playing against top-level guys and getting that experience against them."

Although the battle for playing time is intense, the other Vols have made Fields feel very welcome in Big Orange Country.

"They accepted me real nice," he said. "They befriended me. I know there's competition for playing time but everybody's here for one reason - to win."

After playing a few pickup games with his new teammates, Fields realizes he's on a much faster track than he was back at Wilmington.

"This is a different level," he said. "People are bigger, stronger, faster and can finish better. I've just got to step up my play a little bit more."

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