SEC BASKETBALL PREVIEW: The Tennessee Volunteers

This is the next in our continuing preview of the 2002-03 SEC Men's basketball season. Today, hoops expert VeeMan gives us a preview of the Tennessee Volunteers.

Returning Players

                       MIN  PPG  %FG  %3P  %FT  REB AST

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Jon Higgins Sr        1025  7.6  39.1 36.0 65.1 139 122

Thaydeus Holden Sr     732  6.6  36.3 33.7 73.0  76  44

Brandon Crump So       645  7.1  59.4 ---  55.1 126  28

Elgrace Wilborn So     377  3.1  52.1 ---  47.1  85   7

Ron Slay Sr            342 14.8  49.0 34.4 75.7  91  29

Derek Stribling So     308  1.8  33.3 16.7 66.7  38  16

Andy Ikeakor Jr         17  0.6 100.0 ---  ---    5   2 

Players Lost

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Vincent Yarbrough     1097 18.1  42.5 35.9 68.7 234  87

Marcus Haislip         839 16.7  51.8 32.6 72.1 167  24

Jenis Grindstaff       617  6.3  43.8 31.3 81.7  76  86

Del Baker              261  1.6  35.1 35.5 44.4  27  15 

New Players and Rank in PrepStars

John Winchester 6'3" Freshman (#77)

Boomer Herndon 7'0" Freshman (#125)

C.J. Watson 6'2" Freshman (#84)

Stanley Asumnu 6'4" Freshman (#110)

Justin Albrecht 6'8" Junior (Top 100 in junior college) 

Strengths

1. A good crop of freshman, ranked #24 in PrepStars, with point guard C.J. Watson and shooting guard John Winchester likely to see plenty of action in their first years.

2. Ron Slay, 6'8" senior, is back after missing the last seventeen games of 2001-2002 because of a knee injury. Despite his aggravating tendency to talk too much, Slay is a good shooter and defender.

3. Considerable experience, especially from Slay, Jon Higgins (6'3"), Thaydeus Holden (6'0"0, and Brandon Crump (6'10"). Elgrace Wilborn (6'8") and Derek Stribling (6'6") saw some action last year, but Andy Ikeakor (6'8") has ridden the bench since arriving.

4. Head Coach Buzz Peterson was a winner at Appalachian and Tulsa, and seems to be taking the right steps toward building a team with a good combination of talent and discipline. 

Weaknesses

1. The loss of Vincent Yarbrough and Marcus Haislip took away much of the rebounding and shotblocking.

2. Except for Slay and Holden, the returning players have been indifferent at the free throw line. Also, outside shooting won't be great unless the freshmen provide much of the punch.

3. The team will lack a big scorer and reliable "go-to" man. 

Keys

1. The newcomers must contribute significantly; in particular they must score a good percentage of the points. Higgins is a solid player but never has been a big scorer.

2. Slay's ability to play has to be in question. He suffered an ACL tear and players often take a long while to recover.

3. The muscular Wilborn must play a lot more minutes and help out on the boards. 

Near Certainties

1. Slay will return with his mouth running at full speed.

2. The Vols will "come down to earth" with Haislip and Yarbrough gone, but Watson will prove to be an excellent point guard. 

Prospects for 2002-2003

The Vols come off of a disappointing 15-16 season, 7-9 in conference play, and no tournament play. They appear to be about on a par with South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the SEC East if Slay is back to form. Probably no NCAA tournament this year; they will be doing well to get an NIT trip. 


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