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Expectations rising for Green's Vols
Posted: Monday October 19, 1998 06:18 PM
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- Tennessee coach Jerry Green has been waiting anxiously for seven months to get his Volunteers back on the court.
"I think we are all very, very anxious," Green said Tuesday during the Volunteers' media day.
In his first year, Green took the Vols to their first 20-win record in 13 seasons and their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1989. The postseason ended with a first-round 82-81 overtime loss to Illinois State.
"We had a very long talk after it was over," Green said. "I can't speak for the players, but I am ready to get this thing under way. I was ready to get it under way after the Illinois State game."
With virtually the whole team back this year and healthy, and the addition of 6-foot-7 prep all-American forward Vincent Yarborough, expectations are rising for the Vols.
"We are excited to have another opportunity to try to better Tennessee basketball," Green said. "We think we have advanced the program a little ways. We know that we've got a ways to go to have it where we want it to be."
The players certainly aren't lacking confidence.
"We got a taste of how it's going to be," said point guard Tony Harris, who with Brandon Wharton represents the biggest returning backcourt scoring threat in the Southeastern Conference this season.
"So now when we go back [to the NCAA tournament], and that's what we are planning on anyway, we will know what to expect and what to look for," Harris added.
Yarborough, freshly arrived from Cleveland, Tennessee, already has sized up the team, days before practice officially begins with Midnight Madness on Friday.
"Really, I think we are a Final Four team," Yarborough said, "if everybody sticks together and plays hard like I know we can.
"I think we will gel quickly this year. More quickly than last year. I think everybody knows their role and I think that everybody knows that everybody can score."
The Vols' nemesis last season was injuries. Guard DeShay Jones, the only senior on the team, was hurt early and lost for the season. So was 6-10 center Charles Hathaway, who was leading the team in rebounds and blocked shots when he underwent surgery for a blood clot after the fifth game.
But Hathaway is back in good health. So are key supporting players, such as forward/guard Vegas Davis. Others are stronger. The team has greater depth.
"It looks like we are bigger and stronger than we were a year ago," Green said.
Trying to toughen the non-conference schedule -- the Vols open November 13 against Arizona -- Green senses a growing respect from other schools, who are increasingly reluctant to put Tennessee on their agenda."Some teams, I don't know if they will scout us this year," Green said. "But I got a feeling they might look at a little film on us."
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