Key Losses: F Brandon Crump (11.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg), G Scooter McFadgon (14.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.9 apg)
Greenville, SC/Prince Avenue Prep
Childress, who Bruce Pearl originally signed to play at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, won’t make many highlight reels, but the scrappy 6-8, 225-pounder could make life miserable for opponents with his suffocating defense. Harris is a bit more of a project, but Pearl likes his upside.
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As soon as Pearl set foot in Knoxville he started recruiting - both players and fans. Pearl recognizes that in the rough-and-tumble SEC East, it's not easy to have one without the other.
"I'm the new men's basketball coach at Tennessee," Pearl told an auditorium full of incoming students at a summer orientation session. "They say that every five years around here, and if we don't win, you'll be seeing another new basketball coach in four or five years."
Pearl, at the very least, is a realist.
"Tennessee has lacked a brand, an identity, since Ray Mears was coach here," says Pearl, who came to the Vols after a successful four-year run at Wisconsin-Milwaukee in which he went 86-38 and made it to the Sweet 16 last year. "This season, Tennessee will be an opponent most people won't enjoy playing. Whether or not we're successful has yet to be determined, but you know what you're going to get. Tennessee will run, and Tennessee will press."
And if the energetic Pearl has his way, Tennessee will return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
"This team has four (scholarship) seniors, and there aren't a lot of basketball teams at the high level that gets a group through like this," Pearl says. "You always remember your last year, and these guys want to remember this year differently than their previous ones."
Pearl's up-tempo style requires athletic frontcourt players who don't mind running the floor. Forwards Jemere Hendrix (6-8, 220) and Andre Patterson (6-7, 210) certainly aren't the tallest players in the paint. Both, however, fit the bill as scrappers who will provide the necessary hustle.
"Jemere's a wild card with tremendous enthusiasm that has been harnessed in the past," Pearl says. "We're going to let him go and become more of a leader.
"Andre can slash to the basket and he's hard to keep off the offensive glass. He could be a lockdown defender."
Major Wingate, a 6-10 junior, is the only true big man ready to play. Wingate has been most comfortable in the halfcourt game through his first two years, but Pearl is confident Wingate will adjust to the system.
Ryan Childress, a freshman who originally signed with Pearl at Wisconsin-Milwaukee before transferring to UT, is coming to Knoxville because of the system.
"Not many freshmen can come in and compete in the SEC," Pearl says. "But because he's so physical, Ryan has got a chance."
Incoming freshman Damion Harris could redshirt this season depending on how quickly he picks up the system.
Pearl expects senior C.J. Watson to thrive in the new system.
"C.J. is one of the top point guards in the conference. He'll really enjoy our point guard fast break," Pearl says. "He's very good off the dribble and a tremendous defender off the ball. He'll be great in the press with his court vision and athleticism."
Pearl's system shouldn't do anything to stymie sophomore hot shot Chris Lofton, who led the SEC with 46.5 percent 3-point field goal shooting.
Pearl believes the athleticism of swingman Stanley Asumnu will fit perfectly into the Vols' scheme.
"He'll benefit from the change in our system more than anyone on the team," Pearl says.
Energetic guard Dane Bradshaw gives Pearl another weapon in the press. Bradshaw is a human floor burn at his best, but a bit of a liability on offense. He hit just six 3-pointers all last season.
JaJuan Smith brings quickness and a nice shooting touch to the court, and he can play both point and shooting guard. The faster Smith improves the more his minutes will increase in the rotation.
Jordan Howell has moved from shooting guard to point guard, where he played in high school.
Tennessee has a new coach and a new style, which might normally translate into a transition type of season. But with four scholarship seniors, a proven point guard, the league's top 3-point shooter and an athletic, albeit undersized, frontcourt, the Volunteers have reason to believe a trip to the postseason is a possibility.