Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
1/09/2007 04:07:00 PM
Blog Q&A With ... Tennessee's Chris Lofton
Chris Lofton and the Vols are set to face No. 5 Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday.
As part of an ongoing series of Blog Q&As, I chatted with Tennessee sharpshooter Chris Lofton earlier this week. The junior two-guard, who already has five 30-plus-point games, is averaging 22.2 points and should be considered one of the frontrunners for the Wooden Award. I spoke with Chris a few minutes after he finished an afternoon practice in Knoxville, while I was in a Glendale, Ariz., press box awaiting the start of the BCS National Championship Game.
Luke Winn: I'm sitting here waiting for Florida and Ohio State to take the field. I heard you were a pretty good high school wide receiver back in Maysville, Ky. How much do you still care about football, and will you be watching tonight?
Chris Lofton: I'll be watching. I love football. I was mostly a wide receiver, but I played a little corner, too. I was basically a possession receiver. I wasn't all that athletic, but I could catch the ball real well.
LW: A little more about Maysville: Can you describe the basketball court that you liked to shoot on as a kid?
CL: I learned on a few different courts, inside and out, but the main one was where my Mom grew up, in a small town called Flemingsburg [17 miles south of Maysville]. I used to go up there, hang out with the family, and shoot all the time. It was in a place called Hillside Park. A cement court outside.
LW: Do you remember what the rims were like?
CL: The rims were tight there. I think it made me a better shooter. When you play on rims that tight, it's harder -- and you get used to being more accurate.
LW: Are you bigger in Maysville than the town's other favorite son, George Clooney?
CL: No, I think he is. George Clooney's a millionaire and I'm still in college.
LW: Your orange Tennessee jersey does get sold back home in the middle of Kentucky Wildcat country, though, so there might be equal representation for you and George.
CL: I can't think of any others off the top of my head.
LW: I've heard you're a pretty avid "night shooter." What's your routine when you do that?
CL: I just try to shoot 25 shots, from seven different spots on the floor. All three-pointers. Then I do a little mid-range work after that.
LW: Are you doing this alone? How does it work?
CL: I'm usually shooting win a gun [a machine that fires basketballs out on a timer] or a rebounder.
LW: And how late are you going?
CL: Sometimes I do it right after practice, but if I have something else going on, I'll come back at night -- but not real late, not usually past 9.
LW: Night shooting isn't like night putting -- you can't get in trouble for it. Have you seen Caddyshack?
CL: I have not seen Caddyshack (laughing).
LW: There's a line in there about night putting -- a guy got kicked out of school for it. We'll move on. You're shooting 45.8 percent from beyond the arc this year, and are one of the country's most feared long-range gunners. Who taught you how to shoot threes, or rather, who, if anyone, helped you develop your stroke?
CL: No one, really. It just came from shooting all the time as a little kid. I continued to do that as I grew up, just kept putting up a lot of shots all the time.
LW: How early did that start?
CL: I can remember shooting back when I was 5 or 6 years old. I used a little ball back then, and then eventually moved on to the big one.
LW: Who are the best shooters -- of all-time -- that you admire?
CL: I think they would be Reggie Miller, Ray Allen and Michael Redd.
LW: Is Reggie your No. 1? Or ...
CL: Ray Allen is my No. 1. I like how he plays so smooth -- his shooting stroke is the smoothest in the league.
LW: He's a solid actor, too.
CL: Yeah, I sometimes call him Jesus Shuttlesworth -- from He Got Game -- instead of Ray.
LW: You almost always get the ball in crunch time for the Vols. What's said in the huddle, either by you or coach Pearl, before those big plays. Do you demand the ball?
CL: [Pearl] just calls the play -- and a lot of times it's for me. I usually try to take the shot. He says that when he calls the play for you, he wants you to be aggressive with it.
LW: What about the game-winner against Texas, where you hit that bomb over Kevin Durant?
CL: There was a play called. ... I was just trying to be aggressive. My mindset is that I want to take that shot.
LW: But did you realize how far out you were?
CL: At the time, not really. Not until I had seen it a couple of times on TV did I realize it.
LW: What's the biggest shot you've hit in your career? Describe how it happened.
CL: It was in the NCAA tournament last year, against Winthrop. It was a tie game, in the last few seconds, and coach Pearl called a special play for me, and all I had to do was shoot it.
LW: What was the special play?
CL: I'm pretty sure he just drew it up in the middle; he made it up on the spot. I set a screen and then came off a screen, and got free.
LW: You're an even-keel guy, but coach Pearl is known to be rather animated at times. What's your craziest Bruce Pearl story from the past two years?
CL: Probably when he ripped off his shirt after the Kentucky game last year. He came into the locker room and just tore off his dress shirt. It was pretty surprising -- and really funny. Hilarious.
LW: I've been asking a few of the other Blog Q&A subjects to pick their college dream team, but I wanted to change it up for you. In a hypothetical situation, if you couldn't take the last shot in a game, what current college player not at Tennessee would you pick to take a three-pointer?
CL: I'm thinking here. I would have said J.J. Redick or Adam Morrison last year. But right now, for a three, I'd take Lee Humphrey from Florida. He's the highest-percentage [long-range] shooter in the SEC, and he knocks down open shots.
LW: And what about if the clutch shot had to happen in the paint? Who would you take then?
CL: If I go inside, I'm going to either Joakim Noah, Tyler Hansbrough or Greg Oden. Noah plays so hard for 40 minutes; Hansbrough is a beast down low -- they beat us in November in New York -- and Oden is killing Division I basketball right now with one hand.
LW: Last question. You get hounded by opposing defenses. Who would you say is the best on-the-ball defender you've had to face in the past two seasons?
CL: Probably Corey Brewer [from Florida]. He's long and athletic. Either him or Garrett Temple from LSU. He's like Brewer -- long and athletic.
LW: But you still think you can drill shots over any of those guys ...
Chris Lofton is one of the most underrated and under appreciated players in basketball. He developed his game from only a spot up shooter as a Freshman to a very solid all-around game this year as a Junior. He is the best pure shooter and contested shooter (just ask Kevin Durant or Winthrop) in the country and I'm glad to see he's finally starting to get some pub from people like Luke Winn. He's what basketball should be about - he is a very humble guy who beats you with his game, not his mouth.
I think Ohio State is getting way too much media attention and they are not even that great. Last night all anyone could talk about was good Oden was and that he struggled. Did anyone forget get that Wisconsin won and they are having the est season in school history.
Ohio State and Oden is just like Notre Dame and Quinn. While Notre Dame is getting drilled by LSU and Russell, all the commentators talk about is how well Notre Dame is playing and how good Quinn looks and will be in the Pros. They're nuts!
Yes, Ohio State is overrated right now, but Greg Oden is still going to be great. What gets lost in his offensive struggles is his great defense, and the fact is that Oden is playing right now to only his left hand. He'll be fine in the long run, but they aren't as good as Florida or North Carolina this year.
Glad to see Lofton get some props. He really is a lights out shooter, he lit up Texas, and he lit up the U of Memphis. Pearl is doing great things at a traditional football school, glad to see it. UT (The Big Orange kind) is even listed as a sleeper to get to the Great Eight this year!