The situation is under control at Tennessee, which means the Vols haven't brought in Godzilla and Mothra from a juco, didn't sign everybody's Ultra-All-Universe out of high school, will continue to play in one of the SEC's smallest and, in terms of the sight lines, worst arenas (Stokely Athletics Center, capacity 12,700)—and should make the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight year. The only question is how does fifth-year coach Don DeVoe do it? "First, I don't put much stock in rankings," says DeVoe, whose team was picked to finish in the middle of the SEC last season, yet emerged to tie Kentucky for the title. "Don has a knack for getting players he can use. Not big names, just those who can fit in," says one Tennessee official. After DeVoe lost Point Guard Ed Littleton and Wing Gary Carter to academic ineligibility last year, the Vols were overlooked. But their replacements, Tyrone Beaman and Michael Brooks, helped Tennessee win eight straight SEC games and make it 20-10 overall.
Of course, the main man for the Volunteers last season was Dale Ellis, the SEC Player of the Year. The 6'7" Ellis can not only zoom up, up and over, but he is also gold from outside. He shot 65.4% from the high post in 1981-82, second nationally, and scored 21.2 points per game.
The second most important player is Brooks, a 6'3" junior who can man point or wing. Last year he averaged 11.6 points with 96 assists and shot 85.2% from the line. "He's always under control; he understands his limitations," says DeVoe. "He's been the iceman for us. It's nice to coach talent, but our people execute team ball as well as you could hope to see."
Littleton returns to challenge Beaman, a 5'11" junior who leads DeVoe's strict man-to-man defense—"Our salvation," the coach says. Because DeVoe is a man of systems and detail, freshmen usually need a season to adjust to him. But one of three 6'7" first-year forwards—Rob Jones, William Mills or Tyrone Harper—may contribute also.
When DeVoe began recruiting for Tennessee, he used the lure of a promised new arena. Only the current freshmen will play in the $30 million, 25,000-seat edifice that will be ready in 1985. "Nobody around here minds having something a little bit larger than Kentucky's," says Sports Information Director Haywood Harris, chuckling. Ground will be broken in the spring. The Vols, however, would love to be busy elsewhere. Like in Albuquerque.