The Vols officially tipped off basketball season yesterday in a practice that was closed to the media. They took the court again on Monday and we were able to view about an hour of their second practice of the year. Here are a few notes and observations from the court. Make sure to catch the practice video embedded at the top of this post.
Depth Chart: The Vols are just two practices in so take these with a grain of salt, but based on practice rotations, your starting lineup would look like this if the season started today: Kevin Punter at point guard, Josh Richardson at shooting guard, Devon Baulkman at small forward, Armani Moore (who came in as a point guard but played the four last season) at the four and Willie Carmichael at the five.
The second team looks like Ian Chiles at point guard, Detrick Mostella at shooting guard, Armani Moore at small forward, Jabari McGhee at the four and Tariq Owens at the five. McGhee and Moore looked like they both played the three and four, but it was tough to tell at times – they will play several players at multiple positions this season.
Galen Campbell, Braxton Bonds, Dominic Woodson and Derek Reese all worked with the second team at times as well.
Hubbs Held Out: Vol guard Robert Hubbs was held out of the open portions of practice after suffering a mild wrist strain in Sunday’s practice. The injury isn’t serious and the shoulder he injured last season is completely cleared for contact. When speaking with the media last week, Tyndall said Hubbs wouldn’t be in the starting lineup “if the season started today” but that he had time to change that.
Dave Hart in Attendance: Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart was in attendance and spoke with Tyndall for several minutes before practice.
Lopez Improving: Brandon Lopez, who tore his ACL this summer, walked without crutches and rode the stationary bike during practice. He is ahead of where they thought he’d be in the healing process and they will continue to monitor him. Lopez is staying active and even helped coach from the sidelines during practice.
Stretch Forwards: It’s no secret the Vols lack size at the forward positions, but they’ll be able to stretch teams out. Moore and Owens each hit jump shots in live portions of practice and all of Tennessee’s big men handled the ball around the perimeter.
Fast and Furious: Practice was fast. Really fast. The team worked on fast break situations after misses for a good portion of the viewing period. Practice, as a whole, was faster and more physical than in previous years. They also worked on Tyndall’s zone in 4-on-4 work. Their athleticism across the board is well suited for it and they caused several turnovers in half court sets – something that rarely happened the last couple of years.
Willie Carmichael: He has added over 20 pounds since stepping on campus and looks like he’s going to be a very good player for the Vols down the road. He’s got a great frame that can add more weight and he finishes well around the rim. He also has more bounce than Maymon and Stokes and is a nice fit for Tyndall’s system. He’ll take his lumps this year like the rest of the team but he has a really bright future. As long as he’s healthy, he should have a spot in the starting rotation all season.
Dominic Woodson: Woodson is moving much better than he did at Memphis last season but still has some work to do to see the court this year. The staff wants him to drop 10-15 more pounds in the coming months but he looks on track to reach that goal. He’s more skilled with the ball than I expected and definitely brings an added dimension to the court. The Vols need him to continue improving to reach their potential this season.
Details: Players spoke last week about how detailed this staff is and that really showed today. No matter how small the mistake, coaches stopped practice, explained what they did wrong, and made them repeat the drill until they got it right. Players were also punished for missing layups with pushups.
Other Observations: This team, as a whole, is more athletic than the last few years. They have some high fliers in Baulkman, Hubbs and Mostella and you should see more eye popping plays from this team than you’ve seen in some time. Ian Chiles made several 3s in live team drills and had the most consistent jump shot throughout practice.
Tennessee’s guards and forwards went through multiple physical drills aimed at increasing their ability to score through contact around the rim. After just one practice, I don’t think you’ll see as many missed layups from this squad as you saw last year – especially as the season progresses.
Also of note, Armani Moore and Josh Richardson will be team captains this year.
Number Changes: Dominic Woodson will wear number 55 but was practicing in a No. 12 jersey. Kevin Punter will wear N0. 0 but practiced in a No. 10 jersey. Braxton Bonds will wear No. 32 but practice in a No. 2 jersey.