Notes from Tennessee’s 11-12 Basketball Practice

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    Tennessee practiced in Pratt Pavilion Tuesday before loading up the team bus to head to Maryland for their Friday contest with No. 15 VCU (6:30 pm EST, CBS Sports Network). The Vols walked through their game plan for Friday’s game before working on a few individual drills and scrimmaging full-court. Here are a few notes from the floor and Tennessee’s media availability. We’ll have video from the practice floor posted this evening.

    Devon Baulkman Out: Baulkman didn’t play in Tennessee’s final exhibition due to a shoulder injury and didn’t participate in last Thursday’s practice that was open to the media. He wasn’t at practice today and won’t travel with the team to Maryland. Baulkman did, however, shoot with Braxton Bonds after practice but he didn’t shoot very well. Tyndall hopes to have him back for Tennessee’s 11-20 game with Texas Southern.

    Starting Five (or Six): It looks like the Vols will start the same five against VCU as they did in the two exhibition games – Josh Richardson, Kevin Punter, Robert Hubbs, Derek Reese and Dominic Woodson – though Tyndall said he might go with a smaller lineup with Moore at the four and Reese at the five. Armani Moore and Tariq Owens also worked some with the expected starters in place of Reese and Woodson. That lineup gives them more athleticism at the four and five spots. Willie Carmichael rotated in with that group at times during 5-man drills.

    If Tennessee had a true second team, it looks like it’d be composed of Ian Chiles, Detrick Mostella, Armani Moore, Jabari McGhee and Willie Carmichael at this point. Those five worked together as a unit during several drills. They did some good things but, as expected, aren’t as polished as Tennessee’s starting five. They struggled to space the floor effectively early in practice.

    Tyndall said they really have six starters (with Moore being the likely sixth man) and will play 9-10 players Friday.

    5-on-5: Tennessee’s starters scrimmaged the second unit for about 35 minutes. Armani Moore rotated in with the starting group during this section of practice. During the scrimmage, the starters turned over the second unit with their full-court press multiple times. They’re clearly becoming more comfortable with both their press and their half-court zone looks. Like in Saturday’s game, they played a little 1-3-1 in addition to their base zone defense.

    Tariq Owens 3s: Tennessee’s 6-10 freshman Tariq Owens stayed after practice and worked for a bit on his 3-point shooting. Owens is surprisingly skilled for someone of his height. He has decent handles and a fairly consistent jump shot. As he puts on weight and gets stronger, watch out. He’ll get pushed around for much of this season as he adjusts to the physicality of the college game, but his potential is through the roof. We’ve already seen him make a few jump shots from 10-12 feet in exhibition games – he worked from that range after practice as well.

    Nothing New on NCAA: When asked if there were any new developments in the NCAA’s investigation into Southern Miss, Tyndall said there’s “nothing new.” We’ll have a few updates for you on that front soon.

    5-on-6: Vol shooting guard Kevin Punter said the team has been preparing for VCU’s pressure defense by playing against six defenders. VCU led the nation in forced turnovers last season (18.2 per game) and Tyndall told his team they’ll feel like there are six players out there at times.

    Commits Sign?: 3-star shooting guard Shembari Phillips and 3-star forward Admiral Schofield held separate ceremonies where they signed with the Vols. Tennessee had not received their official paperwork when Tyndall spoke with the media so he couldn’t address either of them. Tennessee expects to have their paperwork in by tomorrow at the latest received their paperwork early Wednesday evening. They’re officially Vols.

    The Notorious B.I.G.: Tyndall doesn’t usually allow music at practice, but Armani Moore selected some Biggie Smalls to play during stretching and a few individual drills. The RTI crew supports that because Biggie Smalls is the illest.