The Vols returned to Pratt Pavilion on Wednesday morning to prep for Thursday’s noon matchup with Santa Clara (12 pm, ESPN2). Here are a few notes from the open portions of Tennessee’s practice and media availability.
Tyndall Talks Departed Assistants: Donnie Tyndall opened his media session by praising Beau Braden, who was elevated from video coordinator to assistant coach after Adam Howard’s resignation. Tyndall called him a “bright and capable young coach” and referenced his time as a full-time assistant at Morehead State as a big reason he’ll be successful in his new role. Braden will work with Tennessee’s guards.
R.J. Rush’s position is not expected to be filled this season. That position will be reevaluated in the spring. When repeatedly asked about the changes on the coaching staff, Tyndall routinely directed the conversation back to basketball.
Braden Steps Up: Tennessee practiced yesterday – their first practice without Howard and first with Braden as an on-court assistant. Braden stepped in nicely today and the Vols didn’t appear to miss a beat in the open portions of practice. Formerly Tennessee’s video coordinator, Braden always meticulously watched practice.
Bonds Update: Tennessee expects to hear something back from Liberty University this afternoon in regards to the status of point guard Braxton Bonds. Liberty hasn’t fully supported Bonds’ eligibility this year, something that has been consistently frustrating for the Vols. It doesn’t look like Liberty will give Bonds’ eligibility their blessing (unlike what Memphis did with Woodson), and, even if they did, the NCAA still has to clear him. Tennessee doesn’t expect any final word on his status until sometime next week.
Multiple Defensive Looks: The Vols continued to work on several different looks defensively. This season, they’ve played a matchup zone that looks almost like a man defense, a 1-3-1 and a defense which looks more like a 2-3. They’ve struggled at times with rotation when playing their 1-3-1 defense. That was the last defense we saw them install prior to the season, so that’s not surprising, but their rotation within the 1-3-1 has really improved the last few weeks. Tennessee’s unique defensive style combined with their ability to throw several different zone looks at an opponent should be an asset in tournament play this weekend – in those settings teams don’t have the ability advance scout opponents.
Injury Updates: Dominic Woodson didn’t play during last Thursday’s win over Texas Southern due to a hand injury he suffered in practice last week. He was back on the practice floor but had his left wrist and hand heavily taped in addition to practicing with a small wrap on his right hand. Yesterday was his first day of practice since last Sunday. He’s working his way back into game shape and will be available tomorrow but probably won’t play his usual minutes. Ian Chiles, who has played just one minute this season due to a nagging toe injury, returned to practice and should be available for the Orlando Classic. Chiles still isn’t 100% so don’t expect a ton of minutes from him. Devon Baulkman practiced with a wrap on his injured left shoulder and will be available for tomorrow’s game.
Santa Clara: Santa Clara will challenge Tennessee’s defense. Tyndall said their top-3 guards could play in the SEC in that their point guard, Brandon Clark, would be a top-5 guard in the conference. Both Tyndall and Richardson referenced the ability of their guards to pump fake and get to the lane and free throw line quickly. The Vols will have to be disciplined and refrain from fouling tomorrow to take care of business against Santa Clara.
Starting Five: Josh Richardson, Kevin Punter, Armani Moore, Derek Reese and Willie Carmichael practiced with the first team and look to be in line to start against Santa Clara.