Wayne Chism didn’t give any kind of thumbs-up signal to a hushed crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday night.
He had to wait to get a thumbs-up from doctors.
Tennessee trainer Chad Newman reported Tuesday morning UT’s junior center suffered relatively minor elbow and spine contusions after taking a scary fall late in the Vols’ 89-62 romp past Louisiana.
Chism landed awkwardly on his back and hit his head after going up for a block with 5 minutes and 12 seconds remaining against the Ragin’ Cajuns.
He was moving his arms and legs, but he was placed in a neck brace, put on a stretcher and rolled out of the arena to a standing ovation.
His night was over after scoring 18 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. It appears he could be available for UT’s game at Kansas — 2 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.
Head coach Bruce Pearl said he expects Chism will play.
"If we had practiced (Tuesday), Wayne wouldn't have been able to go because of the elbow," Pearl said. "It's really sore. We'll see how it responds."
Chism was transported to UT Medical Center for precautionary tests on his head and neck. All tests came back negative.
“Obviously we’re all thankful that Wayne’s injury does not appear to be serious,” Pearl said in a statement released Tuesday. “There was a lot of praying going on (Monday night) when he went down, and with some 21,000 Vol fans hoping he was going to be all right, those prayers seem to have been answered.
“Wayne’s really sore, as is to be expected, but we hope to get him back at some point during the week if his recovery allows.”
It’s all good news for a Vols’ team preparing for one of its toughest stretches of the season.
Chism has been coming on strong as 14th-ranked UT (9-2) prepares to face the Jayhawks, Gonzaga, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Memphis in the first 24 days of 2009.
“He has been dominant,” Pearl said of Chism on Monday night. “He’s our best rebounder, one of our best defenders and he’s starting to feel comfortable offensively.”
With Chism’s status still day-to-day — and J.P. Prince playing at 75 percent after returning from an ankle injury — even more emphasis will be placed on UT’s freshmen and newcomers.
The so-called “adjustment period” for freshmen Scotty Hopson, Renaldo Woolridge, Emmanuel Negedu and junior transfer Bobby Maze is coming to an end.
“It’s over,” Prince said. “You’ve got to bring it now with conference play coming up and these road games.
“They don’t realize what kind of environment they’re going to be in. Kansas is one of those environments.”
The Jayhawks, like the Vols, have struggled at times in the early going with a young lineup. But it’s still Kansas and it’s still at Phogg Allen Fieldhouse.
“They’re defending national champions and they have a 31-game home win streak,” Prince said. “They don’t want to give it up.
“It’ll probably be the toughest environment we’ve been in since we went to Memphis last year.”
Prince thinks Chism will be on the court and ready to go against the Jayhawks.
“I’m not worried about Wayne missing a game,” he said. “He bumped his head a little bit, but he’ll fight through it.
“It scares you more than anything when you fall from that high up. You’re dazed, but he’ll probably be fine. He’ll be back for Kansas. I know he’s not going to miss that.”
One thing Pearl obviously wants to see — besides a healthy team for a change — is more consistent production from Maze at the point-guard spot.
“Bobby was effective (against the Ragin’ Cajuns), but his play has leveled off some,” Pearl said. “He has had some tough matchups … and the kid from Kansas, (Sherron) Collins, is one of the best players in the country.
“Bobby has to pick up his play. I’ve seen what he’s capable of, but his play needs to pick up at both ends of the floor.”
Pearl also expressed concern with Hopson’s streaky outside shot.
The high school All-American from Hopkinsville, Ky., had nine points against Louisiana on 3-of-7 shooting — 0-for-4 from 3-point range.
“I’m concerned about Scotty’s perimeter shooting,” Pearl said. “He had one that was about a foot short. It’s a concern. They’re going to start giving him those looks and I hope he makes them pay.
“I think a lot of it has to do with shot preparation. I don’t want them to be tentative.”
One newcomer who shows no signs of being tentative is Negedu.
He’s receiving about 10 minutes of playing time off the bench and Pearl says the freshman is pushing sophomore center Brian Williams for more time.
“I like the 10 minutes he’s giving us and I like his energy,” Pearl said. “If he’s not playing, he’s not ready and his attitude isn’t right, we don’t beat Georgetown (90-78 on Nov. 28).
“Georgetown is ranked eighth or ninth in the country right now and their only loss is to Tennessee. Without Emmanuel Negedu, we don’t beat them.”