Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said it’s too soon to tell if the Vols will return to their “Controlled Chaos’’ style of basketball next season.
Regardless of whether UT elects to press or play half-court basketball, there’s one thing he is intent to change.
“There will be a different level of physicality in our play, and in our training,’’ Pearl said. “We only had a couple of guys that were willing to take charges, and that’s something that will change.’’
Pearl’s personnel could change, too, as junior Tyler Smith mulls over his decision to stay at UT or declare himself eligible for the NBA Draft.
“I think Tyler should go through the process, but I don’t think Tyler will make a decision before he has all the facts,’’ Pearl said. “This year, I’m going to recommend Tyler goes through the process and goes to work out with some teams and take advantage of the (eligibility) rules.
“If he can get himself comfortably in the first round, then I really think he should consider coming out.’’
Pearl said he will get juniors Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince evaluated on their draft stock and get feedback from NBA personnel administrators.
Pearl began individual meetings with players Monday.
“We’ve shifted gears, as it has started to be about them as individuals, and not about the team,’’ Pearl said. “I want to see where they are at.’’
The Vols will add signee Kenny Hall (6-foot-8, 215, power forward) to the team next season, and Pearl said UT would be interested in signing a point guard this spring.
Pearl’s not allowed to comment on recruits, but some junior college guards the Vols are recruiting according to reports are:
- Melvin Goins, 5-11, 185, Mount San Jacinto (Ca.) JC.
- Rico Pickett, 6-3, 185, Miami Dade CC (played a season at Alabama)
- Malcolm Armstead, 6-0, 195, Chipola (Fla.) JC
“We need a guard that will give us some quickness and versatility,’’ said Pearl, who was forced to move 6-4 swing man Josh Tabb to point guard this season.
“I feel like we need someone that can defensively compete, and keep someone out of the lane and get to the rim,’’ he said. “We’d like it to be someone who can make an impact.’’
Pearl said the Vols best penetrators this season were off the front line.
“Our best breakdown players off the bounce this season were Tyler and J.P. (Prince), from the 3 and 4 positions,’’ he said.
Pearl said he looks forward to continued improvement from the rest of his backcourt players.
“Our young two guards will get better, quicker and tougher,’’ Pearl said. “I think Bobby (Maze) will get better at breaking defenses down as he gets stronger.’’
Pearl was encouraged by Cameron Tatum’s improved play toward the end of the year. The redshirt freshman grew stronger and got increased playing time as he recovered from offseason knee surgery.
“As Cameron gets healthier and stronger, he can become more effective defensively,’’ Pearl said. “Renaldo (Woolridge) showed us in Orlando he can play, making three 3s against Georgetown.
“He’ll get stronger and he’ll learn to use his strength’’
Pearl said Emmanuel Negedu learned a great deal playing behind Smith this season.
“Emmanuel is a very effective player,’’ Pearl said. “We wanted him to learn the system behind Tyler and get his feet wet this season.’’
Pearl said throughout this season he was impressed with Scotty Hopson’s progression.
“Scotty has great upside,’’ Pearl said. “He’s going to get a lot stronger. He can get in the lane, and now he’ll be able to finish in the lane.’’
Pearl said he expects all of his roster players to return, with the possible exception of Smith.
Still, it’s too early to tell if the Vols will be quick enough to play the pressing style Pearl prefers.
“I don’t have enough scholarships to change the way we play drastically,’’ he said, “but if we can add a little more quickness, and I think our guys in the offseason can get quicker, and then maybe be able to utilize some of the length.’’
Pearl said he is eager to get started in the offseason next week.
“By far, this is the largest group of kids I’ve had returning,’’ Pearl said. “This will be as important of an offseason as we’ve had at Tennessee.’’