But it wasn’t long after Hall donned the number that he became aware of its significance in Vols basketball history.
“Back in the day, Allan Houston was the biggest deal in Tennessee basketball,’’ Hall said Monday. “Then he was a superstar with the New York Knicks.
“We all respect his reputation here, for sure.’’
Hall wondered aloud if this would be his last season wearing the No. 20 for the Vols with Monday’s announcement that Houston’s jersey will be retired in a March 6 ceremony prior to UT’s game with Kentucky at Thompson-Boling Arena.
When informed that Houston had given his blessing for Hall to finish his career with the number, Hall said he might change his number to honor Houston, anyway.
“I’ll try to carry out the number as good as I can,’’ Hall said. “But he deserves to have this number retired.’’
Hall would like to be doing more to honor the No. 20 on the floor this season.
A foot injury that put Hall in a walking boot late in fall camp left him the odd man out of the rotation at the post.
Hall has played sparingly in UT’s past two games, and there’s no guarantee he’ll see the floor when the Vols play at Auburn on Thursday (TV: 9 p.m., ESPN2).
“This season has been as hard on Kenny as any because he had the anticipation to play,’’ UT coach Bruce Pearl said. “I think his foot injury was a factor, and now Brian (Williams) and John (Fields) are ahead of him playing with the urgency you often see from seniors.’’
Pearl said that being out of the rotation hasn’t prevented Hall from having a valuable presence.
“Kenny hit five out of six free throws in our win against Belmont in the NIT,’’ Pearl said. “Without those shots, we don’t go to New York.
“It’s his job to stay right and ready, and there’s no question he can be a factor in more outcomes this season.’’
Pearl said Hall’s role is expected to increase significantly next season with Williams and Fields graduating.
“Kenny will show some perimeter abilities to shoot the ball next year that we’re all excited about,’’ Pearl said. “As soon as we get Kenny more explosive, and get him to practice and play with greater intensity and energy, he’ll become a very productive player.’’
Hall admits it’s hard not having a spot in the rotation.
“It might have been one of the toughest pills I’ve had to swallow in my basketball career,’’ he said. “It’s not something I wanted to deal with or go through, but the fact is I’ve got to do it, and it is what it is.
“At the end of the day, it’s a team thing, and we all have our roles. Right now, my role is to stay ready and help get the other guys ready to play.’’
Hall weighed 210 pounds as a freshman at UT and now is up to 225. He said his goal is to play between 235 and 240 pounds next season.
“It’s hard to add weight during the season because of all the conditioning and running we’re doing,’’ Hall said. “But when I do get my chances, I’ll do something with them.
“Any time you see me on the court, it’s a meaningful moment to me, and I’ll play every play like it’s my last.’’
Williams, who goes against Hall every day in practice, said the sophomore is handling the situation as well as anyone could.
“Kenny works hard when the lights aren’t on, and that’s what it takes to be successful,’’ Williams said. “He’s our best low-post scorer, and I guarantee you he will be a star here.’’
The Flat Top: Vols junior Scotty Hopson revealed that his barber sold him on his current flat-top hair style by dropping Allan Houston’s name.
“Allan Houston was an influence on my haircut,’’ Hopson said. “The guy who cut my hair suggested the old-school flat top and told me Allan Houston wore it when he was at Tennessee.’’
Short Practice: Pearl said there was a strategy behind him limiting Monday’s practice to an hour.
“It’s a long season,’’ Pearl said. “Starting Thursday (at Auburn), we’ll play three games in six days.
“We went as hard for an hour as we’ve gone in a long time. It was a tremendous conditioning burn.’’
Tobias Out: UT freshman Tobias Harris, named the SEC’s freshman of the week earlier Monday, didn’t practice with the team because of the ankle injury he suffered Saturday against Ole Miss.
“Tobias will be day to day,’’ Pearl said. “He probably won’t practice (today).’’
Harris said he rolled his ankle with just under 13 minutes remaining in the Vols’ 74-57 victory at Ole Miss.
Harris returned to the game, finishing with a team-high 12 rebounds.