Bill Justus spoke to Tennessee's basketball team Wednesday night. The topic was the late, great coach Ray Mears, who will be remembered tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena.
It would have helped if Justus also dropped a few pointers on shooting free throws. He was one dead-eye.
I know, free-throw shooting is a boring topic. Free throws are so boring nobody wants to spend hours in a lonely gym practicing them much any more, either.
But it's an appropriate subject on a night to honor Mears. It's a timely subject, too, considering that 37-36 loss at Georgetown 13 days ago.
The Vols toed the line 11 times against the Hoyas, sank three and clanked eight. Do the math.
"It's frustrating that we're leaving points on the board like that,'' sophomore Josh Richardson said Tuesday.
So awful free-throw shooting has already cost UT one win. Hate to be the Christmas Grinch, but I bet it won't be the last.
Tennessee is shooting 62.8 percent, which ranks No. 305 out of 347 Division I teams. Generally, 70 percent is desirable. The Vols have topped 64 percent only twice in seven games.
Mears would have had a thing or two to say about free throws. Five of UT's top 10 career shooters played for him, including Jimmy England and Justus.
They were, in fact, teammates in the late 1960s. England, UT's best ever, finished his career at 88.1 percent, Justus at 84.9.
Drilling free throws isn't as sexy as it once was. When's the last you time you saw free throws on ESPN's Top Plays?
Eight of UT's top 10 career marksmen played from 1987 or earlier. Allan Houston (84.9) was from the early '90s. Only Chris Lofton (84.2 percent) represents the 21st Century.
I asked coach Cuonzo Martin if he thought a player could improve his free-throw shooting.
"I'd like to think so,'' he said. "If you do, you've got to put the time in it.''
That's Lofton. The ultimate self-motivator.
Who would you pick off this team to shoot a one-and-one with the score tied? Skyler McBee is 8-of-8 on the year; Jordan McRae is at 81.3 percent.
Trae Golden is down to 71 percent this year but averaged 82.7 percent over his first two seasons. He gives his pop the credit.
"My dad,'' Golden said. "Every night he'd come home from work and make me shoot free throws in my driveway.
"I had to make 10 free throws before I could go in.''
Free-throw struggles are usually a big man's demon (see Shaquille O'Neal). Jarnell Stokes is wobbling at 50 percent and Kenny Hall at 52.4.
"If you're struggling,'' said Martin, "I don't think you can be successful if you're getting to the line once or twice a game. It ought to be five, six or seven every night.''
That will be a point of emphasis, starting tonight against Wichita State.
Big men can buck the odds. A.W. Davis and Howard Wood were career 80-percent guys. Wayne Chism improved from 55.6 as a sophomore to 75.8 as a senior.
And getting back to Mears, a word on Ernie Grunfeld, No. 10 on the career chart at 78.9 percent.
In his career-high, 43-point game at Kentucky in 1976, Grunfeld was 11-of-11 at the stripe. He even "volunteered" to take two for Bernard King and two more for 22-percent shooter Irv Chatman.
He got away with it, too, in a 90-88 overtime win.
The Grunfeld Deception would be tougher to pull off now with all the TV cameras and replays. The Vols will have to improve the hard way.