Robert Hubbs III on Rocky Top League, Knoxville
Blowing out the match before a brushfire could be lit, Josh Richardson shrugged off the question.
“I can’t worry about minutes or nothing like that,” the Tennessee junior said. “Whoever is playing well is going to be on the court, I guess. It can be anybody.”
Richardson was a mainstay in coach Cuonzo Martin’s backcourt last season, averaging 30.7 minutes per game. He was one of three Vols to start all 33 games, joining SEC player-of-the-year candidate Jordan McRae and All-SEC second-team selection Jarnell Stokes.
His backcourt turf, Richardson will find, is going to be a tad more crowded in 2013-14.
Tennessee’s offseason has seen a minor exodus and major influx of guards. Gone are Trae Golden, a transfer, and Skylar McBee, a graduate. Coming to town are five-star freshman scorer Robert Hubbs, freshman point guard Darius Thompson and senior Memphis transfer Antonio Barton.
Jordan McRae on Robert Hubbs, the PRTL
That’s all in addition to returnees McRae, D’Montre Edwards, Armani Moore and walk-on Brandon Lopez.
If three is a crowd, what’s eight?
“I’m not worried about,” Richardson said of the overcrowding. “We’re all teammates. We’re all family.”
Richardson’s 1,556 career minutes played are second on the Tennessee roster only to McRae’s 1,846. His 358 points scored, meanwhile, is fourth behind Jeronne Maymon (459), Stokes (571) and McRae (829).
Despite scoring 43 points in a Rocky Top League outing at Christian Academy of Knoxville on Wednesday night, Richardson isn’t known for his offense. He earns his minutes with defense and hustle. The scoring comes on occasion; he posted double figures in nine games last season.
But the new-look UT backcourt could change Martin’s minute structure.
Barton is expected to walk in and take over Golden’s starting role at point. Hubbs is a gifted scorer who will compete for Richardson’s starting spot. Thompson is a smooth ballhandler who Martin raves about.
McRae, of course, will get more play than a kindergarten yard.
Then there’s Richardson. He dismissed the need to find a niche and stick to it for minutes, instead saying, “I just need to get my defensive positioning better and bring a little more scoring to the court. I have to be able to hit open shots.”
One solution to the congestion is the four-guard offense. Martin’s lineup turned small midyear last season. Success followed, including wins in eight of UT’s final nine regular-season games.
“We haven’t even talked about next year,” Richardson said. “I liked it. It’s a mismatch for other teams, but it can go either way.”
As can those backcourt minutes.
Next Level Training 116, Rice Buick GMC 111: Hubbs finished with 18 for Next Level, which was paced by Ryan Westbrook’s 36 points. Richardson scored 43 to go with 41 from Moore for Rice Buick.
Knoxville News Sentinel 96, Choice Spine 92: Former UT walk-on Galen Campbell scored 27 in the win.
Campus Lights 121, DeRoyal Industries 113: Edwards scored 43 as Campus Lights overcame 45 points from McRae.
Championship Change: Next week’s Rocky Top League championship game has been moved from Wednesday to Tuesday (6 p.m.) at CAK.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn