Josh Richardson not worried about overcrowding in UT's backcourt

Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) shoots a 3-pointer during the second round of the 2013 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament against Mississippi State at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Thursday, March 14, 2013. Tennessee won 69-53 over Mississippi State. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Josh Richardson (1) shoots a 3-pointer during the second round of the 2013 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament against Mississippi State at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Thursday, March 14, 2013. Tennessee won 69-53 over Mississippi State. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

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

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Comments » 13

Bobsrazor writes:

Depth will allow everyone to play 110% all the time, knowing that there is another talented player that can step in and keep up the pressure.

It will also allow players having a down night to step off the court and let a teammate step it up.

As long as there is a team mentality, the wins will come and playing time won't be an issue.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Well BR I like what you said. It's also what Richardson was saying. The minutes will take care of themselves. Play aggressive. Play smart. Play together. Hah. The 3 P's would make a great sermon.

I believe this coming year will show a strong bench like we've never had at UT (I hope the same will show in football). The last year when Maze ran the offense was pretty good but this year may be a better squad. That may not show in an elite 8 but it might. That's not a prediction. Hope maybe

Good job BQ

brod writes:

richardson is a good player. he doesn't play point very well, but i don't see him losing a lot of minutes to the newcomers.

richvol writes:

Four guards are great and will allow full court pressing but playing Maymon and Stokes together is a must. The inside passing will be terrific.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to richvol:

Four guards are great and will allow full court pressing but playing Maymon and Stokes together is a must. The inside passing will be terrific.

BUT you may see foul troubles at times and 4 guards may be the answer. Especially since some have rebounding ability. Or maybe Ndiaye will be the answer. We don't have a lot of bigs on the bench this year but we do have some good sized guards.

johnlg00 writes:

Several good comments here. There should be little question that the Vols have one of the most intriguing collections of parts they have ever had. The potential exists to play fast or slow, full-court or half-court, man-to-man or zone. Martin absolutely must use his imagination to come up with specific game plans tailored to each of at least a couple of defined units to play the desired style. Some of the guys may be on both units, but everybody should know that "when I am on the floor with THIS group, we are going to play THIS way."

At minimum, Martin needs to create a "jumbo" package with, say, Maymon, Stokes, Richardson, McRae, and Barton. That specific group will drill on half-court, inside-out, patterned offense, heavy on the post-ups with shooters on the wings. They should have some aggressive out-of-bounds plays. Thompson, Hubbs, and maybe even Davis could see duty in that alignment as well. This team could play zone defense some of the time as well.

Then they need a "fast" package, a version of last year's 4-guard look, only on overdrive. This team could include any of the guys on the other unit, but only one post man would play at a time. Guys like Moore, Edwards, and Chievous could play important roles on a pressing, running team that went all out for two or three minutes once or twice a half.

It is important to create the awareness that there is a REASON why we are playing in a particular way with a particular group of players. If we are going to play slow, we must absolutely take care of the ball, there are only certain shots we are going to try, and we will get called for a shot-clock violation before we do something stupid that causes an open-court turnover.

If we are going to play fast, everybody must be looking to push the ball up court, preferably by the pass. Players need to know what lanes they are going to run, what ball-handler wants the ball where, to do whatever they can to push the offensive tempo. Drive the ball to the basket at every opportunity and follow every drive all the way to the hoop. Shooters should find the circle for secondary-break 3-pointers.

Again, the point is to get players to play by INTENT instead of INSTINCT. You are going to impose your view of the game on the opponent, using all the resources at your command. When players and staff learn to THINK like this, they might be amazed how often they PLAY like that.

bUTch_please writes:

I'm ready to see a team with a well-rounded personality..balancing defensive effectiveness with a deliberate, offensive hunger. The days of waiting for "the next piece" to fall into place have passed. This is a strong group that appears to be ready to enter the "band of brothers" plateau...would be a great year to take the floor with an enthusiastic abandon. Time to kick down the doors to the dance and go kiss the homecoming queen.

Zo VOLS!

bUTch_please writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Several good comments here. There should be little question that the Vols have one of the most intriguing collections of parts they have ever had. The potential exists to play fast or slow, full-court or half-court, man-to-man or zone. Martin absolutely must use his imagination to come up with specific game plans tailored to each of at least a couple of defined units to play the desired style. Some of the guys may be on both units, but everybody should know that "when I am on the floor with THIS group, we are going to play THIS way."

At minimum, Martin needs to create a "jumbo" package with, say, Maymon, Stokes, Richardson, McRae, and Barton. That specific group will drill on half-court, inside-out, patterned offense, heavy on the post-ups with shooters on the wings. They should have some aggressive out-of-bounds plays. Thompson, Hubbs, and maybe even Davis could see duty in that alignment as well. This team could play zone defense some of the time as well.

Then they need a "fast" package, a version of last year's 4-guard look, only on overdrive. This team could include any of the guys on the other unit, but only one post man would play at a time. Guys like Moore, Edwards, and Chievous could play important roles on a pressing, running team that went all out for two or three minutes once or twice a half.

It is important to create the awareness that there is a REASON why we are playing in a particular way with a particular group of players. If we are going to play slow, we must absolutely take care of the ball, there are only certain shots we are going to try, and we will get called for a shot-clock violation before we do something stupid that causes an open-court turnover.

If we are going to play fast, everybody must be looking to push the ball up court, preferably by the pass. Players need to know what lanes they are going to run, what ball-handler wants the ball where, to do whatever they can to push the offensive tempo. Drive the ball to the basket at every opportunity and follow every drive all the way to the hoop. Shooters should find the circle for secondary-break 3-pointers.

Again, the point is to get players to play by INTENT instead of INSTINCT. You are going to impose your view of the game on the opponent, using all the resources at your command. When players and staff learn to THINK like this, they might be amazed how often they PLAY like that.

+10.

Let see if they can roll up their sleeves and bend the game to their will. Effective use of size, speed and intent combinations would be deadly with this group. Little tired of the "let's go out there and react to the game better than the other guy reacts" stuff.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Ghost_Of_Neyland:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I see what you're saying. What you are calling instinct, I would call conditioned reflex. You practice the mechanical skills of shooting until they are automatic. Then the only things you have to think about are how to get open, how to get the ball, and when to put it up. Once those decisions, informed by intent, are made, the reflexes take over to make the shot. The difference between a soldier and a "native" warrior is that a soldier fights in an army with a variety of people fighting in harmony with each other and according to plans. The warrior runs headlong at the enemy wherever he finds him, risking death or glory on every foray. The soldier wants to survive and advance and would just as soon forego the glory. Use your education, intelligence, and foresight to shape your plans and rely on your training and your natural ability to carry out the specific tasks.

brod writes:

richardson is good enough to get significant minutes on this team even with the incoming talent.

johnlg00 writes:

I think we are on to similar concepts but we may be getting bogged down in semantics or just nuance. I know what I am getting at, and I think I could communicate it to a team; in fact, I have, to a degree. You no doubt feel the same about your own analysis. It doesn't really matter, since there is not a chance in the world that anything we say on here is going to affect how the guys develop and play.

johnlg00 writes:

PS, GON: Jordan became famous for doing all those spontaneous things you referenced; he became GREAT when he learned to rely on teammates and not try to do everything himself. He was the ace-in-the-hole when they needed it, but his teams needed less of that from him when they got better and he learned to trust them. Whatever he may have given up in shooting and scoring volume, he got back by being more efficient, including playing better defense. When that happened, they won as a matter of course, seldom needing anybody's heroics to win most of the time.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Ghost_Of_Neyland:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I am a great believer in players who will do anything possible and ethical to get the job done that needs to be done for a good team to win. Some players have the indefinable gift that demands expression; way too many players only THINK they do. Even the ones who get away with it most of the time know they are usually better off to do it the easy way if possible. I would rather have or be a player who uses every ounce of mental energy to boost my physical ability to make every play that needs to be made in situations that can be shaped in one's favor, once the "shapes" of the game can be reliably intuited. Another analogy I have used in the past is to compare an accomplished martial-artist to a drunken barroom brawler. No point in drawing this out, since much of it is highly subjective anyway. It is enough to say that the precise mix of innate and inculcated qualities in any given set of human variables can only be estimated. One only attempts to reduce randomness in one's favor but no one personal quality or strategy suffices for every case.

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