NASHVILLE — Be ready. No matter what, be ready.
That philosophy is serving Tennessee’s Quinton Chievous well.
“In this system,’’ Chievous said Thursday at Bridgestone Arena, “you can play 20 minutes one game and the next game you sit.
“You’ve always got to be ready when your number’s called. You don’t know what can happen.’’
Or in Chievous’ case, you can sit for nine consecutive games waiting for your number to be called. That happened in January when SEC play began.
Then his number started getting called again and coach Cuonzo Martin keeps calling it.
Thursday Chievous got a lot done in 13 minutes to help the Vols tough out a 69-53 win over Mississippi State at the SEC tournament.
He scored a career-high 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. Those are just the tangible stats. Not all his contributions are always measurable.
“Energy,’’ said UT assistant coach Jon Harris. “That’s the biggest thing. He plays with fire and plays with passion.’’
For a guy who was a ghost in January, the redshirt freshman is a lion in March. Five days before this career high he had another, seven points and five boards in the Senior Day win over Missouri that kept UT’s NCAA tournament hopes alive.
With unfinished business here at Bridgestone, starting with Alabama today, the Vols could certainly use a continued boost of Chievous energy.
“I just try to go in every game the same,’’ Chievous said, “and just do what the team needed to get the win.’’
There is, in fact, a relationship between whether or not Chievous goes in the game and whether or not his team gets a win.
In his nine-game bench ride, the Vols were 3-6. They’ve won nine of 10 since he re-emerged at South Carolina on Feb. 10. Coincidence?
“Of course,’’ Chievous said, “anybody who sits nine or 10 games is going to get down a little bit.’’
The thought that the coaching staff had lost confidence or interest in him, “never crossed my mind,” he said, “I just try to stay positive.’’
It wasn’t the first time Chievous had been benched.
He grew up in Chicago with his mother, but in the sixth grade went to Columbia, Mo., to live with his
dad, Derrick Chievous, the career scoring leader at Missouri and a former NBA player.
But there was no basketball except on the playground.
“He wouldn’t let me play (at school) until I got my act right,’’ Chievous said.
“I was a troublemaker. I wasn’t doing my work.’’
Father and son continued to butt heads and the son’s act never got straight. So after his freshman year, he moved back to mom in Chicago as the only option to get into organized basketball.
At Notre Dame High School in Niles, Ill., he finally found a niche and became a recruit.
Tennessee vs Mississippi State, March 14, 2013
Chievous tries to keep in daily contact with his dad, who’s still in Columbia. Derrick watches videotape and offers suggestions, on both the physical and mental aspects of the game.
“He’s a great role model,’’ Chievous said.
So is the son.
“It’s so easy,’’ Harris said, “to get discouraged and be a cancer in the locker room.
“He didn’t give up. It was never about him. It was always about the other guys. He was always motivated.’’
Tennessee is better because of it.
Mike Strange may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.