Tennessee hoops dealing with preseason issues at point guard
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes will try to solve the Volunteers' point guard issue ahead of his debut season in Knoxville.
Freshman Lamonte Turner, the lone pure point guard on the roster, has enrolled but is still awaiting word on his eligibility. While Turner's status remains in limbo, the Volunteers are considering who else could play the position.
Senior forward Armani Moore is a versatile player who worked at point guard in his freshman season. Senior Kevin Punter practiced at point guard during last year's preseason before spending the entire season in his natural role as a shooting guard. Other players also could get a look.
''There are a lot of ways you can play this,'' Barnes said Friday. ''We're not going to get hung up on one guy's got to be the point guard. We're going to do whatever we have to do.''
With or without a proven point guard, Barnes believes this team can succeed. Barnes reached the NCAA Tournament 19 of the last 20 seasons, a stretch that includes three seasons at Clemson and 17 at Texas.
Barnes disputes the notion that he's inheriting a rebuilding situation at Tennessee, even though he's the Vols' third coach in as many seasons. He credited former Tennessee coaches Donnie Tyndall and Cuonzo Martin for assembling a roster of guys who ''understand work'' and ''want to win.''
''We're not rebuilding,'' Barnes said. ''We're not. We've told those guys that from the beginning. I've coached teams with less talent, and we've done pretty good. I've coached teams with less talent that have made it to the NCAA Tournament.''
Barnes later clarified that remark by saying he probably should say he'd coached teams that had ''less skill'' rather than less talent and added that ''I don't know if we've ever had teams that we didn't think had talent.''
Barnes praised Punter and sophomore guard Detrick Mostella for the improvement they've shown this summer.
''(Punter) has been a coach's dream,'' Barnes said. ''He's worked hard. He's changed his shot. He felt like he needed to do that. He knows we're going to depend on him a lot to handle the ball and play the point. He's really put a lot of time on the gym.''
Mostella is trying to improve upon a season in which he averaged just 3.4 points and 11.7 minutes.
''He's been terrific,'' Barnes said. ''I will tell you, we gave him every reason in the world if he wanted to transfer. We basically opened the door up for him and said, `Here's what we've heard. You can leave right now.' He said to me, `Coach, we know who you've coached. You're the kind of coach, your staff's the kind of staff that I want to play for.'''
Barnes also credited freshman forward Adrmiral Schofield for losing 30-35 pounds while adding four inches to his wingspan.
''Before he eats, he takes a picture of it and sends it to (strength coach) Garrett (Medenwald), and says `Is this OK?''' Barnes said.