February 4, 2008

Chism improving rebounding, leadership

Wayne Chism believes his improved inside performance in Southeastern Conference play is due in part to his gradually becoming a bit of a team leader for seventh-ranked Tennessee, which hosts two-time defending national champion Florida Tuesday night (9, ESPN).
"Getting everybody ready to play," Chism said is the key. "Being out there and being a little taste of a leader, but not a whole lot because I got three seniors Chris Lofton, Jordan Howell and JaJuan Smith that are doing a pretty good job at it."
Nearly to the midway point in SEC play, Chism has averaged 10.6 points and 8.4 rebounds in seven league games. Included in that stretch was a dominating, 18-point, 18-rebound performance last month against Vanderbilt. By picking up the slack during the medical absence of fellow sophomore Duke Crews, Chism thinks the duo should be even better positioned to emerge as a key presence inside for the Vols (19-2, 6-1 SEC) and to improve the inside scoring punch that coach Bruce Pearl said has been "fair" thus far.
"We lacked it, but I picked it up for (Crews)," Chism said. "So I carried it for a little while, but now he's back and we're going to carry each other."
Wondering whether or not his season would end prematurely, Crews was thrilled to return to the team late last month in any capacity. He has scored 19 points and corralled 13 rebounds in 45 minutes of play since returning Jan. 26 against Georgia.
"One of the biggest things I told coach when they were thinking about allowing me back is just that I would do anything to help the team. I've been through a whole lot this year, with the suspension, and the ankle, and the heart thing," said the 6-foot-7, 233-pounder from Hampton, Va. "It's been a tough year for me, so it was basically to the point where all I wanted to do was play.
"Anything I can do. If it's to go out here and grab 50 rebounds and don't score a point, I'll be happy to just be on the floor. That's just been what I've been trying to do. We've been playing some big, physical teams, so I've just been trying to hold those big fellas off the glass, clean up when I can and then let our guards pick up the rest."
CHILDRESS UPDATE: Junior forward Ryan Childress said he will be ready to go against the Gators but at less than 100 percent. Childress has been battling the flu and did not make the trip to Starkville, Miss., Saturday night for the Vols' 76-71 win over the Bulldogs.
"I'm just trying to get back. I don't have much of my wind right now, but we're going to have a big game, and we've just to go out there and give Florida all we've got," Childress said. "I'll be able to go. My wind isn't obviously where I want it to be, but if they need me, I'll obviously be ready for as many minutes as my wind will let me go."


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