Tennessee sorting through point guard options

High atop new Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall’s list of priorities is finding a point guard, which makes summer skills sessions of paramount importance.

Unfortunately for the Vols, the man Tyndall expects to claim the starting job, IUPUI transfer Ian Chiles, is on the sidelines after undergoing surgery to repair a hernia. Tyndall expects Chiles to be ready for the Summer Two session, but until then, Tyndall has been forced to consider other options.

“I certainly hope and expect that Ian Chiles can play there at least part time,” Tyndall said. “After that, it’s what I’ve heard many times over the years—good coaches tweak their system or style to their personnel. So it may be a situation where a guy like [junior college transfer Kevin] Punter or [senior] Josh Richardson has to initiate offense and we do a few things to keep it simple and keep them from being under duress and exposed to ball pressure.

“A guy like Richardson would be second [behind Chiles] in my mind. Punter might be third. If a guy’s a tough nut and willing to bust his tail, we’ll be able to put him in a situation where he can run our offense.”

After only two basketball-related workouts, Tyndall has also identified another option. That would be 6-1 senior walk-on Brandon Lopez, a veteran of 31 career games, 17 of those coming in 2012-13.

“I think you can play Brandon Lopez three or four minutes a half,” Tyndall said. “He can be safe with the ball. Our players respect him. I could see him getting six, seven, eight minutes a game, two assists, one turnover, maybe make a couple of foul shots.

“He’s a senior and he’s paid his dues. One thing that stands out to me about the kid—when you walk in the gym for workouts, he’s a guy who’s there early getting shots up. Every day he’s busting his tail and giving great effort. I think we’ll end up trusting him a little bit.”

Tyndall would prefer Richardson focus on scoring, because he thinks Richardson, a star last March in the Vols’ NCAA tournament run to the Sweet 16 when he averaged 19.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists, can take his game to an even higher level.

“He’s a guy that has a nice base about him,” Tyndall said. “When he transfers the ball or drives it, he’s low and compact, not stiff and upright. He plays in straight lines, north and south, where he can get into the paint. He’s been in a program, he’s more detail-oriented, his game is compact.”

Tyndall plans on giving Richardson every opportunity to score by getting him in space and letting him explode to the rim. But as Richardson showed last season, he’s become a more than capable perimeter shooter, which makes his north and south game all the more effective.

“He’s really shooting the ball exceptionally well right now,” Tyndall said. “He’s shooting with a lot of confidence. He’s unselfish, and he’s not gonna shoot a bunch of bad balls, but I want him playing with a swagger and a confidence.”

Tyndall continues to be impressed by 6-8 freshman Willie Carmichael, who’s already added nine pounds to his 180-pound frame. And Tyndall also likes Armani Moore, a player he recruited in his first year at Southern Miss.

“He’ll be that mismatch four man that we’ve always had [at Morehead State and Southern Miss],” Tyndall said. “You talk about a guy that goes hard and competes. He wants to be a good player. I really like him.”

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