Who'll run the offense?

Darius Thompson

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For years Tennessee basketball fans who grumbled "We don't have a point guard" were speaking figuratively. Nowadays they're speaking literally.

With Antonio Barton out of eligibility and rising sophomore Darius Thompson seriously mulling a transfer after getting a release from his scholarship, the Vols have zero point guards currently on scholarship. That's zero as in none … nada … zip.

Rising senior Josh Richardson (6-feet-6) played some point guard as a freshman in 2011-12 but he's much more effective at small forward and shooting guard. Rising junior Armani Moore (6-feet-5) tried to play some point guard as a freshman in 2012-13 but quickly proved incapable. Rising senior Brandon Lopez (6-feet-1) is a walk-on with heart but some limitations.

If Donnie Tyndall's Vols opened the season tomorrow the best bet to play the position might be spring signee Kevin Punter, a 6-foot-4, 170-pounder who earned first-team JUCO All-America honors as a shooting guard last winter. He'd be a fish out of water, however.

"He's good enough with the ball to play some point guard," said Vol assistant Adam Howard, who will oversee Tennessee's backcourt players. "We want to keep him where he feels more comfortable, and that's on the wing. If we got in a pinch he definitely could be serviceable at the point but, hopefully, we'll have some options here where he doesn't have to do that."

One of those options might be newly signed Detrick Mostella, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass. He has the quickness and handle to break down a defense but, like Punter, appears much better suited to shooting guard.

One possibility is now off the board. Rasham Suarez, a 6-foot-3 JUCO point guard from College of Central Florida has elected to honor the scholarship he signed with Southern Miss last November. Tyndall called him "the best point guard in all of junior college" when he signed him last November, prompting speculation that he'd follow Tyndall to Knoxville.

Two intriguing options are Class of 2014 high schoolers who recently secured releases from the teams they signed with last November – Shelton Mitchell and JaQuel Richmond.

Mitchell is a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He signed with Wake Forest last fall but got a release on April 30. He reportedly is considering Cal, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Oregon but there's a chance Tennessee could get its foot in the door.

Richmond is a 6-foot, 170-pounder from Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, N.C.. whose stock has dropped due to academic concerns. He was rated a four-star athlete and ranked as high as No. 51 among all Class of 2014 prospects by Scout at one time but is currently an unranked three-star. He signed with Houston last fall but got a release last week. He is getting attention from Virginia Tech, South Florida and Boston College. He is quite familiar with Tennessee, having visited Knoxville for a Vol camp during the Cuonzo Martin era.

Transfer Ronnie Johnson, a 6-foot, 160-pounder who spent 2012-13 and 2013-14 at Purdue canceled a scheduled visit to The Hill late last week and signed with Houston. As a rising junior transfer from another Div. I school, he would've had to sit out 2014-15 anyway ... still leaving the Vols without a point guard for the season ahead.

There is no prototype for a Tyndall point guard. The guys who played the position for him at Morehead State and Southern Miss came in an assortment of sizes, shapes and skill sets.

"We just look for our type of guy," Howard said. "We've never been a staff to get caught up on size or any of that. If a kid's big enough, tough enough, athletic enough and good enough, we'll take him."

Obviously, finding a point guard with the quickness to create some transition opportunities and play in a three-quarter-court press is vital. Some length is nice, too, but not essential.

"In the press you want guys that are good enough athletes to keep guys in front of them," Howard said. "In the (halfcourt) zone, length helps shrink the floor a little bit. We just try to find the right guy to fit the kind of game Coach Tyndall wants to play."

Assistant coach Chris Shumate, who coached six years at Cincinnati before joining him at Southern Miss last season, says Tyndall's system requires a point guard with a good basketball IQ.

"We want a guy who can be an extension of the coach on the floor, who understands the philosophy, who can see what's going on out on the floor and communicate it to other guys," Shumate said. "It sounds like a cliché but I keep going back to it: He's got to be a tough guy. He's got to dribble the ball when he's tired, defend the ball when he's tired and he's got to produce."

Before he can produce, Tennessee's 2014-15 point guard must appear. Right now the Vols don't have a point guard … literally.

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