Senior wing Josh Richardson is coming off a spectacular post-season last March that saw him average 19.3 points in four NCAA Tournament games. He built on that momentum in the Rocky Top League, earning MVP honors while leading his team to the title with a 35.7 points-per-game average.
As explosive as Richardson was during RTL play, however, he was outscored by two Vol newcomers. Freshman Detrick Mostella led the league at 39.0 points per game and JUCO signee Kevin Punter finished second at 37.8. Another JUCO signee, Devon Baulkman, finished just four-tenths of a point behind Richardson at 35.3, giving the Vols a 1-2-3-4 sweep of Rocky Top scoring honors.
Of course, these numbers would be meaningless if the guys were jacking up 40 shots per game to compile them. They weren't. Check it out:
Mostella nailed 50.3 percent from the field and a sizzling 41.7 percent (35 of 84) from 3. Punter hit 45.3 from the field and 35.8 percent (19 of 53) from behind the arc. Richardson made 50 percent from the field and 36.7 percent (22 of 60) from 3. Baulkman connected on 46.8 from the field and 35.6 percent (32 of 90) from 3-point range.
Any discussion of Vol wings must include Armani Moore. The 6-foot-5 junior's strength, toughness and leaping ability make him an ideal fit for new coach Donnie Tyndall's pressing defense. Moore's offense – long a weakness – seems to be coming around. He averaged 29.2 points per game in the Rocky Top League, ranking seventh among all scorers.
Moore shot an impressive 52.4 percent from the field in RTL play, including a surprising 40.6 percent (13 of 32) from beyond the arc. He was incredible in a 45-point Game 3 outing – sinking his first 15 shots en route to finishing 18 of 21, including 5 of 6 from 3.
In case you still aren't impressed with Tennessee's wing corps, consider this: A former five-star is itching to get on the court after missing most of the 2013-14 season and all of the RTL season due to shoulder surgery. Rated America's No. 2 shooting guard by Scout as a high school senior two years ago, 6-foot-6 Robert Hubbs gives Tennessee six quality players at the wing positions.
Naturally, fans wonder if Hubbs is as good as he was before the injury. The answer: No. He's better.
"I make sure I pick him first on my team every day (in pickup games) because he can score the ball so effortlessly," Richardson said. "He's working on his defense and his footwork, so he should be good this year."
To recap: Tennessee's wing corps consists of four guys who averaged at least 35 points per game in the Rocky Top League, a defensive whiz who averaged 29.2 in the RTL and a five-star recruit rated the second-best shooting guard in the Class of 2013.
"We definitely have a real explosive backcourt," Hubbs told IT. "I like playing with these guys. We're going to get up and down the court. There's going to be a lot of highlights this year; I can tell you that."
Punter thinks so, too.
"We've got a lot of people that can put it in," he said. "We're long and athletic and can score the ball. I'm just excited. I'm excited to see how everything's going to jell together. I know it's going to jell together great. I'm ready to start playing."
The problem is mathematical: With six wings and only two spots for them in the starting lineup, four of Tennessee's best players project to be on the bench at any given time. Or do they? In addition to the 2 (shooting guard) and 3 (small forward), Moore has played some 4 (power forward). So has Richardson. So has Hubbs ... in high school.
"We've got some versatile guys that can slide over to the 4," Richardson said. "Armani could do it. I could do it. Devon Baulkman could do it. Robert Hubbs could do it. It should be fun in practice every day this year, and when the season comes people are going to be surprised."
Richardson also has played some at the 1 position (point) during his career. Punter and Baulkman essentially played the point for their RTL teams, although both are more comfortable at shooting guard.
Tennessee's surplus of talented wings probably means the Vols will play a four-guard lineup a good bit of the time. That way four of the six wings can be on the floor simultaneously.
"There's definitely going to be four guards on the floor a lot," Hubbs said. "We can all play just about 1 through 4, so it's going to be a sight to see."
Moore thinks the absence of dominating big men will create more minutes for the wings.
"I feel like our guard play will be really strong this year, especially with our bigs not being those banging-type big guys," he said. "We've really got to have some good guard play."
Although the three wing signees are challenging for his minutes, Moore admits being impressed with the newcomers.
"Baulkman has a really shifty handle," Moore said. "He can really shoot the ball, and he's aggressive going to the rim, as well.
"KP (Punter) is really an away-from-the-rim type player but he knows how to use his body to wiggle through the lane and finish. He's really one of those guys who has a 100-percent mid-range jumper. Every time he puts it up I think it's going in."
Then there's Mostella, whose flashy repertoire consists mainly of long-range 3s and highlight-reel dunks.
"Detrick is very explosive," Moore said. "He'll pretty much go get anything, and he loves to dunk."
Richardson also likes what he sees from the three new wings.
"Punter can score the ball," Richardson said. "He has a crazy mid-range game. He's able to step out there from 3 a little bit more, and he's been working on his game a lot.
"Baulkman is real versatile. He can dribble the ball real good. He's a guy who can play the 1, 2, 3 or 4.
"Mostella is just a crazy athlete. He does some stuff that I couldn't even dream of doing – the dunks and stuff like that. He's a confident kid, and I think he can help us this year."
Actually, the Vols have a seventh wing. Ian Chiles, a graduate transfer, played mostly shooting guard at IUPUI last winter but projects to play the point for the Vols.
So, how will Tennessee distribute playing time among so many wing-type players?
Best guess: Chiles will split the point-guard duties with Baulkman and Punter. Punter will split the shooting-guard duties with Mostella and Baulkman. Richardson will share the small-forward duties with Hubbs and Moore. Hubbs will share the power-forward spot with Moore and the three freshman forwards – Jabari McGhee, Willie Carmichael and Tariq Owens. McGhee will share the center duties with Eric McKnight, a graduate transfer from Florida Gulf Coast.
Carving up the playing time among Richardson, Hubbs, Baulkman, Punter, Mostella and Moore will be interesting. Watching this group of high-scoring wings carve up opposing defenses should be even more interesting.