Polished gem

Polished gem

You know a guy is raw when he fouls out of his college debut after playing just 13 minutes.

That's what happened to Tennessee's Emmanuel Negedu last November against Chattanooga, proving that the 6-7, 230-pounder from Nigeria needed a lot of polish.

Well, apparently that polish has been applied because Negedu was shining like a Nigerian diamond Monday night in the Rocky Top summer league, scoring 38 points in First Tennessee's 132-129 loss to The News-Sentinel.

Because Tennessee had Tyler Smith at power forward, Negedu served as a backup post as a true freshman last season. He shot a pedestrian 47.2 percent from the floor but led the Vols in free-throw shooting at 80 percent (28 of 35). He attempted just three 3-pointers all season, making one.

Negedu always played hard for the Vols last winter but he didn't always play well. He averaged just 7.2 minutes, 1.9 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. Like most freshmen, he tended to get out of control and exercise questionable judgment at times.

That was not the case Monday night, however. He was confident. He was poised. He was under control. Basically, he was dominant.

Negedu outhustled opponents to score on putbacks. He soared above opponents to score on thunderous dunks. He beat opponents off the dribble to score on slashing drives. He even shocked opponents by nailing three shots from beyond the 3-point arc. Notably, Negedu did much of his damage while being guarded by 6-10, 270-pound Vol teammate Brian Williams.

First Tennessee teammate Rashard Lee, himself a former Vol, believes Monday night's performance was no fluke. He thinks Negedu may be poised to have a breakout year for the 2009-10 Vols.

"He's a really gifted athlete," Lee said, shaking his head emphatically. "He's going to be really good. He has to work on a few things but he's going to be a really good player for UT."

At 6-7, Negedu is a much better fit physically at the 4 (power forward) than the 5 (post position). The question is whether he possesses the outside shooting and ballhandling skills to play away from the basket. Lee believes he does.

"He definitely could play the 4," the former Vol said. "If he gets that outside-15-foot shot to fall he'll be able to get to the basket really easily."

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