"Off the court everything is good ... just like with every one of my other teammates," Melvin Goins said. "But on the court it's business. Once we step between the lines it's business."
No matter which point guard winds up starting, the taxing tempo of Bruce Pearl's system probably means the backup will play almost as many minutes as the starter. That cools the competitive fires a bit.
"It's not so much that I'm competing with him (Maze) for the position; I'm competing with myself," Goins said. "We're going to be playing the best guards and best teams in the nation, so I'm just going out to do my best. Then, at the end of the day, whatever happens happens."
At 5-11 and 195 pounds, Goins is an impressive physical specimen. He will not be outmuscled by opposing guards.
"You can just look at him and tell he's one strong kid," Vol senior Wayne Chism said. "He's fast. He's very athletic, so I can't wait to see what the first game's going to be like, playing with Melvin."
Goins played well in a few pickup games with his UT teammates before undergoing surgery in early October to repair two tears in one of his knees. Chism doesn't put much stock in those pickup performances, however.
"You can see how he does in pickup games but it's different because you're playing against your own team," he said. "When he gets in a real game against another team I think his whole demeanor might change. I really can't wait to see how he plays against another team."
Junior post Brian Williams can't wait, either. He's very impressed with Goins, who was MVP of the Foothill Conference while playing for Mount San Jacinto (Calif.) College last winter.
"He's a great distributor, and that's something we need," Williams said. "He's a great defender. There's a lot of quick guards in the SEC, and I think he can stay in front of a lot of them. I think he's going to help us the most of any addition we've got this year."
All-American Tyler Smith likes what he has seen of Goins, as well.
"Melvin, being the great player he is, will help us set up plays," Smith said. "He's a defensive stopper who guards 94 feet. He's a great on-the-ball defender."
Although he averaged 17.2 points and 4.9 assists per game in junior college last winter, Goins concedes that defense is his greatest strength.
"I believe that a person can't beat you if they can't score," he said. "If they can't score more than you score, they can't win the ball game. I pride myself on defense. It's not technical stuff like on offense, with plays and everything. It's 99 percent will that you want to stop your man and defeat your opponent that way."