Royal pain

Royal pain

One Tennessee basketball player would love to shoulder more of the load this season ... if his shoulders would let him.

That would be J.P. Prince. Clearly hindered following offseason shoulder surgery, he is shooting just 34.6 percent from the field and averaging a mere 3.6 points and 2.0 rebounds per game this season. This is the same guy who shot 57.2 percent last season, with averages of 9.9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

"I think J.P. has more to give at both ends of the floor," head coach Bruce Pearl said this week. "As far as his ballhandling and passing (18 assists, 6 turnovers) he's doing a good job as far as that's concerned. But he can do more for us in almost every other category - scoring, shooting, defending, rebounding.

"If you look at his numbers, you know he's not putting up the kind of numbers he had his first two years."

The coach isn't knocking his 6-8 senior, but merely stating the obvious. Physically, Prince isn't nearly the player in 2009-10 that he was in 2007-08 or 2008-09.

"I think you have to look to J.P.'s health," Pearl said. "He's had back-to-back offseason shoulder surgeries, and so physically how much has he been able to get done as far as his strength, his overall quickness and his core?"

Not enough, clearly. Given Prince's health issues, a redshirt season could've been useful this season ... except that wasn't an option. He already burned his redshirt season after transferring to UT from Arizona three years ago.

"He's a fifth-year guy, so he doesn't have a redshirt," Pearl noted. "He's tried to play through all of these injuries. Could he have been a sixth-year (medical redshirt)? It would've taken an injury that would've taken him out, and then there would've been a long appeal process."

Prince started this season's first five games at small forward before surrendering the first-team job to sophomore Cameron Tatum. There is still time for Prince to rally and make his final year on The Hill something special.

"This is his senior year that he's pointing towards," Pearl noted. "We're hoping that, as he gets further and further away from his last surgery, his strength, power, quickness and agility will all improve, so he can feel more physically comfortable and be more productive."

One obvious change in Prince's game this year is that he's no longer playing above the rim. After making dozens of dynamic dunks the previous two seasons, he is rarely jamming this year.

"He's getting to spots where he'd throw things down last year," Pearl said. "Now he's not dunking them. He's getting shots blocked he would not get blocked (last year). We certainly need J.P. to get back into form - at both ends of the floor - for us to have a championship season."

InsideTennessee.com Recommended Stories