Chalk up one for Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin's skills as a talent evaluator.
Quinton Chievous, lightly regarded as a Chicago-area high school senior two years ago, was all over the court in Monday night's 99-57 exhibition defeat of Victory University at Thompson-Boling Arena. The redshirt freshman tied for the team lead in scoring (15 points), led in rebounds (9), ranked second in assists (6) and shared the team lead in steals (3).
Playing power forward at 6-feet-5 and 200 pounds, Chievous was 6 of 9 from the field, including 2 of 2 behind the 3-point arc.
Teammates were visibly impressed.
“When you have a post player knocking down 3s it stretches the defense out,” junior point guard Golden said. “It's easier for me to drive and kick, so he brings a new dimension to everything.... It's hard really to describe his game because one minute I see him playing on the wing as a 3-man and the next minute I see him in the post. He's just really versatile and a big asset to our team right now.”
Basically, Chievous says hustle is his trademark.
“My main thing is just playing hard and doing whatever Coach Martin tells me,” he explained. “If I'm open knock down the shot. As soon as the shot goes up go for the rebound. Anything Coach Martin and the team needs, that's what I'm trying to do.”
After sitting out the entire 2011-12 season, Chievous was understandably excited to perform so well in his first game before Big Orange fans.
“I think it was great playing in TBA … Thompson-Boling Arena ... and just getting a feel for playing in front of the fans,” he said. “I had fun. That was my main thing. I really enjoyed playing with my teammates. I felt like I distributed the ball well to them. At the end of the day we got the win, and I was just happy.”
Junior wing Jordan McRae also contributed 15 points for the Vols, who outscored the Eagles 61-31 in the second half after leading just 38-26 at the break. Freshman Armani Moore hit 4 of 5 shots and added 11 points for Tennessee. Senior center Kenny Hall chipped in 10 points. Golden produced 8 points and 8 assists in 20 turnover-free minutes at the point.
All-America candidate Jarnell Stokes scored 9 points in his 11 minutes of court time. Stokes and Hall (19 minutes) played sparingly so Martin could evaluate 6-foot-9 sophomore Yemi Makanjuola, who posted 6 points, 4 rebounds, an assist and a steal in 18 relief minutes.
The Vols won the backboards 48-31 and produced 24 assists while committing just 8 turnovers. They shot 61.1 percent in the second half and 50.7 for the game. Tennessee connected on a strong 42.9 percent (9 of 21) from 3-point range.
Of all the bright spots Monday night, though, Chievous was the brightest.
“He played with a lot of energy," Martin said. "Q plays hard all the time. Even though he's a guard, he plays the 4 (power forward) for us. The way he shoots the ball, we have an advantage offensively.”
A battler on the boards, Chievous grabbed five of his nine rebounds off the offensive glass. Asked what is needed to be a good offensive rebounder, he replied: “Really, just hustle and hard work. You don't have to be the biggest or the fastest guy. You've just got to have a lot of heart.”
Martin loves that blue-collar mentality, which is why he isn't hesitant to send Chievous under the basket to bang with towering post players.
“He battles big guys, plays extremely hard,” the coach said. “He does a good job fronting the post. He's crashing so hard that it's hard to keep him off the offensive glass. He's a really good post-up guy, as well, so we'll throw it inside to him with bigger guys on him because he can make good plays.”
Tennesssee opens for real Friday night, hosting Kennesaw State. Tipoff is set for 7 o'clock.