KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Tennessee's lack of proven point guards is causing Josh Richardson to adjust to a new role in his senior year.
Richardson, a shooting guard for much of his college career, will likely open the season as Tennessee's main point guard. It's a shift in responsibility for the Volunteers' only returning starter, but Richardson welcomes the move.
"I'm comfortable," Richardson said. "I feel like I can get the ball up the court any time I want to."
The Vols don't have many other options.
Tennessee has no true point guards on scholarship. For much of the offseason, Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall discussed giving the job to junior-college transfer Kevin Punter, a shooting guard who said he had never played point guard before.
But when Tennessee faced NAIA school Pikeville in its opening exhibition game Monday, Richardson was handling the ball instead, with Punter at shooting guard. Richardson had 15 points, five assists and three turnovers in Tennessee's 80-62 victory.
"One day we just kind of threw Josh out there, and he was pretty solid," Tyndall said. "He embraces that role more than maybe I thought he would. It puts the ball in our best player's hands more often. I think everybody could see we really don't have a natural point guard."
A twist of fate led to Richardson's position switch.
Richardson said he hurt his right wrist a few weeks ago, and it was bothering him one day when he attempted to shoot.
"So I said, 'Coach, I've just got to play point guard today and pass,' " Richardson said. "Since then, I've been playing it predominantly."
The Vols need a big season from Richardson, the lone player on the roster who averaged over five points per game last season. They'd love to see him build on his success in last season's NCAA tournament, when he averaged 19.3 points per game to help Tennessee reach the regional semifinals.
Richardson primarily played point guard his senior year in high school, and he occasionally was used at that position while coming off the bench his freshman year at Tennessee. The 6-foot-6 senior from Edmond, Oklahoma, believes he can get teammates involved in the offense without hindering his own scoring ability.
"I feel like if you're able to score, you should be able to find your spots from anywhere, whether it be on the ball or off the ball," said Richardson, who averaged 10.3 points per game last season. "I feel like I'm capable of carrying us."
Tennessee's schedule won't allow Richardson to ease into his new assignment. After committing 18 turnovers against Pikeville, the Vols have one more exhibition game Saturday against Lenoir-Rhyne before opening the regular season Nov. 14 against No. 15 VCU at Annapolis, Maryland.
Richardson's teammates believe he can handle it.
"With Josh playing point guard, I have no worries," junior forward Armani Moore said. "Josh understands the game of basketball. He's really playing great right now. I feel like he's one of the guys who has the most experience in this system right now. I think we'll be pretty good with Josh at the point."
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