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VOL. 39 | NO. 1 | Friday, January 2, 2015

UT’s Baulkman on Tyndall: ‘He’s a cool dude’

By Dave Link

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Tennessee guard Devon Baulkman, who signed with Coach Donnie Tyndall while he was at Southern Miss., then foillowed him to Knoxville, says he liked the coach’s demeanor from the beginning.

-- Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

Devon Baulkman won’t forget his first impression of University of Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall a couple of years ago.

Baulkman was playing for Gulf Coast State College in Panama City, Fla. at the time. Tyndall was the head coach at Southern Miss.

It was a recruiting visit, and Tyndall was a big hit with Baulkman.

“He was just laid back, calm,” Baulkman recalls. “He’s a cool dude, and I just liked that swagger about him.”

That demeanor was one reason Baulkman signed with Southern Miss and Tyndall during the early signing period in November of 2013.

It was Tyndall’s second season as the Golden Eagles’ coach, and turned out to be his last. He was announced as UT’s coach on April 22, 2014, replacing Cuonzo Martin, who left for the head coach’s job at the University of California.

When Tyndall left Southern Miss for Knoxville, Baulkman was ready to follow. He asked for and was granted a release, then signed with the Vols in May.

“Me and coach Tyndall have a great relationship,” Baulkman said after the Vols’ Dec. 22 victory over Mercer. “I was committed to Southern Miss with him, and I just knew he was going to help me reach my potential. He’s a wonderful coach. I just knew I could learn from him and better myself as a player and as a person.”

Baulkman says Tyndall has the same persona now as when they first met.

“He’s been the same, but he also gets on me to make me push myself to get better,” Baulkman says.

Tyndall must have had the same effect on other recruits. Due to Martin’s signee defections from UT and other player departures, Tyndall needed to reload his roster shortly after his hiring, and did so by signing eight players in just more than a month.

Willie Carmichael III, a 6-8 freshman from Wekiva High School in Apopka, Fla., was an early signee with Southern Miss in February of 2013 and, like Baulkman, was granted his release and followed Tyndall to UT.

Tyndall signed two other freshmen: 6-3 guard Detrick Mostella of Decatur, Ala., via Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., and 6-10 forward Tariq Owens of Odenton, Md., and Mt. Zion Prep in Baltimore.

Two signees are fifth-year senior transfers: 6-1 guard Ian Chiles of Louisville, Ky., and IUPUI, and 6-9 forward Eric McKnight of Raleigh, N.C., and Florida Gulf Coast University.

Also in Tyndall’s first signing class are 6-4 junior guard Kevin Punter of the Bronx and State Fair (Mo.) Community College, and 6-8 freshman forward Jabari McGhee of Albany, Ga., and Hargrave (Va.) Military.

The SEC, however, denied McKnight’s bid to transfer and play for the Vols – he’s now playing for Long Beach State – and McGhee suffered a foot fracture Dec. 17 at North Carolina State, had surgery two days later and is expected to miss at least six weeks from that date.

Tyndall added Memphis transfer Dominic Woodson in August, but the 6-10, 280-pound sophomore opted to leave UT’s program in mid-December.

That leaves the seven newcomers, along with four scholarship players from UT’s 2013-14 roster – Josh Richardson, Robert Hubbs III, Armani Moore, and Derek Reese.

Tyndall likes what he’s seen as the Vols head into the SEC schedule starting Jan. 7 at Mississippi State.

“We have a resilient bunch that has been through a lot of adversity,” Tyndall says. “I think our team has shown throughout the year, thus far, that there is no quit in them. When things don’t go your way, that is a part of basketball, and you keep your head up.

“For the inexperienced team that we have been, that is a tribute to them because a lot of times, with young and inexperienced guys, when things don’t go their way, they hang their head and pack it in. Our team hasn’t done that the entire year.”

Baulkman sure didn’t let an early shoulder injury keep him down. He missed the first two games of the season, and by December, was showing glimpses of what Tyndall saw from him in junior college.

After posting back-to-back 10-point games against North Carolina State and Tennessee Tech (Dec. 19), Baulkman had a breakout game against Mercer with 22 points, six rebounds, and two steals. He was 7 of 9 from the field, 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and made all four of his foul shots against Mercer.

“I certainly don’t expect (Baulkman) to get 22 every night, but I thought he’d be a guy that could average eight, nine or 10 a game for us and he certainly is a guy that’s capable of making threes,” Tyndall explains.

“Our team hasn’t shot the ball collectively great from behind the line, and he’s a guy that I thought, once he got his rhythm and got himself in game shape, because he missed about a week and a half of practice in November, that he could do that.

“I always say with junior college guys, it takes about a semester. Usually these guys start turning the corner in about January. Kevin Punter’s probably an exception because he’s such a professional at everything he does, but D.B’s turning the corner and that’s obviously going to help our team.”

Richardson, the Vols’ top returning player and a member of the 2014 SEC All-Defensive team, won’t be surprised with any numbers Baulkman puts up.

“Devin’s always been a guy we knew could score in bunches,” Richardson says. “In pickup (games) before the season even started, he would go on stretches where he would score almost every point in a game. In junior college, everybody knew he could score. He had like 48 points in one game, so it’s not surprising.”

Baulkman scored 48 in an 87-85 victory over Northwest Florida State last season when he averaged 15.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.8 steals.

As a senior at Bainbridge (Ga.) High, Baulkman led the team to the Class 4A state tournament while averaging 20.8 points and 7.8 rebounds.

Now, Baulkman is making the transition from junior college to Division I basketball.

“It’s just a process,” he says. “I’ve just got to keep practicing and keep playing games and learning new stuff, and just keep coming in with a positive mindset.”

With starting lineups and playing minutes in flux, such a mindset might be trouble for some teams.

Not for the Vols, says Baulkman.

“I think everybody just comes in with the same mindset, and just practices each day and competes with each other,” Baulkman adds.

“Nobody’s stressed about who’s starting and who’s not, just as long as you get in there and do your role and play your position.”

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