Awaka shines in FIBA World Cup

Marvin Westwestwords

Tennessee’s Tobe Awaka and the United States are doing very well, thank you, in the International Basketball Federation Under 19 World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary.

They are 4-0 and in the quarterfinals. Awaka has led in scoring and rebounding in two competitive games and watched more than played in two romps.

If you don’t see International Basketball Federation in the news, it is because the group is more commonly known by the French acronym FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basketball). That may be accurate. I don’t know much French.

Awaka, son of Nigerian immigrants, is a 6-8 Vol sophomore from the Bronx. He was a Zaksi Zeigler discovery. They played on the same AAU team. Tobe’s goal is not the NBA. He wants to be a doctor.

Awaka has been the star so far in the World Cup. In the latest outing, he played 19 minutes in a 92-69 victory over China and led in scoring with 15 and rebounding with 14. He was also tough on defense. He’s strong. The losers complained.

Awaka had 14 points and 11 boards in a 77-72 triumph over Slovenia. His key numbers were 12 and seven in 15 minutes in a 136-69 romp over Madagascar. Tobe was four of six from the field.

He played even less, scored five points and pulled eight rebounds in Game 3, an also easy 122-70 decision over Lebanon.

Game 4 was more of a challenge. The Chinese actually took a 59-58 lead with 1:45 left in the third quarter. The young Americans said something that sounded like “How about that” and went on a 30-4 run.


Josh Dobbs of the Cleveland Browns has been back at Tennessee to pass on to Joe Milton and other skill players at least some of what he knows.

Why did Dobbs do it? He said Peyton did it for him.

“Peyton Manning sat us down and we went through a three-hour dissertation, just talking about preparing as a quarterback. Not only for games, but to be the best person you can be, the best teammate you can be, and what you’re doing throughout the year to improve and get ready for the season.”

Dobbs is among old Vol experts on getting it done. He accounted for 39 touchdowns in 2016 – 27 passing, 12 rushing – to tie Manning’s record total from 1997. Hendon Hooker had 36 in 2021.

Josh is a distinguished graduate. The university presented him with the 2017 Torchbearer Award, highest honor for a student. It recognizes academic excellence and accomplishments in the community. As I recall, Dobbs had a perfect 4.0 grade point average in aerospace engineering and near-enough-to-perfect reputation as a Volunteer.


Former Tennessee linebacker Craig Puki has died at 66. He was a Volunteer (1975-79) during the Bill Battle decline and the beginning of John Majors’ reconstruction. He was a captain as a senior.

He played a couple of years in the NFL. He had a prize ring from San Francisco’s victory in Super Bowl XVI.

He also had an interesting story about a 49ers’ reunion. Players bet on whether the reclusive Jack Reynolds would show up. Those who knew him best were certain he wouldn’t. Jack has a home on San Salvador Island in the Caribbean. Air travel is expensive. Hacksaw is notoriously frugal.

Team owner John York heard about the bets, wanted Reynolds at the reunion and got involved.

“Nothing to it,” said Puki. “Mr. York just sent his private jet.”

Another Puki story from times past was sad. He said his knees were really bad.

“If someone left me standing on the concrete floor at Costco, I’d probably start crying.”

Cause of death? No clue.


If you don’t count hurt feelings and heartbreak from Dion Sanders’ football roster purge at Colorado, Coach Prime is paying dividends. The Buffaloes sold tickets, $10 each, to their spring game for the first time since the 1980s. Dion’s first appearance sold out weeks in advance.

Athletics director Rick George said ticket sales generated $343,000 and concessions $143,000 “to go with really good exposure on national TV.”

There is a buzz in Boulder. Season tickets sold out in April. Ticketmaster says the cheapest resale ticket available for the home opener against Nebraska is $404.


Very comforting to see that Tennessee receiver Bru McCoy is on Athlon magazine’s all-SEC second team for the upcoming season. No Vol made the first team. Linebacker Aaron Beasley and punt returner Dee Williams are third-teamers.


Peace and harmony? Not today. A very unhappy Holiday Bowl is suing the Pac-12 Conference and the regents who govern UCLA for $3 million it says it lost because the Bruins didn’t show up for the 2021 game. Five hours before kickoff, somebody made a decision to stay home because of Covid.

The bowl says big money was lost everywhere you look – sponsors, ticket refunds, TV payment, concessions, program ads, on and on. It also says it has waited a year and a half for a helpful solution.

What we have here is a rare public display of acrimony between long-standing partners.


Losing is bad: Five-star defensive lineman Elijah Griffin of Savannah Christian Prep, thinking about recruiting, says what South Carolina did to Tennessee last November 19 causes him to believe the Gamecocks are really moving on up.

He has not forgotten Spencer Rattler throwing for 438 yards and six touchdowns in the 63-38 victory over the Volunteers. Nor have I.

There is more I need to know about Elijah. He also said Columbia, S.C., reminds him of downtown Atlanta. I wasn’t ready for that.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is


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