Tennessee basketball landmarks, other bits ’n pieces

Marvin Westwestwords

Stop the presses it any are still running: Tennessee has extended its home-court winning streak of non-conference basketball games to 28. The Vols demolished Norfolk State, 87-50. For some reason, the game was not sold out.

The list of knockouts includes Tennessee Tech, Wofford, Georgia Southern and Tarleton State.

So what, you say?

Well, how about historic tidbits from Tuesday evening at Food City Center? Josiah-Jordan James acquired his 700th career rebound. Santiago Vescovi became only the fourth Southeastern Conference player in the past 20 years to accumulate 1,400 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists.

There were some significant current events. Tennessee had an 18-0 run in the closing seven-plus minutes of the first half. Dalton Knecht regained his shooting touch and scored 15 against the Virginians. He had totaled 15 in three recent struggles.

Zakai Zeigler had a career-high five three-pointers. Tobe Awaka scored 10 and grabbed 11 rebounds.

Big news: The SEC race begins Saturday evening with Ole Miss coming to town. The Rebels are good.


Bigger news: Bru McCoy, tough-guy football receiver who missed too much of the past season with a fractured ankle, has decided to play another year with the Volunteers and delay his entry into the NFL.

McCoy was a standout in 2022 – 52 receptions, 667 yards, four TDs.


Leftovers from the Citrus Bowl …

“We’re trying to win a national championship,” Nico said.

Coach Josh Heupel didn’t exactly say amen.

“We have an opportunity to be really special as we continue this journey at Tennessee.”

If you are into records, the two Iowa quarterbacks were nine-for-25 for 60 yards passing.


Neither Nico’s little niece nor I had any idea what she was doing on stage for the awards ceremony. She wanted her mother but the quarterback had her on display, for all the world to see.

Nico says the Polynesian culture is very family oriented. When he adds a bit of sophistication, perhaps Nico will formally introduce the little girl and his entire supporting cast. Stay tuned.

New money can be beautiful.


What might have been – well, maybe.

Long-gone coach Butch Jones had Michael Penix committed to Tennessee.

When a desperation move delivered Jeremy Pruitt unto us, the new coach told the prep quarterback he did not fit what the Volunteers were going to do. Four days before signing day, Michael’s scholarship offer was withdrawn.

Penix was fortunate to have a friend, former Tennessee graduate assistant Nick Sheridan, one year old as quarterbacks coach at Indiana. The two had stayed in touch. Michael remembered Nick’s parting line after each conversation: “We’re here for you if anything ever changes.”

Well, everything had changed. Penix called Sheridan and suddenly had a scholarship offer from the Hoosiers. He survived four injury-plagued seasons.

When Penix decided to transfer to Washington, low and behold, Sheridan reappeared as new tight ends coach for the Huskies.

Penix threw for 430 yards against Texas in the national playoff semifinals. He was named MVP of the Sugar Bowl.


I own a newspaper clipping from 1981. In black and white, the late Lee North, Tennessee center, said he was nothing special, just a football player.

“The offensive line is full of people no other coach wanted. I’m a reject from defense.

“An offensive lineman is a different breed. He’s bigger and slower. I don’t think of myself as an athlete, compared to real athletes.”

Lee said he couldn’t dribble a basketball and run at the same time.

“I scored six points in the entire intramural season.”

Lee North was a two-time all-SEC football star with two bad knees. He was one tough dude. He earned professional checks for two or three seasons. He ended up with two knee replacements.

A celebration of the life of this former Volunteer will be Friday at 1 at First United Methodist Church in Maryville. Standing room only? Probably not. He was an offensive lineman.


Catholic High wide receiver Braylon Harmon, 5-9 and 177, has changed plans. He gave back a Wofford scholarship to be a walk-on at Tennessee. He said the Volunteers are too much to leave behind.

“I just love the culture … and I’ve always had that dream of playing for UT.”

Harmon is smaller than Squirrel White. Why are the Vols interested? He has been timed at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He had a good senior season with the Irish – 84 pass receptions, 1,071 yards and nine touchdowns, 259 rushing yards and four touchdowns, six more scores on kickoff and punt returns.

Harmon said he has often wondered what it would be like to run through the T in an orange jersey in Neyland Stadium. Nothing like that happens at the mid-sized schools that had offered scholarships.


Votes are in and now is hold-your-breath time for those who believe Todd Helton (Central High, University of Tennessee, Colorado Rockies) should be in the baseball hall of fame.

Jack O’Connell, secretary/treasurer of the writers’ group, and a representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young will count the votes.

Todd must be named on 75 percent of the ballots to be elected. He received 72.2 percent of the vote last year.

Marvin West welcomes comments or questions from readers. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com


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