Josh Richardson Leading Tennessee to Surprising Season

Posted by David Changas on February 12th, 2015

When Donnie Tyndall took over at Tennessee last April, there was a great deal of turnover. He lost every recruit signed by his predecessor, Cuonzo Martin, and kept only four scholarship players from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. One of the few players who decided to stick around was senior Josh Richardson, and without the longtime defensive stalwart’s flexibility and talent, it is hard to imagine where the Volunteers would be right now. Tyndall moved Richardson to the point, and for someone who had never played the position, he has done remarkable things. Last Saturday, in Tennessee’s 66-63 loss at Georgia, Richardson scored only two points on 1-for-13 shooting. Observers openly questioned whether all of his minutes this season — he averages a league-high 35.3 minutes per contest — were catching up with him. He answered that concern emphatically on Wednesday, leading the Volunteers to their fourth road win in SEC play, a 76-73 overtime thriller against arch-rival Vanderbilt.

The Volunteers and Richardson Were Smiling at Vandy (USA Today Images)

The Volunteers and Richardson Were Smiling at Vandy (USA Today Images)

Richardson played 42 minutes in the win, scoring 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting including 3-of-8 from three-point range, and turned the ball over only three times. He also grabbed seven rebounds. In the few moments he was not in the game to run the point, Tennessee struggled to get the ball past half court against Vanderbilt’s press. Tyndall wasn’t concerned with Richardson’s struggles against Georgia because he knew his senior leader would bounce back. Josh has had a phenomenal year. The other night he went 1-for-13 so people were being critical. This kid has been a stud all year long. He’s absorbed and embraced a position he’s never played in his life. He’s made big shot after big shot.”

Few will argue that Richardson is the best player in the SEC this season, but many will argue that he is the most valuable. If he had decided to follow the lead of many of his teammates and leave Knoxville last spring, it is hard to imagine that Tennessee would have four road wins or would be sitting at 6-4 in SEC play. The Volunteers lack any significant post presence to speak of, with a 6’4″ power forward (Armani Moore) and two freshmen players — Willie Carmichael and Tariq Owens — who in normal situations would have redshirted. But Tyndall has been able to coax wins from his team by asking them to play hard every night and by steady improvement from players like Robert Hubbs and Derek Reese. Yet despite all of the good that Tyndall has done with his limited Tennessee roster, none of that would have much mattered if not for the talents of Richardson.

David Changas (166 Posts)

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