published Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Other Mocs rise with Early gone

Jahmal Burroughs became a starter on Dec. 17 when the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga played basketball at Kentucky.

Zaccheus Mason rose from third on the depth chart to second that day, after coach John Shulman suspended senior Chris Early.

Burroughs and Mason have adapted to their new roles as power forwards, and the Mocs have barely missed a beat of production from that spot since Early last played on Dec. 13.

Three UTC power forwards averaged 12.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game with Early as the starter through the first 10 games of the season. They averaged 12.2 points and 11.7 rebounds in the next 10 games without Early, who was dismissed from the team on Jan. 9.

"I am more than pleased with what we're getting for that position," Shulman said Friday before the Mocs played Saturday night at Elon. "Production has been better than I thought it would be."

Early averaged 28 minutes, 7.4 points and six rebounds per game. His season scoring high was 18 points in UTC's double-overtime loss at the College of Charleston.

"Chris is a great player, no doubt about it," junior center Drazen Zlovaric said. "We miss Chris. But we have great players on the floor in 'Z' and Jahmal. I think we're distributing our minutes good and we're playing good from that spot."

Roles now are clearly defined for UTC's top four post players with Early gone and no longer snagging a few minutes at backup center.

Burroughs will start and play about 20 minutes with Mason replacing him. Drazen Zlovaric will start at center and play about 30 minutes with freshman Jared Bryant picking up the other 10 minutes.

They all have a few of the same jobs: They must all defend, rebound and set screens in the base offense. If they miss a box-out, it's likely that Shulman will pull them out.

Burroughs has been tabbed as the emotional leader. But he's never grown into an offensive force -- his career high is 11 points. He fits the role that former Moc Kevin Goffney owned during UTC's championship season of 2008-09.

"For Jahmal to be really good, he's got to bring unbelievable energy every single game," Shulman said. "He had good energy [Thursday], but for us to be successful, it has to be amazing."

Mason took two seasons off from basketball while he redshirted one year and then played tight end in 2010 at Ole Miss. He steps in for Burroughs and give UTC more of an offensive threat in the post.

Mason's minutes per game almost doubled from 10.8 to 19.6 per game in the last 10. His points have increased from 2.9 to 7.6, and his rebounds rose from three to 6.9 per game.

"I see that my minutes have been increasing and that came with me being in better shape, and my production goes up when my minutes go up," Mason said.

Zlovaric, who spent his childhood in Serbia, is still growing into the role of a post player. He played on the wing for two seasons at Georgia. He's developed a variety of hook shots that allowed him to set a career high with 19 points against Western Carolina and a career-high 14 rebounds Thursday at UNC Greensboro.

"He's had more double-doubles [three] than any 5-man we've had in a long time," Shulman said. "I think the ceiling is high for him."

Bryant is the pup of the bunch. The pup of the bench did not play in three early-season games but is averaging 9.6 minutes in relief of Zlovaric over the last 10 games.

"Jared is really important for us," Zlovaric said. "When I come out, we need somebody to hold it. He has done a good job of coming in and doing what he's supposed to do."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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