published Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Practice players aid UTC

Roger Huntley wore a pair of broken-down Nikes to his first University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball workout.

"They said whether I make it or not, we're going to get you new shoes," Huntley said.

He earned more than shoes. Huntley, a freshman from Kenwood High School in Clarksville, earned all new blue and gold practice gear — the same equipment the scholarship players receive.

Huntley and fellow freshman Montel Lavelanet are not official Mocs. They are practice players — yet they're part of the team.

"They go hard; they help us in many ways out here; they don't get the most reps, but they serve as the scout team," coach John Shulman said. "The guys love them, they have great energy and they're evolving into being a part of us."

Shulman needed a few more players during individual workouts and the preseason because starting point guard Dontay Hampton tore a knee ligament and guard Ronrico White twisted an ankle at the start of the semester.

"I had an itch to play again, and it didn't come until I got into school," Huntley said. "I kept coming to individual workouts and kept playing hard."

Lavelanet did the same. Shulman said they will begin the season wearing street clothes and stay home for road games. But they have the opportunity to earn walk-on status at some point in their careers.

"At the end of the day, it's just basketball," said Lavelanet, who played on the 2010 Class A state championship team for Clarksville Academy. "I go out, play hard and have fun. I'm taking this as my developmental year."

Lavelanet and Huntley played the final few minutes of the Blue-Gold game Tuesday. Lavelanet hit two 3-pointers. Shulman later joked that because the Mocs will share that video with Kansas, Lavelanet will be on the Jayhawks' scouting report before UTC's game at KU on Nov. 15.

Huntley did not score.

"I want more, but I've got a foot in the door," Huntley said. "I'm thankful for the opportunity."

And thankful for some new shoes.

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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