published Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Willie Carmichael growing into role at UT

KNOXVILLE — Since arriving on Tennessee's campus at the end of May, Willie Carmichael has added roughly 16 pounds to his spindly 6-foot-8 frame.

Good luck finding where the still rail-thin freshman from Florida put that extra weight.

The forward won't be the most physically imposing player the Volunteers put on the floor this upcoming season, but he may be one of Tennessee's most tenacious rebounders.

Carmichael's ability on the glass became quickly apparent on Wednesday night during his second summer Rocky Top League game at Knoxville Catholic High School.

"I've just been playing basketball for four years, so that's the only thing I knew how to do when I was a freshman," he said after scoring 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting in his team's loss. "I just kept it with me because I love to do it. It's the favorite thing I love to do: rebound, run and defend."

Carmichael, a former signee for new Vols coach Donnie Tyndall at Southern Mississippi, said he grew five or six inches during his eighth- and ninth-grade years when he started playing basketball. He joked about the spurt being "painful" and "the worst thing" as he began his career on the hardwood as a very "uncoordinated" player.

He's still raw and needs to add plenty more weight to be able to hold up physically in the SEC paint, but his rebounding ability is hard to diminish. The trait is one that requires heart and desire and a knowledge of positioning and how the ball will come off the basket. Carmichael's length doesn't hurt, either.

Rebounding numbers aren't kept at the annual summer league featuring current and former players from Tennessee and other nearby college programs, but Carmichael had plenty and chipped in a handful of blocks and one thunderous dunk on Wednesday night.

"I keep working hard, and I keep getting better," he said. "I haven't reached my peak yet, and I refuse to reach my peak. I'm just going to keep working harder, lift weights, work the hardest I can work and make my teammates better, whatever it is."

Tyndall firmly felt when he took the Tennessee job that a couple of members of the signing class he assembled at Southern Miss could play at this level, and Carmichael was one of those.

For the player, though, the uncertainty after Tyndall's departure and his signing with the Vols was a tricky time, though Carmichael always believed he'd end up following his coach.

"It was tough because I couldn't talk to Coach Tyndall until I got released and everything," he said. "I was trying to figure out where I was going and everything. When I got released, a couple of schools called me, but I wasn't answering the phone. I was waiting for Coach Tyndall to call. Two days later he called and offered me, and I signed like the next week.

"Coach Tyndall's a straightforward guy. I met with him in his office at Southern Mississippi and he said I'm his guy; I'm the guy he wants on his team. I'm a Kenneth Faried-type player that wants to get every rebound, runs the floor, makes his team better. I was just so confident Coach Tyndall would give me a call and it happened, and it ended better for both of us."

Now, like many of the new faces on Tennessee's roster, it's about adding weight and strength for Carmichael.

"Guys are doing the right things, they're eating the right way and it's a huge point of emphasis every time we meet and talk as a team," Tyndall said earlier Wednesday during a break in his camp for kids at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Freshman guard Detrick Mostella, still awaiting word on his eligibility from the NCAA clearinghouse, has added 13 pounds, and junior college transfer guards Kevin Punter and Devon Baulkman have added more than eight pounds.

New strength coach Todd Moyer has helped the Vols' newcomers gain early results.

"They're not eating three square meals a day," Tyndall said. "A lot of times it's a bowl of cereal here, and they're sleeping till 10 or 11, and then get up and eat a sandwich and go play all day.

"They're not used to or accustomed to or don't have the resources to eat the right way, and that's part of our job as a staff, to educate these guys on the importance of the eating the right way, how to eat, what to eat. Then of course when you're lifting weights three or four times a week on top of that, now you start building some body mass.

"It won't be eight pounds a week for Willie Carmichael all summer, but it's eight pounds a week for two weeks, which is great progress."

It's progress Carmichael already is noticing when he plays.

"It feels a lot easier on the court going against bigger dudes," he said.

"I don't know," he added with a laugh, "where it's going, though."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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