We conclude our voting on the Vols' All-Decade Team with the center position, featuring three players whose careers span eight of the last ten years (honorable mention to Charles Hathaway and Major Wingate for rounding out the decade at the position).
All three players are really forward/center hybrids who were called on to handle the other team's big men and played the five in Tennessee's lineup, and all three saw significant action from the day they stepped on campus. And it's fair to say that all three really hovered right on the edge of being considered an elite SEC player, but never quite got over it...but each was still an important part of Tennessee's success this decade.
If you're looking for stats to settle the score, don't: all three candidates have an almost identical career stat line of 11 points and 6 rebounds per game.
The winner here will join CJ Watson, Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith and Ron Slay in the starting five on the All-Decade team, while the second place vote getter will still find a spot in the 12-man rotation.
As always, we break down each candidate after the jump...
We begin with CJ Black, who right away may cause problems for voters, because he was a senior in 2000, placing the bulk of his Tennessee career in the previous decade. CJ was only 6'8" but was solid at 255 lbs, and banged away against some of the SEC's best during his time in the paint, including some great duels with Florida's Udonis Haslem.
Interestingly, Black's two most productive years were his first two (some of this having to do with the development of Isaiah Victor and the arrival of Ron Slay). As a freshman Black averaged 11.3 points per game, and had his best season as a Vol as a sophomore, scoring 12.6 points with 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game on the Vols' 1998 NCAA Tournament team.
For his career, Black finished with a solid line of 11 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. In his senior season and the only one in this decade, Black scored 9.3 points with 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per contest, on Tennessee's 2000 Sweet 16 team.
In the middle of the decade, Brandon Crump flourished under Buzz Peterson. The 6'10" Texas native played in each of Peterson's four seasons, putting in 7.1 points as a freshman in 2002. While not the prolific shot blocker that CJ Black was (and lacking his soft touch), Crump was stronger at the rim. He was an excellent compliment to Ron Slay in 2003, scoring 11 points per contest as a sophomore. And when the paint became his alone the following season, Crump turned in his best performance with 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per contest as a junior on another NIT team.
Curiously, Crump seemed to regress in his final season, as did the entire team. Still, Crump finishes with a career line of 11-6-1, almost dead even with CJ Black.
And then there's Wayne Chism.
CHI$$LE also contributed right away, averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds per contest in each of his first two seasons in 2007 & 2008 while playing on two of Tenneesse's all-time great teams. Last season, in the absence of not only scoring options in Lofton and JaJuan, but his postmate in Duke Crews, Chism stepped up bigtime: 13.7 points and 8.0 rebounds, en route to a second team All-SEC selection.
And like CJ Black, Chism is just fun to watch - Black actually shot a better three point percentage (36%), but Chism jacks up far more of them, making him a much higher risk/reward factor in Tennessee's offense. Also like Black, Chism plays to the moment, and has turned in some of his best performances against some of the SEC's best big men. Chism - we hope - has one more season remaining in orange.
You can find a full statistical breakdown here, but again, the numbers are incredibly similar for all three players. Crump played with lesser talent but likewise on less memorable teams. Black and Chism each had seasons where they were simply contributors on great teams, but also had better individual seasons when they were relied on more, the only difference being that CJ's were at the start of his career, and Wayne's at the end of his.
So, who's it gonna be?