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Mocs' Notes: Freshman trio asked to do more

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UTC freshman trio asked to do more
There was no time to adjust for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga freshman Ronrico White.

The former Knoxville area prep star was thrown into the fire from the start of his first college season, playing 18 minutes at Big Ten power Indiana in the Mocs' season-opener.

Since then, the sharp-shooting guard has played ten or more minutes in all but two of UTC's games.

"I think I did a pretty good job adjusting to the speed," said White, a 6-foot-3 wing from Bearden High. "We went through a lot of early-season adversity, so I've had to grow up in a hurry."

White, along with fellow freshmen Jared Bryant and Lance Stokes, are being asked to do more as the Mocs return from their holiday break since Chris Early's indefinite suspension and injuries have left the UTC rotation unsettled.

Through the first 12 games, the three newcomers have combined to average just over 12 points and six rebounds in just under 34 combined minutes, but those numbers have steadily improved over the past two weeks.

"They've done a nice job," said head coach John Shulman. "I don't really consider them freshmen anymore, so they're starting to feel my wrath a little bit more.

"They've played in some tough environments and now they're starting to play a lot. They're getting better, and now it's time to hopefully find more success (as a team) in the next couple of weeks."

Bryant and Stokes both earned their first career starts in last week's win over Hiwassee. Bryant, a 6-foot-7 forward, responded in breakout fashion with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Stokes, a 6-foot-6 forward who missed four games with an ankle injury, wasn't far behind with nine points, six rebounds and four steals.

"We didn't really know what was going on when we first got here and were just trying to pick things up on the fly, but now we know what's going on and we expect coach to expect a little more from us," White said.

Wattad inching back to full speed
Omar Wattad is used to playing through pain, but the hope is he won't have to as much when the Mocs return to action Thursday night against Longwood (7 p.m. ET) in the opening round of the annual Dr. Pepper Classic.

Chattanooga's senior guard battled through hip and back injuries in the season's first six weeks, but sat out last week's win over Hiwassee with a concussion suffered in practice.

Wattad returned to practice Monday when the team returned from Christmas break, and he looks to be back on track.

"Omar with a concussion is still better than some people without one," Shulman cracked. "He's healthy. He's good. He's ready to roll. He shot the ball great (Wednesday), and that was nice to see."

The former Georgetown transfer was UTC's leading scorer a year ago, and opened the 2011-12 campaign with a team-high 24 points in a loss at Indiana. He's been the focal point of opposing defenses ever since, but still currently ranks second on the team in scoring at 11.9 points per game.

Burroughs out with injured thumb
Wattad's return provides a boost to a lineup that took yet another hit this week.

Reserve forward Jahmal Burroughs injured his thumb at practice and is not expected to play in the Dr. Pepper Classic. Shulman said the 6-foot-6 senior "messed up some ligaments" during Tuesday's workout.

"I'm hoping he can play," Shulman said. "He's a warrior, so I think he'd be able to do that, but we'll see."

Burroughs has played in all 12 games this season for UTC, including one start. He's averaging 2.2 points and two rebounds in just over 13 minutes per game.

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