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Williams returns for Monday workout

The Biggest Mouth in the Bronx returned to Tennessee’s Monday night practice in Pratt Pavilion, and he was already back to his old tricks.

Brian Williams, seen here in last season's NCAA tournament, has returned this week to help UT get back there.

After speaking at length about the back injury that kept him out of the Volunteers’ past two games — including Sunday’s home loss to 20th-ranked Kentucky — senior center Brian Williams began complaining about the senior day biography that called him “the self-proclaimed, best-looking player in Tennessee history.”

“I don’t know where the ‘self-proclaimed’ came from. It should have been ‘females-proclaimed,” Williams said. “I don’t know where they got that ‘self-proclaimed’ stuff.”

Williams was then asked if he knew who wrote it, and he immediately pointed at UT sports information director Tom Satkowiak.

“Tom wrote it,” Williams said. “Of course he thinks I’m hot. The rest of the country thinks I’m hot, too, so why not say it?”

Williams was also asked about the Vols’ new adidas sneakers. They break out new black shoes every year for the SEC tournament, and this year they received the new Kobe Bryant model.

Williams has called himself “Kobe” since hitting the buzzer-beating jumper that gave UT a win at Georgia on Jan. 18.

“Me, Scotty and Cam made sure we got those sneakers,” the big center said. “We’ve been trying to get them since freshman year. It’s about time we got them.

“Hopefully that makes a difference or something, because, I mean, I am Kobe.”

The Vols sorely missed Brian Williams' rebounding late in last week's games against South Carolina and Kentucky.

Teammates might not always love hearing Williams run his mouth, but they loved seeing the big man back on the court Monday afternoon — albeit in a light practice day that only featured weightlifting and a shoot-around.

“It’s huge,” Tatum said. “He’s our best rebounder and he’s our biggest big man on the floor. Without him, it’s kind of tough for us, rebounding-wise, so I think having him back should put us in a (better position) on the rebounding side, and things like that — also with his passing ability in a zone and things like that. He’s a very underrated passer.”

The Vols, according to Bruce Pearl and his players, sorely missed Williams last week.

“We’ve missed him on the boards, and we’ve certainly missed him on the boards at the end of games,” Pearl said. “South Carolina hurt us at the end of the game rebounding the ball. In a tight ball game, you look at second-chance points by Kentucky. If you had to point to one thing, you would point to that. Brian does a good job for us on the boards, and we certainly have missed him there.”

The senior sorely missed being out of the lineup, too, especially Sunday’s home finale.

“It was tough, that being my last game in Thompson-Boling with a Tennessee jersey on,” Williams said. “Watching the game, I seen things that I could have helped the team on, especially defensive and offensive rebounds. It’s tough knowing that we could have been a 2 seed and had I guess you could say a day off, but we’ve still got business to take care of, and I’m glad I’m back, and I think my teammates are glad I’m back.”

Playing was not an option, though, Williams added.

“I ain’t even try it out (Sunday),” he said. “I felt it just walking, so I knew running would affect it. ...It’s been hurting me since freshman year. It just comes on and off sometimes, and it just flared up again. It was just one of those things.”

Asked if soreness or tightness was the problem, Williams said, “All of that.”

“Spasms, too. Everything. Whatever you can think of,” he said. “I’m old. It’s an old man thing.”

Williams felt “a little” better Monday, but hours of time in the training room last week couldn’t repair the problem. He said he woke up the day after UT’s Feb. 26 loss to Mississippi State and “could barely move.”

“Heating, stretching, whatever you can try to do, I tried it, but it wasn’t really working,” he said. “I was going to try to take a couple of cortisone shots or anything to play, but I don’t think it was that serious, to jeopardize my career — if you could say — so I just took it easy, and I guess I’m ready to play now.”

Williams didn’t feel completely comfortable after Monday’s workout, and he admittedly “can’t tell” how much better he’ll get Thursday’s first-round SEC tournament game against Arkansas.

But it’s tournament time, the big man said, so it’s time to bang and bear it.

“We just lifted and got some shots in, and I’m sore,” he said. “It’s just depending on how I take it. It’s going to be tough getting back into the shape I was in, but I don’t think I’m that much out of shape to where I can’t get back to playing whatever minutes coach is going to allow me to play.

“It’s just going to be tough, but I’m ready for it. It’s my last season, my last go around, so it’s all out there.”

Contact Wes Rucker at wrucker@247sports.com, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247

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