The Tennessee Volunteers have had an up-and-down season on the basketball court, but regardless of this season’s outcome, there are bright spots in the future.

It is going to take a team effort to finish the season with a hope of an NCAA Tournament bid. One of the players who will play a key factor in the upcoming SEC run is freshman guard Josh Richardson.

With a young, talented team, it is not easy for newcomers to get many minutes on the court. Josh Richardson, however, through his defensive skills and versatility on the court, has earned his way into a starting spot at guard.

Richardson is a 6-foot-6, 186-pound guard from Edmond, Okla. He graduated in 2011 from Santa Fe High School and was a dominant force on the basketball court. As a senior, he was named to The Oklahoma Coaches Association “Large West” All-State Team and averaged 16.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists.

Recruited by coach Cuonzo Martin, Richardson made his way into Knoxville this past summer when he was still 17 years old. He said Knoxville is a little bit different than his home in Edmond, and he is still getting used to it.

“It’s consistently colder here,” he said. “At home, the weather is a lot warmer usually. Winters are probably colder there, but just year-round it’s not that chilly. There’s also a lot more hills here, and there aren’t many tornadoes.”

As a freshman at UT, Josh is averaging just over 16 minutes and has played in every game this season. He gained his first start at guard in the Jan. 7 win over No. 14 Florida and has started every game since. While his offensive numbers have wavered, he has led the team in blocks and steals in five games, proving his defensive impact.

“I’m just going to keep playing hard, bring whatever I need to the table for us to win, and I’ll probably end up staying on the court,” Richardson said.

One person not surprised with Richardson’s early success is Coach Martin.

“Josh is a guy who can play multiple positions around the perimeter,” Martin said. “He’ll be a good defender for us. He’s very active and gets in passing lanes — he just has a great feel for the game.”

Richardson chose UT over schools such as Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Penn State and TCU.

“The SEC is probably the best conference in college basketball. I wanted to play in it,” he said. “On my visit, I liked the way the campus looked and it had my major and so I figured it was a good fit.”

He explained that he would like to play ball after college, but if it doesn’t turn out to be an option he has other plans. “I’m majoring in Pre-Business, but I want to go to Med School and after that, I want to have my own practice in Orthopedic Surgery.”

Another skill that many people don’t know about Richardson is that he can play classical piano. When asked if he would possibly give the fans a concert, he laughed.

“I’m not that good anymore,” he said. “I’m OK, but real rusty though. If I ever start playing again, I don’t know, I’ll consider it.”

Whether Josh Richardson gives us all a classical piano concert or not, expect him to become a dominant force on the basketball court over the next few years and become a household name for all Tennessee fans.