Jeremy Saffore and DeAntre Jefferson were true centers, like Khalil Hartwell before them.
Get them more than five feet away from the basket and they couldn't hit a shot. Send them to the free-throw line and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball coach John Shulman would pray they'd make one of two freebies.
Saffore and Jefferson are gone after last season. They'll be replaced by University of Georgia transfer Drazen Zlovaric, who sat out last year, and Zacchaeus Mason, who played football at Ole Miss last season before choosing UTC to play basketball.
They join veteran power forward Chris Early and Jahmal Burroughs on a Mocs team that has no true center.
"They're going to fit into our strengths first, and every team needs guys who sacrifice 'me' for 'we,'" Shulman said. "We're going take advantage of Drazen and Z and change some sets up.
"We have to make a huge conscious effort to get the ball inside instead of shooting 25, 30, 35 3s a game."
The Mocs began their first official practice of the 2011-12 season with post players working on post moves. That was in the first five-minute session of the two-hour practice.
Mason, who admitted missing more than a few left-handed layups during his summer workouts, appeared to be back in basketball mode. And Zlovaric, who spent three months back home in Serbia this past summer, showed a deft touch as well in the drill.
"I'm an inside-out sort of guy," said Zlovaric, who added about 20 pounds of muscle to his frame. "I can play the 4 or the 5 in our system. The best fit for me is the 5 man and being an inside presence and getting every rebound I can."
The subtraction of traditional centers and addition of two inside players with power-forward skills and the ability to dribble on the perimeter opens up offensive options for Shulman.
"We're going to have a few new plays," point guard Keegan Bell said. "Having Drazen on the perimeter sets up mismatches and stretches the defense. I'm excited about it."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...