Chris Lofton, the 2004 Kentucky Mr. Basketball out of Mason County, still loves rocking his Tennessee orange, especially in Lexington.
In a KnoxNews.com video interview during his Knoxville skills camp this week, the Volunteers legend said he expected Coach Rick Barnes to be successful at Tennessee and relished the Vols’ two wins over Kentucky last season.
“Always glad to see Tennessee doing good, you know,” Lofton said. “It makes me wearing my orange that much (more) special. You know, when we’re winning it makes it that much more special, especially because I’m from Kentucky. When we’re winning, it feels good to wear orange around Lexington.”
Since graduating from Tennessee in 2008, Lofton has had a successful professional career playing in Europe. Last season, his Le Mans team won the French league title.
During the offseason, he’s often seen working out with a local personal trainer in Lexington, so he has plenty of chances to support the Vols in enemy territory. Barnes split the regular-season series with Kentucky each of his first two seasons and swept the Cats this year.
“It was a great year. I wish we’d won in the SEC championship, but I’ll take those two wins,” Lofton said. Kentucky avenged its two regular-season losses to the Vols by beating them in the SEC Tournament title game.
While Lofton was at Tennessee, his teams never managed more than a split against Kentucky, but he did hand a Tubby Smith squad an embarrassing defeat in Lexington in 2006, scoring a then-career high 31. After the game, Smith acknowledged it was a mistake not to offer Lofton a scholarship.
With Tennessee established as a force under Barnes in a competitive Southeastern Conference, Lofton said he’s hoping the trend will continue.
“I expect more. I think that this year we actually have a target on our backs,” Lofton said. “Last year, we were hunting. Now we’re the hunted. Everybody wants a piece of us.”
Next season’s SEC slate of games has not yet been scheduled.