Not long ago itseemed unlikely that Tyler Smith would ever play for Bruce Pearl. A 6'7"sophomore forward from Pulaski, Tenn., Smith signed with the Vols in 2004 butasked out of his commitment after coach Buzz Peterson was fired and replaced byPearl. Pearl refused to release Smith, who then failed to qualify academicallyand spent a year at a Virginia prep school (Hargrave Military Academy) beforegoing to Iowa. "I was all about relationships with coaches, and I'd knownCoach Peterson since ninth grade," says Smith. "But there were neverany hard feelings between me and Coach Pearl. It was just a bigmisunderstanding that got blown¬†up."
It may be twoyears later than expected, but the gem among the Vols' newcomers this season isSmith, whose arrival gives Tennessee a scoring option to complement theperimeter threat of national player of the year candidate Chris Lofton. Smithmade the All-Big Ten freshman team with the Hawkeyes last season, but thedeparture of coach Steve Alford and the failing health of his father, Billy,motivated him to transfer. "Once I figured out I wanted to come home, CoachPearl had open arms," says Smith. "This is where I wanted to be:playing this style in this town for this university." (In June the NCAAgranted Smith a waiver to become eligible immediately because of his father'slung cancer; Billy died in September.)
Smith's rampantathleticism fits Pearl's trademark full-court press. "Tyler's a completeplayer," says the coach, "a guy who makes plays that'll make you go oohand aah, yet basketball purists will like that he's solid."
With Smith'sarrival this team has serious designs on reaching the Final Four, as long as itcan improve on the poor half-court defense that led to the Vols' second-halfcollapse in last season's regional semifinal loss to Ohio State. "Coachtalks about defense all the time, and we know our offense will come out of our[defensive] style of play," says Smith, who's playing this season in honorof his father. "I think we have every piece to get to San Antonio."
November 19, 2007
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
|PG||Ramar Smith [RETURNING STARTER]||6'2"||Soph.||10.7 ppg||3.1 apg|
|SG||Chris Lofton [RETURNING STARTER]||6'2"||Sr.||20.8 ppg||3.1 rpg|
|SG||Jajuan Smith [RETURNING STARTER]||6'2"||Sr.||15.2 ppg||4.5 rpg|
|PF||Tyler Smith [*STATS WITH IOWA]||6'7"||Soph.||14.9 ppg||4.9 rpg|
|C||Wayne Chism [RETURNING STARTER]||6'9"||Soph.||9.1 ppg||5.2 rpg|
|F||Ryan Childress||6'9"||Jr.||5.6 ppg||4.0 rpg|
Nov. 9 Temple (W80-63)
Nov. 16 PrairieView A&M
Nov. 20 MiddleTennessee State
Nov. 23-24 LegendsClassic (in Newark, vs. West Virginia; plus New Mexico State, Texas)
Nov. 27 NorthCarolina A&T
Dec. 4 atChattanooga
Dec. 15 WesternKentucky (in¬†Nashville)
Dec. 19 UNCAsheville
Dec. 22 atXavier
Dec. 29 Gonzaga(in¬†Seattle)
Jan. 19 OhioState
Feb. 23 atMemphis
Bruce Pearlscheduled bitter rival Memphis in February to kick off a brutal stretch (atMemphis, at Vanderbilt, vs. Kentucky, at Florida) for one reason: It will airon ESPN's College GameDay. Dates with Xavier and Gonzaga show that Pearl isfearless, and he would love few things more than to beat Texas for the thirdstraight season.
Coach Bruce Pearl(3rd year)
SEC record 10-6(T-2nd in East)
NCAA tournamentSweet 16
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