USA: Tyler Smith Spotlight

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – For Tyler Smith, the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival has been a test of his spirit. A pulled muscle in his back has relegated him to observer for the 3-0 South.

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Tyler Smith, the 6-foot-6 wing out of Pulaski (Tenn.) Giles County, was supposed to play a big part in the South's dominance here at the festival.

Instead, Smith has been cast in the role of cheerleader for the South as a pulled muscle in his back has kept him out of action for a good part of the games. When he's played, he's looked good but he might not be able to go again here in Colorado Springs.

"It happened about a week ago," Smith said. "I was trying to play through it and I made the wrong move and it started hurting. I pulled a muscle and it's hard for me to jump."

From the bench, Smith has been one of the most vocal supporters of his teammates. His attitude has been terrific and his support for his fellow Southerners has gone a long way in helping Mike Gurley's team chemistry.

"He's really been great," South assistant Tom Topping said. "He was very good the first day when we were practicing. He's got a great attitude that has permeated throughout the team.

"His attitude has been ‘tell me what you want me to do coach and I'll do it.' It's unfortunate because he really would have had an explosive camp here."

Speaking of being a part of a team, Smith continues to explore all of his college options including staying home and playing for the Tennessee Volunteers. Of his top three schools – UT, Kansas and North Carolina – only the Vols have a firm offer on the table.

Miami, Florida and Florida State are three other schools he's looking at hard. Still, he says he'll wait awhile to see who offers him. Even if UNC and KU don't offer after July, Smith says he'll be patient with his search.

"I would still wait. I'm trying to wait on my options pretty much."

In the end, there will be pressure from the locals to play in Knoxville. He's already getting hit up by his community to stay home. For the most part, Smith doesn't mind it when people push the Vols on him.

"There's a lot of pressure to stay here. A lot of Giles County fans bleed orange. It's my decision and I have to see what is the best option for me. In a way it helps. I wouldn't want to disrespect everyone at home. But, if I have a better option I wouldn't want to pass it up if it's right."

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