Vols on Guest list

Now that he has secured point guard Wes Washpun, Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin can turn his attention to bolstering the Vol frontline.

One attractive option is Jared Guest, a 6-8, 205-pounder who helped lead Charis Prep of Wilson, N.C., to a 35-5 record and the 2011 national prep school championship by beating Kestrel Heights of Durham in the finals.

"Jared played well that game," Charis coach Carlos Peralta told InsideTennessee, "but what he did as a body of work here is the thing that's most impressive ... the improvement he made from the time he arrived to now."

Rated a 3-star prospect by Scout as a senior at Richland Northeast High School of Columbia, S.C., Guest opted for prep school to hone his grades, bulk up his frame and fine-tune his game. Mission accomplished. He averaged 16.8 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game in 2010-11, attracting loads of attention from major programs.

Tennessee signed just one player when the spring signing period opened on Wednesday - the previously committed Washpun of Cedar Rapids, Iowa - but appears to be in good shape for Guest.

"I think Tennessee would be a good place for him," Peralta said. "But everything's still open. I think he's willing to be patient and weigh all of his options."

Those options are impressive. The Guest list of finalists includes Clemson, North Carolina State, Virginia Commonwealth, Xavier, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Georgia.

When asked why Guest is such a coveted prospect, Peralta replied: "To be perfectly honest, the big man class is thin this year. But he's very, very athletic. He's 6-8 barefooted. He's learned in a short amount of time to play sound defense, on and off the ball. He attacks the glass relentlessly on both ends.

"I've only had him for a year as a post-grad. He came in as an athlete but he's put together a nice skill package of inside moves and a jump shot that goes out beyond the 3-point line."

Incredibly, the 6-8 forward made better than half of his 3-point attempts at Charis Prep.

"He shot 58.3 percent behind the 3-point line for the year," Peralta said.

Still, Guest's greatest attribute is his potential. He has tons of it.

"Some kids have maxed out by this point but his better days are ahead of him," Peralta said. "He's a long way from maxing out."

Cuonzo Martin places a premium on man-to-man defense, so Guest's abilities in that area are critical. No problem, Peralta says.

"He can defend with the best of them," the prep coach said. "He can defend positions one (point guard) through five (center)."

Guest's major shortcoming is his slender build. He'll have to beef up a bit if he's to face SEC-caliber competition at Tennessee.

"His biggest weakness is the fact he's only 205 pounds," Peralta said. "He's going to have to get stronger and bulkier to play in the paint in college. He also needs to build his stamina because it's a lot more physical in college.

"He'll never be a brute but he has to get stronger. In other ways he's ready, as far as bringing energy and having the skills to contribute right away."

WASHPUN IS OFFICIAL

The first signee of Tennessee's Cuonzo Martin era is now official. The head man announced the signing of Wes Washpun earlier today.

"I'm excited about what Wes can bring to the program," Martin said in a release. "He's a quick, athletic guard who knows how to run a team. He's a student of the game and someone who plays with great competitiveness."

The 6-1, 170-pound left-hander earned first-team Class 4A All-State honors from the Iowa Newspaper Association after averaging 18 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.7 steals and 2.1 blocked shots per game. He also set Washington High School's single-season steals record (92).

"My relationship with coach Martin was definitely a big factor in choosing Tennessee," Washpun said. "Coach Martin started recruiting me late last year (while still coaching Missouri State) and we hit it off right away. He always stayed in touch with me - even when he got to Tennessee - so I figured that was the man I wanted to play for."

Washpun has not visited the UT campus but believes he knows what to expect when he arrives this summer.

"I definitely know the Tennessee fans are passionate about basketball, and they take their sports very seriously down there," he said. "I've already gotten a ton of friend requests on Facebook. It's going to be a great environment and a lot of fun."

Washpun is the second member of Tennessee's 2011 recruiting class, joining November signee Chris Jones of Memphis.


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