Bounced basketballer

Did Tennessee run off a basketball signee because it found a prospect it liked better? Sign in or sign up to check out this essay on the subject:

He committed to Tennessee on Dec. 3, 2011.

He signed with Tennessee on Nov. 15, 2012.

He was released by Tennessee in April of 2013

He signed with New Mexico State earlier today.

That's the bizarre timeline for one-time Vol basketball recruit Travon Landry, whose senior statistics at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep apparently led Tennessee coaches to suggest he find another school.

According to stats published at MaxPreps.com, Landry averaged 2.8 points and 2.7 assists per game last season for a 30-3 Huntington Prep squad. He made a mere 26.9 percent (32 of 149) of his shots from the field, 6.2 percent (2 of 32) from 3-point range and 53.3 percent (24 of 45) from the foul line.

For the sake of comparison, 2012-13 Tennessee starting point guard Trae Golden averaged 12.2 points and 3.9 assists per game, shooting 38.3 percent from the field, 29.5 percent from 3 and 77.8 percent from the foul line.

Landry averaged a solid 12.3 points and 3.5 assists per game as a sophomore at San Antonio's Bryan High School in 2010-11. After transferring to Bob Jones High in Madison, Ala., he committed to Tennessee four games into his junior season. At the time his high school coach, Danny Petty, called him "probably the quickest player I've coached, and I've been coaching 39 years."

After leading Bob Jones High to the Class 6A state semifinals and a 29-2 record, Landry transferred to Huntington Prep to play alongside some of America's elite talent. His role was to set up others rather than score but his season-long shooting woes had to concern Tennessee's coaches.

Landry became expendable when the Vols used a spring scholarship to sign hot-shooting combo guard Darius Thompson of Murfreesboro Blackman. He averaged 16.3 points and 6.4 assists per game in 2012-13, shooting 55.7 percent from the field, 42.4 percent from 3 and 73.8 percent from the foul line. At 6 feet 4 – four inches taller than Landry – Thompson also fits the lanky body type that Vol head coach Cuonzo Martin prefers.

Finding himself one player over the 13-man scholarship limit last month, Martin apparently suggested Landry find another school. If so, he is not the first head coach to use this tactic. Alabama football coach Nick Saban is infamous for running off marginal players to make room for celebrated new recruits. Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari recently rerouted some holdovers to free up scholarships for the most heralded signing class ever.

Martin's predecessor, Bruce Pearl, nudged a couple of prospects toward the door during his six-year stint in Knoxville. Upon succeeding Buzz Peterson as Tennessee's head coach in 2005, Pearl informed Peterson signee Matthew Dotson that he was not a good fit for Tennessee's uptempo system and might find more playing time elsewhere. Dotson promptly secured a release from UT and enrolled at Belmont.

Pearl also sent one of his own signees packing. Ruled academically ineligible for basketball competition as a true freshman in 2008-09, point guard signee Daniel West of Saginaw, Mich., paid his own way at Tennessee during the 2008-09 school year. He reportedly was discouraged from joining the program in 2009-10, however.

Making the Travon Landry mess a bit surprising is the fact Cuonzo Martin is widely regarded as a man of considerable integrity. After settling for NIT bids in each of his first two seasons at the Vol helm, however, he really needs to make the NCAA Tournament in 2013-14. Adding an offensive-minded player such as Darius Thompson to the roster improves Tennessee's chances of doing so.

To add Thompson, however, Martin had to subtract someone. The odd man out proved to be Travon Landry, a kid whose primary mistake was making too few shots as a high school senior.

Released from his letter of intent by UT, Landry earlier today signed with New Mexico State. The Aggies already have one Huntington Prep product on their roster, 7-foot-5, 360-pound Sim Bhuller.

Two questions to ponder:

1. Will the Travon Landry incident tarnish Cuonzo Martin's reputation for integrity? Not if he wins 25 games and makes the NCAA Tournament next March.

2. Will the Travon Landry incident damage the relationship between Cuonzo Martin and Huntington Prep head man Rob Fulford? That's pertinent since the Vols' top 2014 target, five-star wing Jalen Lindsey of Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, recently announced he's transferring to Huntington Prep for his senior year.

For what it's worth: Calls and emails from IT seeking comment from Fulford have gone unanswered.


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