Camron Justice, a 6-foot-2 junior at Knott County High in Hindman, Ky., decided to wrap up the recruiting process a year early by committing to the Vols during Saturday's Tennessee-South Carolina football game. A last-second field goal lifted the Big Orange to a 23-21 victory but Justice missed the thrilling finish.
"I committed at the football game," he told InsideTennessee, "but I left in the third quarter."
Justice's commitment may be as big for Tennessee's basketball coaches as the defeat of the Gamecocks was for Tennessee's football coaches.
"They were real excited," Justice said. "I think they were shocked a little bit. I had told them before I wouldn't commit till next summer. But I just felt the need to go ahead."
That need was easily explained.
"I didn't feel like I could find anywhere else that was as good a fit or as great an opportunity."
Justice played for East Ridge as an eighth grader, then enrolled at Knott County High, where he has started since his freshman year. He averaged 25.5 points per game as a sophomore last season and has 1,996 career points to date.
Just as Tennessee's coaches are thrilled to have his commitment, Justice is thrilled to have the recruiting process behind him.
"I just wanted to relieve some stress, get some weight off the shoulders," he said.
As a Knott County sophomore in December of 2012 Justice scored a mind-boggling 62 points in a holiday tournament against Roger Bacon High of Cincinnati – hitting 19 of 29 field-goal tries, 8 of 11 shots from 3 and 16 of 19 foul shots.
Because he's a small-school star, Justice flew under the radar for a while. He began attracting attention from a few of college basketball's elite programs after some outstanding AAU performances last summer.
"He had a great July," said Andy Rines, program director for The Travelers AAU team that Justice represents. "We qualified for Peach Jam, and he was our leading scorer there. He shot almost 50 percent from the floor, and that's crazy for a guard. He became our best player as the summer wore on. He really had a great month of July."
Justice was so hot in July that Rick Pitino of national champ Louisville called him. Indiana expressed interest. So did Stanford, Gonzaga and Butler, among others. More "name" schools would be joining the chase if Justice hadn't committed so early to Tennessee. Basically, he felt an allegiance to the Vols, who have been recruiting him longer than just about anyone.
"Tennessee has been on me since my freshman year," he said. "That meant a lot. I felt like they really wanted me to be a part of their program."
Asked what Tennessee coaches like best about him, Justice replied: "My ability to come off screens and shoot the ball. They run a motion offense, and I'll be running off screens a lot."
Although known as an intense competitor, Justice described himself as "a mellow type player. I try to let the game come to me."
Asked if he has any words for Tennessee fans, Justice paused thoughtfully before saying: "When I get there I'm going to be ready to go, try to make them proud."