Butler to test NBA waters

The bad news: UT basketball signee Jackie Butler has scheduled a news conference for today during which he is expected to declare his intentions to enter the NBA draft. <p>The good news: He could still be a Vol next winter.

By announcing that he is available for the draft, Butler will learn where he projects to be picked in the NBA's next talent lottery. If pro scouts project him as a top-25 pick, he probably will jump from prep school straight to the NBA.

If Butler is ranked outside the top 25 or so picks, however, he has the option to withdraw from the draft-eligible list and enroll at Tennessee. In order to keep this option open, he has not signed an agent and he has not withdrawn from Coastal Christian (Va.) Academy.

In essence, Butler is testing the waters. If he doesn't like the temperature, he can always play a year of college ball and then turn pro, as Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony did last year.

A former McDonald's All-American, the 6-11, 250-pound Butler is the most heralded recruit of the Buzz Peterson era at Tennessee. Thus, his career path is of great interest to UT's coaches. Still, his decision to opt for the NBA draft is not unexpected.

''When we signed Jackie, the agreement we had with his mom was that he should look seriously at the NBA if he were going to be a first-round pick,'' Vol assistant Chris Ferguson told The Tennessean. ''This is just a way for Jackie to get a better read on where he would go in the draft.''


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