Tyler Smith eyes playoffs

Junior forward Tyler Smith, regarded as the top name on Tennessee basketball's recruiting chart, scored 28 points in his regular-season finale last Friday night, leading Giles County High of Pulaski to victory over Lincoln County High.

Smith guided his team to the state title a year ago and, as the playoffs approach, is focused on repeating that feat this year.

''We've got some talented players on our team,'' he told Brian Hanni of Phog.net. ''I think we have a good chance at another championship.''

Tennessee's bid to secure Smith's commitment faces some stiff challenges. Kansas, Louisville and UCLA also are wooing the 6-foot-6 superstar. Smith has been so focused on his prep career that he has yet to narrow his list of college options to five.

''Me and my daddy have been meaning to do that, but my step-mom has had some surgery so we haven't gotten to it yet,'' he said. ''Now he really wants me to focus on getting another championship, so we'll look at it after that.'' 

Smith expects to announce his college choice before beginning his senior season at Giles County High. His father's input appears to be critical. ''I want to do it before the season starts for my senior year,'' Tyler said. ''I really don't know, though; me and my dad will have to talk about it.''

Proximity favors Tennessee but Smith says that's not a big factor in his decision.

''As far as being away from home, it really wouldn't matter to me where I go so long as I can relate well to the coach and coaching staff,'' he said. ''Plus, I like offenses that are open and run.''

Tennessee began the season in a run-and-gun mode but has slowed the pace considerably since beginning SEC play.

Some observers believe Kansas is the team to beat for Smith's services. The Jayhawks don't run the floor as much as in years past but Smith likes what he has seen.

''See, I like how they run their offense, too,'' he said. ''It's nice.''

There is another indication that Smith may be looking heavily at Kansas. When he plays ''March Madness 2004'' on his X-box video game, he uses Kansas' roster.

Tennessee lost the state's top two recruits of 2003 last November, when Corey Brewer (Portland) signed with Florida and Shawne Williams (Memphis) picked the hometown Memphis Tigers. If the Vols are to return to NCAA Tournament level, they need to start corralling the in-state talent. Tyler Smith would be a great place to start.

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