Pearl to Focus on In-State Recruits

Given the glut of prep basketball talent in the Volunteer state for 2005-06, it's no surprise that new Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl and his staff are placing a heavy emphasis on in-state recruiting in the months ahead.

''We're going to recruit players primarily from the state of Tennessee,'' said Tony Jones, who followed Pearl from Wisconsin-Milwaukee and will be his recruiting coordinator at UT. ''That's where we're going to try and get our players. But we're not going to close the door on any potential recruit because of his location.''

Jones has a strong background that suggests he will do a good job securing talent for the Vols.

''I'm originally from Detroit, and I have a lot of ties in Detroit,'' he said. ''I coached Jalen Rose, Howard Isley and Rashon Leonard in high school, so I know what a big-time player looks like.''

A fatal flaw of fired UT coach Buzz Peterson was difficulty assessing and assimilating SEC-caliber talent. The new staff seems determined not to make the same mistake.

''To be able to succeed in the SEC and succeed with the style of play we're going to implement, we're going to need athletes and we're going to need shooters and we're going to need tough people,'' Jones said. ''And that's what we're going to recruit -- tough people.

"Obviously, we're going to recruit good kids who are able to make it academically but with an eye on competing for championships. That's what Bruce Pearl is all about -- winning championships. We came here to win championships.''

The new UT staff already is watching film and outlining a recruiting plan for the spring signing period. There is just one scholarship available, however, unless someone with eligibility remaining opts to leave the program.

''We've identified some players,'' Jones said. ''By watching film and investigating personnel and talking to people we respect who've observed the team, I think we need a big guy, a presence on the interior who can score with his back to the basket and rebound the ball. That's going to be our primary emphasis with this one scholarship.''

However, Jones indicated UT remains very interested in Jamont Gordon, a 6-foot-4 wing man from Oak Hill (Va.) Academy who grew up in Nashville. The Vols will have an additional grant available if Pearl elects not to renew the one-year scholarship Peterson gave former walk-on JaJuan Smith last fall.

Pearl apparently hopes to keep the three players who signed with Peterson last November -- 6-7 Tyler Smith, 6-8 Matthew Dotson and 6-9 Damion Harris.

''Some of the individuals they received early commitments from can really play,'' Jones said. ''And an individual they got a verbal commitment from (perhaps referring to Gordon) we're going to try and get him to secure that commitment, play here as a Tennessee Vol and help us implement our uptempo, fastbreak, tough style.''


Inside Tennessee Top Stories