It's D-Day for Pearl

Forget about November. Tennessee basketball season starts today. What happens in the next week could go a long way in determining the immediate future of Vol hoops.

New head coach Bruce Pearl is scheduled to meet with Tyler Smith tonight in Pulaski. A 6-foot-7 forward ranked among the top 50 prospects nationwide, Smith signed with Buzz Peterson last November, then averaged 26 points per game as a senior at Giles County High. When Peterson was fired as UT's head man three weeks ago, however, Smith began entertaining doubts about his college future. Pearl hopes to crush those doubts tonight.

Smith's concerns are understandable. He signed four months ago with the understanding he'd play college ball for Peterson. Now there's a new sheriff in town (Pearl) and Smith doesn't know anything about his personality, his coaching style or his system. This type of situation comes up quite often in college hoops.

When Jerry Green replaced Kevin O'Neill eight years ago, Green had to re-recruit Tony Harris, who had signed with O'Neill the previous November. Green succeeded in keeping Harris. When Peterson replaced Green four years ago, he had to rerecruit Elgrace Wilborn, who had signed with Green the previous November. Wilborn requested a release to sign with Michigan State (closer to his Ohio home) but Peterson refused. Wilborn eventually relented and honored his UT scholarship.

In addition to re-recruiting Tyler Smith, Pearl is looking to nail down another prep superstar, Jamont Gordon of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Gordon, a 6-4 wing player also ranked among the top 50 prospects nationally, is making his official visit to campus this weekend.

Obviously, Smith and Gordon would represent a serious upgrade in talent for a Tennessee roster that desperately needs one. Both are the type of athletic, hardnosed guys perfectly suited to Pearl's up-tempo style. Landing both would give the new coach a much better chance to get UT hoops back on track sooner, rather than later.

Clearly, Tennessee basketball season starts today.


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