UT says goodbye to Gordon

In retrospect, Jamont Gordon's Sunday night commitment to Mississippi State wasn't that big a surprise ... or that big a deal, really.

Why wasn't it a big surprise? Because all the signs in recent months suggested Gordon would NOT be a Vol.

Why wasn't it a big deal? Because the 6-foot-4 Gordon projects to play shooting guard/small forward at UT, and those should be the Vols' two strongest positions over the next few years. Freshman Chris Lofton returns as the shooting guard, and he's clearly the team's best player. Meanwhile, 6-foot-7 November signee Tyler Smith is a more natural small forward than Gordon.

Assuming Smith honors the scholarship he signed in November, the Vols will be in good shape at small forward even without Gordon. Of course, losing Smith -- on the heels of losing Gordon -- would be a VERY BIG deal. Smith met with new UT coach Bruce Pearl last week and plans to meet with him again next week before deciding whether or not to honor the UT scholarship he signed last November. It's no slam dunk, but I still believe Tyler will be wearing orange next winter.

Tennessee fought the good fight for Gordon but it was an uphill battle all the way. The first omen came last summer, when Gordon elected to transfer from Nashville Glencliff to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Oak Hill is a good place for a guy looking to get his academics in order but it's also a showcase school for basketball prospects looking to get better offers.

The next omen came in November, when Smith signed with UT but Gordon elected to wait. That underscored the idea that Gordon hoped to get a better offer during the spring signing period.

The firing of Vol head man Buzz Peterson following the 2004-05 season probably put another dent in UT's chances of landing Gordon. So did Pearl's apparent decision not to retain Vol aide Chuck Benson, who had developed a solid relationship with the Gordon family.

Still, I'm not sure Gordon ever expected to sign with Tennessee. Likewise, I'm not sure Tennessee ever expected to sign him.

Consider: When Pearl was hired two weeks ago, new recruiting coordinator Tony Jones was asked about UT's recruiting priorities this spring. He shocked his audience by saying the Vols were looking for a big man. Why would he snub Gordon if he thought there was a realistic chance to sign him?

Gordon's decision to attend Mississippi State is a setback, to be sure. But if Bruce Pearl can hang onto Tyler Smith, the Vols should be very strong at shooting guard and small forward the next few years ... even without Gordon.

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