Memphis Brims with Basketball Talent

Tennessee's road to recovery under Bruce Pearl can be made much smoother by establishing inroads into the prolific Memphis talent market.

Dominating the market isn't the goal there, but by simply adding one of the top ten basketball prospects each year from the Bluff City, Tennessee could build a base of in-state talent that could be reliably replenished and, when supplemented with prospects from the rest of the state, would give UT a core players needed to be consistently competitive in the SEC.

That's why adding Scott Edgar to the staff was a sound move by Pearl even if it costs UT talent in the short run. Edgar has a track record of success in Memphis and has established contacts in the area that will help open a lot of doors to the Vols. His ability to recruit Memphis was critical to Arkansas' great run in the early nineties under Nolan Richardson, who was a good judge of talent but did very little of his own recruiting. In fact, it was after Edgar left to become head coach at Murray State that the Memphis pipeline to Fayetteville dried up and the Hogs stock went belly up.

Edgar's experience in Arkansas' pressure defense aka "40 minutes of hell" is another value for the Vols as it dovetails perfectly with Pearl's similar defensive system. He can add some wrinkles to UT's defense and, more importantly, identify players that fit it. That gives him an inside track in attracting prospects to fill roles in a system that is fun to play and exciting to watch.

This weekend in Fayetteville, Ark., some of the top prospects in the country will be on display at the Real Deal On The Hill AAU Tournament, including several of the best from Memphis. Expect this to be among Edgar's first assignments as he joins such hardwood luminaries as Roy Williams, Bobby Knight and Billy Donovan at the showcase event. Organizers expect some 200 Division I basketball coaches in Fayetteville for games on Saturday and Sunday.

Here are a few of Memphis prospects known to playing in the AAU Tournament.

THADDEUS YOUNG: (6-8, 205) of Mitchell Road High School, is regarded as one of the top ten prospects in the nation and is rated the No. 1 small forward in the Class of 2006 by Scout.com. Very athletic with good shooting, ball handling and passing skills, Young can play on the perimeter or in the post. In one game as a sophomore, he scored 37 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. He averaged 24 points per game as a junior and led Memphis Pump-n-Run to the AAU national title game last summer. There will be no shortage of competition for this standout's services, but UT is one school he is considering.

WAYNE CHISM: (6-8, 230) A power forward and a solid scoring threat in the paint, Chism projects as a top 50 prospect nationally and would fill UT's need for a low post, point-producer. The Boliver Central High School senior has been offered by Tennessee, Arkansas and Ole Miss.

WILLIE KEMP: (6-2, 170) A quality point guard prospect who is a teammate of Chism's at Boliver as well as the Pump-n-Run AAU team out of Memphis. Considered one of the top 100 prospects nationally, Kemp has been offered by Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Ole Miss among others. With three-year starter C.J. Watson entering his senior season, the Vols are looking for a lead guard and Kemp fills the bill. A package deal with Chism would be nice to the say the least. And it's not an impossibility.

PIERRE NILES: (6-7, 250) A classic power forward with surprising shooting skills, Niles rates as one of the top 50 players in the nation in the Class of 2006. Another prime target for the Vols because of his to score with his back to the basket and eat space in the paint. Niles is also being hotly pursued by hometown Memphis and Arkansas.


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