Forwards to the Future

Catch-and-release is a popular fishing concept that can also yield positive results when applied as a basketball recruiting concept.

Take the case of small forward Anthony Passley, who signed with Bruce Pearl at Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the fall of 2003 and was granted his release the following August after coming down with a serious case of homesickness. He later transferred to Redland Community College which was closer to his home in Indianapolis.

"We've given him his release," Wisconsin Milwaukee head coach Bruce Pearl told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time. "I think he missed home. We're disappointed because he's a guy we thought really could develop into a terrific player for us. He is a high major athlete who would have helped this year's team. But it's not as damaging to this year's team as it will be to future teams."

Passley was forced to sit out the 2004-2005 season due to attending summer classes at UWM and retains four years of eligibility. The Pearl-Passley connection could have ended there if not for the fact Pearl taken over at Tennessee and is in need of a small forward.

Ironically, the last player Pearl issued a release at UMW could become the second player he signs at UT, where he would replace, Tyler Smith, who was refused a release by Pearl last month.

Although not as highly rated as Smith, the six-foot-five, 210-pound, Passley is a more physical presence with his chiseled frame and superior strength. He may also be a better fit for Tennessee given his penchant pounding the glass and his attacking style of defense.

Passley averaged 14.5 points and nine rebounds as a junior at Indianapolis North Central High School and improved on those numbers as a senior. In one contest his senior season against Mason County, Ky., which featured current Vol, Chris Lofton, Passley scored 36 points, hitting 17-of-23 shots from the field to lead his AAU squad to a 92-75 upset victory in the Circle City Classic. He was also recruited by Bradley, Southern Illinois, Wright State, Dayton, Butler, Ball State, Indiana State, Drake and Eastern Kentucky.

"Passley is an undersized small forward, but he is not afraid to bang," said Scout.com's Chris Monter. "He is a hard worker with a good mid-range shot.

"He led the Spiece Blue Devils AAU team to titles in the Hoosier Shootout and Kentucky Hoopfest last summer, despite the team not having standout guard A.J. Ratliff for either event."

Passley has same type of size and athleticism as senior Stanley Asumnu, but is a much better shooter, a talent that could allow him to play either small forward or shooting guard, while giving Pearl some flexibility in developing lineups and substitution patterns.

Tennessee is expected to sign Philadelphia Lutheran Christian Academy power forward Marcus Thomas this week, and has also, reportedly, inked former UWM signee Ryan Childress of Cincinnati. Childress is a 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward, who was released by UMW Coach Rob Jeter after Pearl's departure for UT. He averaged 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a senior at Moeller High School. The Vols may also be pursuing Desmond Yates, a 6-foot-6 small forward from Fayette Ware High School in Somerville.

After losing Smith, it appears Pearl is moving forward in a both big and small ways.


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