BASKETBALL: Package deal?

Package deals are nothing new in University of Tennessee basketball. Ray Mears once hired Marty Morris as an assistant in order to get Larry Robinson, the Vols' first African-American player. Mears later signed Bill Seale in order to get Wayne Tomlinson, then signed Jerry Finestone in order to get superstar teammate Ernie Grunfeld. Mears' last package deal involved signing Frank Harrell as a grad assistant in order to get Reggie Johnson.

Don DeVoe continued the art of the deal by signing Knoxville's Travis Henry to get 6-11 Karns High School teammate Doug Roth. Kevin O'Neill did likewise, signing Del Baker in order to get his brother, Vincent Yarbrough, a year later.

Now Bruce Pearl is hoping to secure a package deal of his own. The first-year Vol boss is in hot pursuit of teammates Wayne Chism and Willie Kemp. They play together for Bolivar Central High School and also for the same AAU team. Ideally, they'd like to play college ball together, as well.

Pearl would love to give them that opportunity in Knoxville, and he's fighting hard to make that a reality.

Tennessee appears to be in pretty good shape on Chism, a 6-9 forward. He reportedly is considering Memphis, Arkansas, UT, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. However, there are conflicting reports on Kemp, a 6-2 point guard. Some sources suggest the Vols are in the running, while others say Kemp's list already has been whittled to five finalists -- Memphis, Kentucky, Illinois, Arkansas and Florida.

With C.J. Watson down to his final year of eligibility as UT's point guard, Pearl can almost promise Kemp a starting job in 2006-07. Whether that's enough of an enticement to get him away from nearby Memphis remains to be seen.

The Vols look to have a much better shot at Chism. Tennessee's 2005-06 post players will be 6-10 Major Wingate, 6-8 senior Jemere Hendrix and 6-9 freshman Damion Harris. Hendrix would be out of eligibility by the time Chism arrives. Wingate has been erratic and Harris is viewed by many observers as more of a project than an immediate-impact type of player.

The upside of the Chism/Kemp situation is obvious. Unlike previous UT package deals, this one wouldn't involve signing a borderline prospect in order to get a targeted prospect. This time there are two blue-chippers at stake.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories