UT Wrong for Wright

It's far too early to pass judgment on Bruce Pearl's performance as Tennessee's head basketball coach, but his initial efforts in middle Tennessee have been, at best, middling.

In summary: he failed to convince Pulaski small forward Tyler Smith to honor the scholarship he signed with Tennessee last November, and after Pearl refused to give the state's No. 1 prospect a release, Smith decided to go to a prep school instead of playing for Pearl. To add insult to injury, Smith, reportedly, intentionally failed courses at Giles County High School in order to free himself of any future obligation to UT.

Then Pearl saw Nashville shooting guard Jamont Gordon cancel a scheduled visit to Knoxville in order to take one to Starkville, Miss. Gordon, who was believed to favor UT, committed to Mississippi State while on his visit and blamed Pearl for not showing him the level of interest needed to draw him to his home state university.

A mere matter of hours before Centerville's Matthew Dotson was scheduled to enroll at Tennessee, Pearl called to postpone the signees early entry. He later convinced Dotson that his basketball future would be brighter with some other program, and granted the shooting forward his release. While it's not unusual for a new coach with a new system not to take his predecessor's signees, it is most uncommon to wait that late in the process before informing the prospect that he doesn't fit.

Now Brentwood Academy power forward Brandan Wright has all but eliminated UT from consideration, naming his top six as Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Vanderbilt, Louisville and Wake Forest. He favors the Blue Devils, Wildcats and Demon Deacons. The 6-foot-10, 200-pound Wright is rated the nation's No. 1 power forward in the Class of 2006 by Scout.com. He averaged 24 points per game last season and averaged double figures rebounds. An adept shot blocker, Brandan Wright has excellent quickness and good range. He led Brentwood Academy to its first ever state title as a freshman, winning tournament MVP honors in the process and has been a high-profile target ever since.

"I like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Wake Forest, Kansas, and Vanderbilt," Wright told Mike Sullivan of NewYork Insider last night at the Showcase in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. "I want to visit North Carolina, Duke, and Kentucky."

With only four months on the job the odds were against Pearl committing such sought after prospect as Wright, but a visit to Knoxville was well within the realm of possibility.

Outside ot Interstate road blocks, there may be no answer to the exodus of hardwood talent from middle Tennessee.


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