Who's next for Pearl?

Tony Jones, recruiting coordinator for new Vol basketball coach Bruce Pearl, told me over the weekend he thought the Vols were on the verge of landing a couple of big-time prospects.

Sure enough, Wayne Chism, a standout 6-9 post player from Bolivar Central, committed on Monday.

That raises the obvious question: Who'll be the next standout to pick the Vols?

At the time of my conversation with Jones, Tennessee had just one commitment, 6-5 combo guard Marques Johnson of Fort Wayne, Ind. When the UT aide suggested two more prospects -- both big names -- were about to join the fold, I figured he was being overly optimistic. Not anymore.

"We've got one commitment," Jones had said, "and we're hopefully going to be landing a couple more commitments before school starts. I can't mention any names, of course, but these players I'm talking about are top-50 individuals. We're hoping to secure them in the next couple of weeks, then we'll be off to a great start."

There's an old saying: It's always toughest to get that first pickle out of the jar. Now that Pearl has his first in-state standout committed, it should be easier to get another one.

With Chism in the fold, Tennessee's top in-state targets are Bolivar Central point guard Willie Kemp, Memphis Mitchell forward Thaddeus Young and Memphis Mitchell shooting guard Brandon Powell. All three are top-50 prospects who have expressed interest in UT. Obviously, landing Chism gives Tennessee a better chance to land Kemp since they were high school teammates, but it also boosts the Vols' chances of signing other other top-notch players, both in-state and out-of-state.

"It's a Pied Piper effect," Jones said. "When you get a player in the top 50 nationally, then other high-level recruits who have played with him and interacted with him see that and they start talking. When one high-level recruit says, ‘I'm coming to Tennessee,' then another says, ‘Well, if you made the move to go there, then I'm seriously interested in going there also.'

"That's the cause and effect that will get us going in the right direction as far as bringing some respect back to the men's basketball program."

Although the earlier commitments of Nashville's Jamont Gordon and Brownsville's Jarvis Varnado to Mississippi State frustrated some Big Orange fans, Jones was brimming with optimism as we discussed UT's recruiting outlook over the weekend.

"We've been really well received, especially within the region, but also nationally," the Vol aide said. "A lot of people saw our success at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, saw us on national TV and, boy, that kind of visibility is a great recruiting tool right there."

The Vols used that tool to dig up one top-50 prospect. Who's next?


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