Pearl makes Hendrix pay

New UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl appears to be sending a message.

The Vols were not a disciplined bunch under Jerry Green (1998-2001) and they weren't a whole lot better under Buzz Peterson (2002-2005). But that may be about to change. Pearl announced Monday that senior forward Jemere Hendrix has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules.

The suspension has some bite. Hendrix cannot practice with his teammates or have any contact with them. His locker has been cleaned out, as well. Whether he is allowed to rejoin the team when preseason drills begin in October is still to be determined.

Hendrix was arrested near his hometown of Covington, Ga., last month on charges of possessing marijuana and operating a motor vehicle without a license. He is on record saying neither the vehicle nor the pot belonged to him. Pearl apparently found this excuse unbelievable or unacceptable because his response was swift and firm.

Hendrix, a 6-8, 220-pounder, signed with Clemson following high school but left the Tigers after one year in favor of UT. After sitting out the 2003 season as a transfer, he averaged 6.8 points and 6.2 rebounds for the 2004 Vols. His production slipped dramatically in 2005, however. Starting three of the 31 games, he averaged just 2.8 points and 2.7 rebounds.

Pearl's action is in stark contrast to the coaching style of Green, who imposed virtually no discipline during his four-year stint as the Vols' head man. This, along with shortcomings in the area of public relations, led to Green's departure after four 20-win seasons.

When asked about discipline immediately after his hiring by UT, Peterson replied, "That's why I'm here."

He backed up those words in the beginning by dismissing Terrence Woods and Harris Walker for failed substance tests. As time wore on, however, Peterson loosened his grip a bit, and Tennessee's discipline began to wane -- on the court and off.

Based on early indications, that won't happen under Pearl. His reputation as a hard-nosed disciplinarian appears to be well deserved.

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