Andre in limbo

Suspended senior forward Andre Patterson probably will return to Tennessee's basketball team this season but it's no slam dunk.

Patterson was suspended for his involvement in the same ugly incident that led new Vol coach Bruce Pearl to dismiss Jemere Hendrix. In order to rejoin the team Patterson must meet certain requirements.

"There are three things Andre has to get accomplished," Pearl said this week. "First, in the classroom. Second, off the court. Third, with his training outside of the team."

If Patterson meets the coach's demands, he'll be reinstated.

"I feel Andre should be able to get back to us," Pearl said. "It would not be my anticipation he would be playing in our first exhibition game, and there really is no set timetable for his return. I've got to see some tangible results – some stepped-up effort and performance – in order for him to come back."

The reason Patterson didn't get the same harsh penalty as Hendrix was pretty simple.

"This was the first time Andre got himself in that situation, so I think he deserves a second chance," Pearl said. "But he's got to prove to me he wants one."

Without Patterson, Tennessee has just nine scholarship players – four below the NCAA limit. A series of unfortunate events combined to deplete the roster. First, Tyler Smith refused to honor the scholarship he signed with former UT coach Buzz Peterson last November. Pearl could've signed someone to fill that spot but couldn't find a suitable replacement.

"We had the one scholarship that we did not use," the coach said. "Philosophically, its quality not quantity. If we can't sign the players that we need in a particular year to win in the SEC, we aren't going to use the scholarship."

Meanwhile, one of the players Pearl DID sign, Anthony Passley, was forced to sit out the 2005-06 season because of an unfavorable ruling from the NCAA.

"I had originally signed him with Wisconsin-Milwaukee," Pearl noted. "He went to one summer school class on one day and we were hoping to appeal his status, so that one day would not get his four year clock started. We did not win that appeal, which was both very disappointing and very surprising for me, based on a lot of the circumstances and case precedent.

"So, that leaves us two guys short. We've obviously had a dismissal with Jemere Hendrix being removed from this basketball team, and that puts us down three. With Andre Patterson being suspended right now, that puts us down four. You've got 13 scholarships; we are down to nine so you can see why our numbers are somewhat thin."

Still, Pearl isn't making any excuses.

"We've got enough to go out there and compete," he said. "To beat the best teams on our schedule we would like to be at full strength, and I don't know if we'll ever get there this first year."

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