Byars and Gordon

Vanderbilt's Derrick Byars and Mississippi State's Jamont Gordon have been named Southeastern Conference Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week, respectively. This is noteworthy to Tennessee fans because both easily could be wearing orange this season.

Byars, a 6-7, 223-pound forward from Memphis, wanted to transfer from Virginia to UT 18 months ago. Vol coach Buzz Peterson reportedly told him "no thanks" because Billy Smith, father of Pulaski prep standout Tyler Smith, wanted his son to have a clear shot at UT's starting small forward job in 2005-06.

Peterson passed on Byars but Tyler Smith ultimately passed on Tennessee, reneging on the scholarship he signed in November of 2004 when Peterson was fired last March.

Tennessee made a serious run at Nashville native Gordon last spring but apparently lost out when new coach Bruce Pearl suggested Gordon postpone his official visit to concentrate on getting his academics in order. Somehow feeling he had been slighted, the 6-4, 225-pound Gordon instead visited Mississippi State and committed to the Bulldogs shortly thereafter.

Byars is averaging 11.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game for Vandy. He's shooting 60 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from 3-point range. He hit 7 of 8 shots last week against Oregon, finishing with 20 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists as the Commodores won 76-75.

Gordon is averaging 13.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for MSU. He is State's second-leading scorer and has hit double figures six consecutive games. In the Bulldogs' recent 82-69 defeat of Santa Clara he had 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocked shots.

With Tennessee 5-0, the Vols' record obviously wouldn't be any better WITH Byars and Gordon. But the Vols' depth would be a whole lot healthier and their chances of beating Texas (Dec. 17) and Oklahoma State (Dec. 22) would be a good bit better.


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