Jamont Gordon

Upon taking the Tennessee basketball reins last March, one of Bruce Pearl's first priorities was to sign Nashville native Jamont Gordon, who was attending Virginia's Oak Hill Academy at the time. The coach says he never got the opportunity, though.

"I never had a chance," Pearl said earlier today.

Choosing his words very carefully, the first-year Vol coach added: "I was never given a chance to recruit him. I tried to recruit him. There was no interest."

Grinning smugly, Pearl turned and pretended to punch a nearby wall, clearly expressing non-verbally how frustrating his ill-fated pursuit of Gordon had been.

Pearl will get an up-close look at Jamont Gordon Wednesday night, when the Vols visit Starkville to play Mississippi State, the team that ultimately signed the 6-4, 225-pound swing man.

Asked how the Bulldogs are utilizing Gordon, Pearl replied: "Every which way they can. He fills up a stat sheet as much as anybody in the league. He's leading them in minutes (32.8 per game), scoring (13.2 points per game), field goals (79), field goals attempted (194), assists (70), turnovers (80), steals (22), defensive rebounds (87). He is an awesome athlete."

Gordon's a versatile athlete, too. Even as a true freshman he's playing some at point guard, some at shooting guard and some at small forward.

"They're playing him at 1, 2 and 3," Pearl said. "He'll be a tough match-up for anybody that's got him, and we'll probably have to put a number of different guys on him, based on where he is on the floor."

Since the high school basketball season was over when Pearl arrived at UT last spring, he never got to see Gordon play. The coach heard plenty of glowing reports, though.

"I was told he's special," Pearl said, "and he certainly is. The fact he's such a physical player and such a mature athlete would lend him to have early success. He's got calves bigger than a lot of guys' thighs. He's really a specimen."

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