Pearl discusses suspensions

An ugly wart showed up on the face of Tennessee's Cinderella basketball season when two reserve players were arrested Sunday morning on drug-related charges.

Jordan Smith and Tony Passley were released upon posting bond after police found 15 grams of crack cocaine in the driver's side door compartment of Smith's car. Both Vols were charged with possession of a schedule 2 drug. Passley also was charged with possession of a schedule 6 drug (roughly three grams of marijuana). The incident occurred at around 2 a.m. near a Knoxville night club.

Smith is a sophomore walk-on from Knoxville's West High School. Passley, originally from Indianapolis, transferred to UT after a brief stay at Redlands (Calif.) Community College. Also a sophomore, he is sitting out this year under NCAA transfer guidelines.

UT head coach Bruce Pearl said during his Monday news conference that he had spoken with the two players but had not met with them since their arrest. He added that he was "real disappointed" but promised to "respond appropriately." Pearl characterized the incident as "disturbing," adding that "a setback like this affects me deeply."

The coach said he and his team discuss off-the-court discipline "all the time," adding: "You shouldn't have to learn more from a loss than you do from a win. And you shouldn't have to learn more from a negative incident than if you have no incidents."

Pearl said he is concerned with how the two players involved will be affected but also with "how it reflects on the rest of the team. We've got so many terrific student-athletes who are doing a terrific job. When these things happen, it detracts from it."

The coach is hopeful the incident won't detract from his team's concentration as it prepares for the SEC Tournament, which begins Thursday in Nashville. The Vols (21-6 overall, 12-4 SEC) will play Friday at 1 EST against the winner of Thursday's game between South Carolina and Mississippi State.

Pearl met with his team at 6 o'clock Monday morning and reminded the players that "You can't control what happens but you can control what happens from here." Ultimately, he believes the Vols will not allow the incident to distract them as they pursue the SEC Tournament title.

"You worry about what you can control," he said. "I think we'll move forward."

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