Vols Take Aim at Shooters

Whether it's this weekend, or next, or later, it appears Bruce Pearl will get a shot at one of the top shooters in the Class of 2006.

Rated the nation's No. 5 shooting guard by Scout.com, 6-foot-3, 200-pound Ramar Smith of Detroit, Mich., might become the crown jewel in a standout UT signing class already ranked No. 16 among 324 Division I schools. It would also push the number of top 100 players in Pearl's first full recruiting season at Tennessee to four, which is second only to North Carolina with five.

Most significantly, Smith would provide Pearl a transition piece that could flourish in an up-tempo game, create his own scoring opportunities and finish strong on the break. In short: the Motown guard, if properly motivated, is a perfect fit for UT's high-energy system.

"I like the way Tennessee runs, the way they get up and down the floor," he said. "That's more my style. And I like the coaches. I played both shooting guard and point guard in high school. Actually Tennessee is interested in me as a point. Coach (Tony) Jones is the one recruiting me for Tennessee."

Of course, we're getting ahead of things since Smith has been hard to pin down after disavowing a commitment made to UConn last summer. He made an official visit to Arkansas in late February and has been scheduled to visit UT for the Orange and White Game since before then. He was expected to choose between Tennessee and Arkansas after his official visit. However, over recent weeks his level of certainty, as well as, enthusiasm for the Knoxville trip has fluctuated.

Still the Vols have continued to vigorously pursue the mercurial prospect with the prime-time game and appear to be right back in contention. It was particularly encouraging that UT's top signee Duke Crews of Hampton, Va., was scheduled to visit Tennessee this weekend to help recruit Smith. The bad news is Smith may now be forced to postpone his visit due to an illness his mother is battling.

The spring signing period begins next Wednesday, and the timing was ideal for UT to put on the full court press with Smith in town and the Duke on campus. It might still happen, or it might happen later, or it may never happen.

SECOND SHOOTER

Also scheduled to visit Tennessee this weekend is Cameron Tatum, a 6-foot-5, 190-pound wing from Tucker, Ga., where he recently completed his high school career.

Tatum averaged 20.7 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocks as a junior and approached those figures again as a senior at Tucker High School. He committed to North Carolina-Charlotte in November, but is now considering a year in prep school to sharpen his skills and solidify his academics. If he does choose the prep school path, Tatum is expected to enroll either Laurinburg Institute or Hargrave Military Academy. He would then be free to sign with another college during the November signing period and could enroll in time for the 2007 season.

Tatum became a hot commodity during last summer's AAU season and was recruited by Tennessee, Georgia, Memphis, N.C. State and others, before deciding to stick by N.C.-Charlotte which was the first college to offer him a scholarship.

"Before we arrived, Tatum was the talk of the event, emerging as a potential high-major wing," Scout.com analyst Dave Telep wrote at last year. "Athletically he's already there, skill wise he's got to continue working on being a perimeter threat. He's impressed enough teams here early in the event to warrant strong looks in the second half of the summer."

Tatum further showcased his skills this past weekend at the Playaz Spring Fling in Teaneck, N.J., leading the Atlanta Celtics to the quarterfinals of the tournament. He paced the Celtics with 17 points in the loss to the Long Island Lightning.

"I've added more to my game," Tatum said. "I'm going to the hole more and taking guys off the dribble. That's my bread and butter now because my jump shot hasn't really been on lately."


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