Ramar-kable Addition

Tennessee head basketball coach Bruce Pearl may have just accomplished ‘Mission Impossible, as today's commitment from Scout.com's No. 5 shooting guard, Ramar Smith, pushes Pearl's first recruiting class at UT above his incredible, inaugural hardwood campaign.

Smith, a product of the talent-rich Detroit high school system, is rated No. 36 overall by Scout.com and will become the fourth top 100 player in UT's signing class when he sends his scholarship papers in on Wednesday. Only No. 1 rated North Carolina (five) has more top 100 prospects. It will also likely propel Pearl's initial roundup of round-ball talent into the top 10 nationally.

However, on the court is where the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Smith will make the biggest impact. Although listed as a shooting guard, he has the skills to excel as a trigger man in UT's high-octane transition game, plus he has the size, strength and ball-handling skills to break down an offense in the half-court. Smith also gives Tennessee a potential stopper on defense and the type of dynamic playmaker needed to fill the void left by four-year starter C.J. Watson.

As a senior, Smith averaged 22.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and five assists per game for King High School, garnering all-state honors along with scholarship offers from a full contingent of high-profile programs. He committed to UConn last September, but later changed his mind and reopened the recruiting process. That coincided with UT's search for a point prospect and put the two together. The four-star prospect also visited Arkansas in February and appeared to be leaning toward Stan Heath's Razorbacks.

Unlike the regular season, the Vols closed with a rush and beat Arkansas in the figurative final minutes for Smith's standout services, adding the crown jewel to a class that already includes: big time backcourt prospects Marques Johnson and Josh Tabb, as well as formidable power forwards Wayne Chism and Duke Crews.

Smith has been on the radar of college recruiters since being named the top wing player at the 2003 Hoop Jamboree as a sophomore. He has improved steadily during the ensuing years and is rapidly approaching complete-player status.

"He's been a different guy," King head coach Dennis White said on Tony Basilio's "The Edge" radio program. "He's a year older. With age comes maturity. He's starting to understand the things he needs to do to make his goals and dreams come true."

One of Smith's goals relates to refining his jump shot and shooting down doubters who question his consistency from the perimeter. There are no doubts about his ability to take the ball to the rack and finish with authority. He pointed to that as one of his strengths in the same interview with Basilio.

"I feel comfortable using my quickness (on the drive)," he stated, "but continue to watch me because my jumper is going to be perfect. It's going to be perfect, so continue to watch me."

All eyes will be on the quicksilver baller from Mo-town when he takes the floor next fall as a Vol, and his ability to create off the dribble, ignite the break and force turnovers will make him a fan favorite, while adding a much needed element to UT's full throttle game.

The vision of UT clearing the floor so Smith and Duke Crews can run a two-man shell game of give-and-go, pick-and-roll, screen-and-stroke, cut-and-catch. When you realize the wide assortment of exciting possibilities, it's easy to see why Crews was on hand to deliver his first slam as a Volunteer in the dual capacity of a host/recruiter. Crews' presence along with the strength of UT's signing class and Cinderella season were key components in Smith's decision.

He also obviously identified with UT's up-tempo system and hit it off with Bruce Pearl and his staff, particularly No. 1 assistant and recruiting coordinator Tony Jones, who is also a native of the Motor City.

"It was very important," he told the venerable veteran talk show host and ace interviewer. "I feel that with Coach Jones being there I really have a big chance of playing. He's going to help me off the court, too. I really wanted to go where somebody's going to help me off the court AND on."

Tennessee will be getting plenty of help on the court from a premiere player whose scintillating skill set is surpassed only by his undeniable upside.

"They're getting a terrific player," Coach White told Basilio. "He's just beginning to scratch the surface on what type of player he can be. He can do anything that the game of basketball presents.

"With the type of program you guys have down there — the weight training, the conditioning, the workouts — he's going to be a great player. Hopefully, you guys can keep him for four years. He can do everything."

And from all outward appearances, Bruce Pearl can do anything when it comes to college basketball.


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