Passley gets a break

Felony drug charges against a University of Tennessee basketball player have been dropped, possibly clearing the way for him to rejoin the Vol program.

Tony Passley pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in a Knox County sessions court to marijuana possession, a Class A misdemeanor. If he pays a $250 fine and court costs his 11-month 29-day jail sentence will be suspended. He was arrested on March 5 when police found roughly three grams of pot in his pocket.

Walk-on teammate Jordan Smith was not so fortunate. He was bound over to the grand jury on charges of manufacture, delivery, sale or possession of cocaine, a Class C felony. Police found roughly 15 grams of crack cocaine in the driver's side door of Smith's car on March 5, along with Smith's wallet and university ID.

Passley, who was sitting in the passenger seat of Smith's car outside a Knoxville night club, faced those same felony charges until Tuesday morning. Their dismissal leaves Passley with only a misdemeanor marijuana charge on his record – a charge that will be expunged if he completes a probationary period without further incident.

Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl suspended both players upon learning of the arrest. He has said he will consider reinstating them to the team once the legal process has run its course. Pearl allowed Jemere Hendrix back on the team following an arrest for marijuana possession last fall but subsequently dismissed Hendrix following an unrelated incident.

Passley, a 6-5 wing player from Indianapolis, was on scholarship but did not play for Tennessee in 2005-06. NCAA officials ruled the transfer from Wisconsin-Milwaukee had to sit out one season, even though he never played for UWM. He won the "Hardest Working" award for practice dedication at UT's recent awards banquet.

Cordell Passley, Tony's younger brother and a heralded high school sophomore back in Indianapolis, already has committed to be part of UT's 2008 signing class.

Smith, who played high school ball at Knoxville West, finds his fate in the hands of the grand jury. After hearing the evidence against him, it will either order the case to trial or dismiss it.

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