Wingate dismissed

Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl refuses to bend the rules, even for his most important players. Today, for the second time in the past year, he has dismissed one of his key post players from the program.

Senior center Major Wingate, who starred in the Vols' two NCAA appearances last March, has been dismissed from the team for the ever-popular "violation of team rules." Pearl dismissed 6-8 Jemere Hendrix from the squad shortly before the start of the 2005-06 season following a marijuana-related incident and an on-campus fight with a football player.

Wingate was suspended from the team last spring after reportedly failing a university-administered substance test. Pearl set down a list of conditions the 6-10, 250-pounder would have to meet in order to rejoin the team. Obviously, those conditions were not met to Pearl's satisfaction.

"I am disappointed and discouraged in some of the decisions that Major has made," Pearl said in a statement released by the sports information department. "While he has made some progress in certain areas over the last several months, I am unable to allow him to return to our team this season. However, we will continue to support him academically as he progresses towards earning his degree. This is one of the most difficult decisions that I've had to deal with but, it is the right thing to do."

Wingate has never redshirted, so he has two years left to utilize his fourth year of eligibility. Thus, he could sit out the 2006-07 season, then rejoin the Vols for 2007-08.

Wingate started 29 of 30 games in 2005-06, ranking third on the team in both points (10.6 per game) and rebounds (4.0) per game. He played a key role as the Vols went 22-8 and won the SEC East title.

Although he played well during the regular season and SEC Tournament, he was at his best in the Big Dance, producing 15 points and 6 rebounds in a Game 1 defeat of Winthrop, then adding 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocks in a Game 2 loss to Wichita State.

The departure of senior Andre Patterson, the transfer of redshirt freshman Damion Harris and the dismissal of Wingate leaves Tennessee somewhat depth-shy in the post positions. The only returning post players are 6-9 sophomore Ryan Childress and 6-4 senior Dane Bradshaw, who started at power forward last season for the undersized 2005-06 Vols.

Tennessee signed two post players last November, 6-9 Wayne Chism of Bolivar and 6-7 Duke Crews of Hampton, Va. Both were already projected to have immediate impact in 2006-07 but that impact will be even greater now that Wingate has been kicked off the team.

Assistant coach Tony Jones said earlier this year that Crews probably would play both the low post and small forward positions. Chism, who projected to be a power forward prospect when he signed, now appears ticketed to succeed Wingate as the starter at low post.

Tennessee's Game 1 lineup may well find Chism (6-9) at low post, with Bradshaw (6-4) at power forward and Crews (6-7) at small forward. That would leave Childress (6-9) to provide relief at both power forward and low post.

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