Wayne and Willie

Both were basketball standouts at Bolivar Central High School last season. Both were regarded as big-time recruits. Both were all-state selections and both entertained dozens of scholarship offers.

Willie Kemp chose to stay close to home and attend the University of Memphis, where he is the starting point guard as a freshman. Wayne Chism chose to pursue his hoop dreams at the University of Tennessee, where he is filling the role of sixth man as a freshman. Thus, the two good friends will be on opposing sides when the unranked Vols (6-2) and 14th-ranked Tigers (6-1) collide Wednesday night at 9 in Thompson-Boling Arena.

Asked following UT's Monday evening practice if he has heard from Kemp lately, Chism smiled and shook his head.

"I haven't talked to him in a while," the 6-9 Vol rookie said, "but I think I'll receive a phone call sooner or later."

Chism and the 6-2 Kemp worked so well together in high school that many observers assumed they'd continue working together in college. It didn't turn out that way, however.

"Everybody thought we were going to the same school," Chism recalled. "But we had different things we were looking for in all the coaches. Willie found his and I found mine."

Although John Calipari recruited him for Memphis, Chism wasn't terribly interested in playing for the Tigers.

"They recruited me very hard but they came in a little late ... after Bruce Pearl came here to Tennessee," Chism noted.

Asked what he recalled about the Tigers' sales pitch, Chism replied: "It was a lot they were talking about but I really wanted to hear more about the academics."

Wednesday night's game is a big one, especially for Tennessee. Winning would provide a big boost for the Vols' reputation and their hopes of earning a bid to "The Dance" next March.

"If we come out and beat Memphis," Chism said, "there's a good chance we'll go to the NCAA Tournament."

Naturally, an added incentive is the opportunity to play well in front of his Bolivar buddy, Kemp.

"It means a lot," Chism said. "I know I'm going to have to come out and play hard. It'll be a big thing for me to play against him."

Asked if there will be some bragging rights on the line, Chism laughed.

"Yeah," he said, "a LOT."


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