Vols Host JUCO Forward

It remains a matter of conjecture whether Tennessee will offer a basketball prospect during the spring signing period, but JUCO forward Rodney Alexander is undoubtedly the most likely to receive.

The 6-foot-7, 225-pound, hardwood talent is certainly worthy of serious consideration. A native of Benton Harbor, Mich., he played his AAU ball for the Michigan Mustangs and signed with Redlands Community College in Oklahoma. He was the top scorer and rebounder as a sophomore for the Cougars who finished 32-1 and runner-up to Seminole Community College for the national crown.

Alexander averaged 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, two assists and 1.5 steals per game as a sophomore, hitting a solid 76.3 percent of his free throws (74 of 97) and an outstanding 58.8 percent (134 of 228) from the field. His sizzling shooting percentage is more impressive when you realize he wasn't just taking pointblank shots. In fact, Alexander hit a very respectable 17-of-49 attempts from beyond the arc.

Regarded as a combo forward with both face-up and back-to-the-basketball skills, Alexander has a smooth handle and a superior open court game. He plays an unselfish brand of basketball as his 51 assists last season attest. He's also a good defender and would be an immediate boost to a shallow Tennessee front line.

However this courtship is more complicated than a simple case of see and sign. Alexander has visited Butler, Saint Louis, Illinois and Indiana. His last official visit is to Tennessee this weekend although he has mentioned possibly visiting Oklahoma and Oklahoma State unofficially.

Rodney Alexander might want to move closer to home and play in the Big Ten, or he may decide to stay near his current locale continue his development. A move to east Tennessee would be the biggest leap, but it might also be the most intriguing given the Vols success the last two seasons and the presence of two-time national champion Florida, and perennial power Kentucky in the SEC East.

Tennessee may well like what they see in Alexander and still not commit their only remaining 2007 scholarship because signing JUCO prospects can be problematical. With the time required to adjust to the intensity of SEC play and a new system measured against only two seasons of eligibility there's diminishing return. That scholarship might be better used on one of the many standout four-year prospects in the Class of 2008.

The Vols also accepted guard J.P. Prince as a transfer from Arizona. He is currently enrolled at UT and becomes eligible to play next January. He will have two years of eligibility after next season and count against the Vols 2008 scholarship numbers. With Tennessee losing three of its top four guards after next season the Vols may rather bolster the backcourt further and hope prep school center Brian Williams will fortify the front line when he arrives this summer.

Bruce Pearl has proven he knows how to put a team together with an emphasis on maintaining maximum roster flexibility. He not only evaluates talent, he has a real sense of how it will work together. Even with the limitations he had coming into the job at UT, he has managed to figure out how the pieces best fit together while developing depth.

Big Orange fans can rest assured that if the Vols spend a scholarship this spring the recipient will make a splash next fall.

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