UT Needs Volunteers

Bruce Pearl's sensational turnaround of a downtrodden Tennessee basketball program has given the Vols the clout to attract high-profile prospects on a national basis, but it's the homegrown hardwood products that must, ultimately, sustain UT's success.

The Tennessee Waltz could have been the theme song for the Big Dance as Volunteer State natives were conspicuous throughout the tournament and vital to Florida's consecutive national crowns.

You could even put together a team of Sweet 16 participants made up exclusively of former Tennessee high school players — Willie Kemp (Memphis), Corey Brewer (Florida), Brandan Wright (North Carolina), Lee Humphreys (Florida) and Wayne Chism — and have a perfect five to beat any college squad in the country. And Kemp, Wright and Chism are all freshmen.

In past years, outstanding players from Tennessee's high school system such as Tony Delk, Todd Day and Ron Mercer have become intregal to championship teams at Kentucky and Arkansas.

Over the last three decades only Kevin O'Neil gathered the lion's share on in-state talent i.e. Brandon Wharton, Charles Hathaway, C.J. Black and Tony Harris. O'Neil also did most of the work on Vince Yarbrough who was later signed by Jerry Green's staff.

Naturally, with two other 2007 Sweet 16 teams in Vanderbilt and Memphis competing for players, the Vols can't be expected to make a clean sweep of the top in-state prospects every year, and it's unlikely they could fill all their needs without venturing beyond the borders of the Volunteer State. Instead UT needs to gets its share of Tennessee players in order to brand the program and appeal to in-state players.

One of the top players from the Volunteer State in the Class of 2008 is Elliot Williams, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound shooting guard from St. George's in Collierville. He averaged 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists as a junior and his currently ranked No. 8 by Scout.com among the nation's shooting guards. He has been offered by Memphis, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Clemson and Mississippi.

Another prospect Tennessee is showing strong interest in is Phillip Jurick, a 6-foot-11, 255-pound pivot who plays at East Ridge High School in Chattanooga. A true center with a post-up game, Jurick averaged 15.3 points, 16.8 rebounds and 8.5 blocks per game as a sophomore. He has made unofficial visits to Indiana and Michigan as well as Tennessee and UT Chattanooga.

Other Tennessee backcourt players sure to get a look from Bruce Pearl's staff are 6-2 shooting guard Jarvis Jones of Mitchell Road High School in Memphis; 6-2 point guard Terrico White of Craigmont High School in Memphis and 6-4 shooting guard Demario Williams of Culleoka.

Unlike is often the case in football, there are plenty of basketball prospects in the state to meet most of UT's needs. And now, like football prospects, they will grow up dreaming of playing for the Big Orange one day.

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