Tyler Smith may yet be a Vol

Two years ago, a University of Tennessee basketball signee was convinced by a family member to renege. Now, in what could be the ultimate irony, the same man who stopped the prospect from becoming a Vol in 2005 may cause him to be a Vol in 2007.

The player in question: Tyler Smith. The family member: Billy Smith, his dad.

Tyler was a five-star recruit out of Pulaski who signed with the Vols in November of 2004. Shortly after Bruce Pearl succeeded Buzz Peterson as Tennessee's head coach in March of 2005, however, Tyler's allegiance to the Big Orange made an abrupt U-turn.

Billy Smith made no secret of his dislike for Pearl and requested his son be released from his scholarship. When Pearl refused, Billy reportedly convinced Tyler to spend a year at prep school (Hargrave Military) in order to officially sever his ties with UT. Tyler then signed with the University of Iowa, where he enjoyed a spectacular freshman season last winter.

Still, Tyler's future with the Hawkeyes appears clouded because of two factors beyond his control. Steve Alford, the coach who signed him, recently left Iowa to become head coach at New Mexico. Moreover, Billy Smith is gravely ill, reportedly due to cancer.

Supposedly, Tyler Smith is not excited about new Hawkeye coach Todd Lickliter's deliberate offensive system, nor is he excited about the prospect of being hundreds of miles from his seriously ill father. Reportedly, Tyler is mulling a transfer to a school closer to his Pulaski home ... perhaps to UT.

This appears to be more than mere speculation. Tennessee backed off of 6-7 junior college transfer Rodney Alexander last week, supposedly because the Vols believe 6-7 Tyler Smith is finally headed their way.

Certainly, Smith would be a terrific addition. He came off the bench to score 28 points in his second college game, Nov. 17 vs. Toledo, then started Iowa's remaining 29 games. He also posted a 25-point outing against Texas Southern, a 22-point effort against Michigan, a 21-point performance vs. Ohio State and a 20-point game against Northern Iowa.

For the season Smith averaged 33.7 minutes and 14.9 points per game, second-best on the team. He led Iowa in rebounds (153) but also in turnovers (92). He shot 44.2 percent from the field, 25.4 percent from 3-point range and 72.7 from the foul line. He recorded 111 assists, 45 steals and eight blocks.

Smith's sterling debut earned him third-team All-Big Ten honors. He was named to the first-team All-Big Ten Freshman Team.

In a strange coincidence, Lickliter will be participating in the Hoops for Hope cancer fund-raiser May 5 in Des Moines. In an even stranger coincidence, the man who kept Tyler Smith from being a Vol in 2005 may cause him to be a Vol in 2007.

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