Getting the Point

With seven of the top ten point guard prospects from the Class of 2008 already committed, Tennessee is battling the law of supply and demand as well as high-profile competition in its search for a future floor leader.

However that doesn't mean Pearl & Partners are the least bit dissuaded in pursuit of their point. The Vols remain in contention for No. 7 ranked Andrew Steele of John Carroll High School in Birmingham, Ala., but Bama has a strong home court advantage with his brother Ronald Steele already on the team.

Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Mississippi are also in the race for the 6-3, 195, lead guard, who is also a quarterback prospect. A very physical and versatile player on the hardwood, Steele only needs to tighten his passing and shooting skills to be a complete point guard. He had a good showing at the Nike Memorial Day Classic during which he proved he can also slide over and play the two guard. His potential to develop into a defensive stopper makes him particularly attractive to Tennessee.

While Steele is the highest ranked point prospect on UT's board, he's not the only player at that critical position the Vols are courting. Verdell Jones of Central High School in Champaign, Ill., is a very different point guard than Steele. The lean 6-foot-4, 155-pound prospect is ranked No. 11 among the nation's point guards.

Jones knows how to break down a defense and is an excellent passer. He creates well and is an outstanding ball handler. He needs to get bigger and stronger as well as improve his perimeter shot, but he has demonstrated he can run with the big boys during the AAU spring season. He reports offers from DePaul, Xavier and Southern Illinois and is being seriously recruited by Florida, Kansas, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Illinois and UT. Jones doesn't list any favorites.

A rapidly rising lead guard prospect that has caught the attention of Tennessee and others this spring is Andre Cornelius of Victory Christian Center School in Charlotte, N.C., who checks in at No. 21. At 5-10, 175, he fits the prototypical point guard dimensions and has impressive speed and quickness.

Cornelius boosted his stock with a strong performance in the Real Deal on the Hill tournament as a member of the Atlanta Celtics and the offers have been rolling in ever since. He has scholarships on the table from East Carolina, George Mason, Mississippi State, South Carolina, NC Charlotte and, most recently, Tennessee. He followed up with another impressive showing in the Carolina Challenge prompting this comment by Scout.com's Dave Telep.

"Nationally, the Class of 2008 point guard crop appears down. There is significant opportunity for guys to rise up not only in prominence but in scholarship opportunities. By being the single hardest guy to guard in the backcourt at this event, Cornelius was a star here. Do that in front of the college guys next month and his stock will receive another bump. We thought he shared the ball extremely well. He had to be the performer of the day. In his second game of the day, he lit up the competition with 18 points and three triples. His handle is superb and his ability to see the floor is special. Cornelius is a competitor and his stock should soar on the circuit."

The Vols have also reportedly offered prep school point prospect Courtney Fortson who hails from Montgomery, Ala., and played last season at The Patterson School in Patterson, N.C. Fortson, 5-11, 175, is a southpaw who attacks defenses with the ball and has a nice mid-range jumper. Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Cincinnati are all in the hunt.

Tennessee has also shown interest in Memphis guard Terrico White, 6-4, 170, of Craigmont High School. A high flyer with a soft shooting touch, White could play any of the three guard positions. He has an offer from Ole Miss and is drawing interest from Georgia Tech.

The Vols' search for a point guard might be further along if not for the de-commitment by Cordell Passley, who originally pledged to UT after his freshman year. He changed his mind after his brother Tony Passley was dropped from Tennessee's squad last season. It's not known if any mutual interest remains between program and prospect.

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