Another take on Tyler

When Pulaski's Tyler Smith signed a University of Tennessee basketball scholarship with Buzz Peterson in November of 2004 – only to wind up attending Hargrave Military – all sorts of explanations surfaced.

The most popular version held that Billy Smith, Tyler's dad, did not trust Bruce Pearl, who replaced Peterson in March of 2005. When Billy asked Pearl to release Tyler from his scholarship, Pearl reportedly balked. Tyler supposedly responded by letting his classwork slip so he wouldn't graduate on time, thereby nullifying his UT scholarship.

After a year of prep school at Hargrave, Tyler signed with the University of Iowa. By March of 2007, with head coach Steve Alford leaving for the University of New Mexico and Billy Smith battling cancer, Tyler decided to transfer to a school closer to his dad's home ... Tennessee.

Although that is the generally accepted version of events, another version is put forth in an article written by Andy Katz and posted at espn.com. According to Katz' article, entitled "Vols should be the class of the SEC," Pearl said he discovered several "things we did wrong as a university in the recruitment" of Tyler Smith.

Katz goes on to quote Pearl as saying the following:

"I had to tell the AD, and after our investigation a booster was removed from being around the program for two years – no tickets, no privileges. We had to declare Tyler ineligible for us to recruit, and I refused his letter of intent."

Whether Billy Smith, Tyler Smith or Bruce Pearl was the driving force in Tyler's transformation from UT signee to Iowa enrollee is now moot, of course. As fate would have it, Tyler finally is enrolled at the school he signed with 2½ years ago. And that, Katz says, is bad news for the rest of the Southeastern Conference.

Katz calls Tennessee a "preseason top-10 team" and "even more of an SEC title favorite" now that the 6-7, 220-pound Smith has been cleared by the NCAA to play in 2007.

According to Katz' article, Pearl believes Smith "will flourish in his ball-screen offense" playing both the power forward and small forward positions.

As expected, it appears Pearl will start a three-Smith lineup. Tyler Smith and 6-9 Wayne Chism project to man the forward spots, with 6-2 JaJuan Smith and 6-2 Chris Lofton at the wings and 6-2 Ramar Smith at the point.

It looks like another season of "Small Ball" for Tennessee but Katz said that should be no problem.

"That lack of size shouldn't matter," he writes. "This will be a classic Pearl team – scrappy, wiry and all over the court."


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