Vols Shop Guard Mart

With three guards entering their senior season at Tennessee and top recruiting target Elliot Williams opting for Duke, Bruce Pearl's staff is regrouping for a run at some back-court prospects in the spring.

Unfortunately, the pickings are slim, as the vast majority of top 100 prospects are signing somewhere this month. And when you get below top tier talent the risks are greater. These prospects often lack the combination of shooting touch, athleticism and versatility that distinguish Vol veterans Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith and Jordan Howell.

On the plus side, competition for late signees is usually less since so many schools have spent their allotment of scholarships. Furthermore, sleeper prospects frequently become bonafide stars as seniors and genuine bargains. Lofton is an excellent example of a great late pickup, proving it's far better to have a scholarship and not need it, than to need one and not have it.

Gaining commitments from a pair of top 100 prospects in No. 94 Phillip Jurick and No. 100 Renaldo Woolridge filled needs in the front court at center and power forward. Ideally, Tennessee will be able to land a combo guard who can handle the rock and stroke the J. However the Vols may decide to settle on a point guard or a shooting guard that are good on-ball defenders.

Here are some of the prospects that UT is either actively recruiting or that it may consider.

• TRAVIS LESLIE, a 6-foot-5, 185-pound wing from Decatur, Ga., has decided to wait until the spring period to sign. He's an outstanding athlete who is superb in transition. A slasher with good defensive skills, he needs to improve both his shooting and ball handling. Despite being rated a four-star prospect and the nation's No. 22 rated small forward, Leslie doesn't have any offers from his favorites which include: Clemson, Florida, LSU, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee. If his status is clarified in April he won't have any shortage of offers as he is one of the most athletic prospects in the Class of 2008. He plans to take visits after his basketball season at Columbia High School.

• LASHAY PAGE, 6-1, 175, a combo guard that may have slipped beneath radar after being dismissed from his high school team earlier this year. The dismissal is reportedly due to a school suspension he received for a minor incident. School policy mandates any suspension result in dismissal from nonacademic, school-sponsored activities. Since that misstep at Latta High School he has transferred to Dillion (S.C.) High School where he is currently enjoying success on the football field. That prompted him to wait until spring before signing which also gives him a chance to raise his stock and increase his options. Primarily a shooting guard, plans call for Page to share point guard duties as a senior at Dillion. He made an unofficial to South Carolina last month and plans other visits after football season. He also likes Tennessee, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth. Page has excellent shooting range and effectively attacks the basket. Potential to be a big-time scorer. "I really like Tennessee," Page told Evan Daniels of ScoutHoops.com. "I like their style of play and their guards. Their guards play so free and they let you play a little bit. That's my style, get up and down the court and shoot the three."

• TERRELLE PRYOR, 6-6, 225, is more a fantasy pick than a realistic shooting guard prospect for Tennessee. The nation's No. 1 rated quarterback is also the No. 10 small forward. Has the athletic skills and diversity to play both sports in college although it's nearly impossible to pull off that feat in the SEC. He could also be a swing guard with a little improvement on his shooting range. The Jeanette, Pa., product wants to play both sports in college and Tennessee is one of the schools he's considering. An amazing athlete with great size and mad talent. Reminds many scouts of Vince Young on the gridiron. Pryor averaged 21.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.9 blocks and 2.3 steals per game as a junior. Best of all he'd only cost one scholarship.

In addition to these prospects, the Vols will be monitoring some regional sleepers as well as combing the Junior College and prep schools ranks. However if they don't find what they want expect them to bank the scholarship and replenish the back court next fall.


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