Final Piece In Place?

It might be destiny that Emmanuel Negedu chose UT on Tuesday since he started playing basketball in Africa the same year Bruce Pearl arrived in Knoxville to revive the round ball fortunes and restore the proud tradition of Big Orange basketball.

Go back to April 2005 and Bruce Pearl was four seasons into his first Division I head coaching job at Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he transformed a mediocre mid-major program into a Sweet 16 squad.

Half a world away Negedu was a 15 year-old coming to the painful realization that his dreams of playing World Cup soccer were fading faster than his body was growing into it's current powerful 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame. Basketball was suddenly his only viable sports option. This serendipitous development launched him on a precipitous path to elite hardwood status through NBA outreach program Basketball Without Borders camp in Africa. Today he is ranked the nation's No. 22 power forward by Scout.com and the No. 71 prospect overall

Even with all these factors falling into place it still took a failed first attempt to sign Emmanuel Negedu, a release from his letter of intent to Arizona and a late spring recruiting battle against Memphis, Georgia Tech and Indiana to get Negedu to the hills of Tennessee.

Ultimately the tilting point in the recruiting process proved to be Pearl's persistence and powers of persuasion.

"Mainly Tennessee recruited him prior to his commitment to Arizona, so there was a certain level of familiarity," Brewster Academy (NH) head coach Jason Smith told Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels. "Their style of play was also attractive. Emmanuel said on his visit he was able to click and bond with all of the Tennessee players and coaches. He said it was like a close knit family. Just like his experience with Brewster."

Negedu averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds for Brewster last season. His soccer background is a benefit when it comes to running the floor well and he has great footwork. He should be an asset in transition and he can rebound in traffic. Needs to expand his perimeter game, but his ceiling is as high as any prospect in the 2008 class. He's a hard worker who brings athleticism and energy whenever he steps on the floor.

He brings UT's 2008 signee total to six. The class is so well balanced that it could operate as a single entity with JUCO All-American Bobby Maze on the point, McDonald's All-American Scotty Hopson would play the two guard and Michigan combo guard Daniel West could provide backup at both guard spots. L.A. guard Renaldo Woolridge, who is the son of former NBA star Orlando Woolridge, is a natural wing forward, Negedu is a classic power forward and 6-foot-11, 255-pound Phillip Jurick in the low post.

Add this group to a veteran roster and there's certainly the makings of a championship caliber team. Of course, that is also a lot of new personnel to assimilate and the competition to break into the playing rotation should be intense.

Destiny and intensity are a tough combination to beat.


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