Tyler to test NBA waters

Tennessee basketball player Tyler Smith announced Wednesday that he has officially submitted paperwork to the National Basketball Association confirming his eligibility for the league's June draft. However, Smith will not hire an agent and thus could be eligible to return to UT for his senior season in 2009-10.

His eligibility for the draft allows him to work out and be evaluated by NBA teams leading up to the draft.

"Tyler has earned this opportunity to test the waters," UT head coach Bruce Pearl said. "This is absolutely the right thing to do. Tyler did not choose to work out (for NBA teams) last season because you can only take advantage of this opportunity one time. He did not feel he was close enough to being a first-rounder a year ago. This gives him a chance to really gauge where his game rates in the opinions of NBA personnel."

The 2009 NBA Draft takes place June 25. The deadline for underclassmen to remove their name from the draft and retain their collegiate eligibility is June 15.

"Playing in the NBA has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember," Smith said. "And I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to come to Tennessee and grow as a basketball player and as a man. Two seasons with coach Pearl and his staff have helped me move closer to my goal of playing professional basketball at the highest level.

"I'm in a win-win situation because I can spend the upcoming weeks finishing up my classwork, working on my game and evaluating my possible draft status. If I decide it's best for me to come back to Tennessee for my final season, then I know we'll have an opportunity to do something special with a great group of coaches and players and the best fans in the country. Tennessee has never won the SEC East three years in a row, and I believe this team has a chance to do that."

In his two seasons at Tennessee, Smith has never missed a game and has scored 1,079 points while averaging 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. The Pulaski, Tenn., native has earned back-to-back first-team All-SEC honors and helped lead the Volunteers to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances and an average of 26 wins per season.

As a junior this past year, Smith led the Vols in scoring (17.4 ppg), assists (3.4 apg) and free-throw percentage (.766) while starting all 34 games.

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