Basketball 'package deals'

Signing a suspect to get a prospect might be the oldest trick in the book for college basketball coaches. Even Tennessee basketball coaches.

Although no one ever admits signing a marginal player in order to land a difference-maker, these so-called "package deals" occur every year. There have been at least four of them at Tennessee in the past few decades. The results were mixed.

Here's a recap:

1970: Tennessee signed Bill Seale as a tag-along for 6-9 Wayne Tomlinson of Eastwood High in El Paso, Texas. After representing the freshman team in those days when frosh were ineligible for varsity service, Seale saw action in just 10 games during 1971-72 and 1972-73 before leaving the program. After his season with the frosh team, Tomlinson spent the next three years (1971-72, 1972-73 and 1973-74) as a parttime starter and principle backup to 7-foot center Len Kosmalski. Tomlinson made 58.0 percent of his field-goal attempts, averaging 4.2 points and 4.3 rebounds for his career.

1973: Tennessee agreed to sign point guard Jerry Finestone of Forest Hills (N.Y. ) High School to ensure that All-America teammate Ernie Grunfeld would display his big-time talents on The Hill. Finestone made just 5 of 19 field-goal tries and scored 15 points during his three years in orange. He was worth his scholarship, however, because Grunfeld proved to be the real deal. Ernie G averaged 22.3 points per game as a four-year starter and two-time first-team All-American. He made the 1976 U.S. Olympic team and ranks second on UT's career scoring list with 2,249 points.

1985: Tennessee signed Knoxville's Travis Henry in order to sew up 6-11 Karns High School teammate Doug Roth. Henry proved to be more than a throw-in, starting 26 games as a senior and recording 225 career assists. Roth never achieved the stardom predicted for him but became a solid SEC big man, starting 81 of 114 career games. He averaged 9.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game as a senior. Notably, the big guy shot 40 percent (28 of 70) from 3-point range.

1997: Tennessee signed Del Baker of Cleveland to gain leverage in signing brother Vincent Yarbrough, who was one class behind him. Sure enough, Baker's presence on the Big Orange roster convinced Yarbrough to become a Vol one year later. Baker started just two games in four years on The Hill, averaging 2.1 points and 0.9 rebounds per game. No matter. Yarbrough started 125 of 127 career games, averaging 14.8 points as a sophomore, 13.9 as a junior and 18.1 as a senior. He ranks ninth on UT's career scoring list with 1,737 points.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories