Tyler on Wooden watch list

Tennessee senior basketball player Tyler Smith was one of 50 student-athletes included on the preseason list of candidates for the 2009-10 John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year trophy, announced Wednesday by Richard "Duke" Llewellyn, Wooden Award Chairman and founder.

A guard/forward from Pulaski, Tenn., Smith announced this summer that he would forego early entry into the NBA Draft and return to Tennessee for his final collegiate season. The two-time first-team All-SEC performer played his freshman year at Iowa, but in his two seasons at UT, he has averaged 15.4 points, 3.4 assists and 6.3 rebounds in 70 games played.

Smith totaled 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists (with no turnovers) last season against UNC Asheville to post the first triple-double in Tennessee history. He has been a versatile playmaker for the Vols, leading the squad in assists each of the last two seasons. UT head coach Bruce Pearl has called Smith "probably the most productive player I've ever coached."

An Arts & sciences major, Smith was a VOLScholar last season and is a regular participant in team community service projects.

This is the fourth straight season that Tennessee has had a player on the preseason Wooden list. In fact, a Vol has made the cut for the award's Midseason Top 30 list in each of the last three seasons (Chris Lofton in 2007 and 2008 and Smith in 2009).

Eleven conferences are represented on the 2009-10 Wooden Award Preseason List. Leading the way is the Big East (11), followed by the ACC (10), Big 10 (8), SEC (7), Big 12 (6), Pac-10 (3), and Atlantic 10, CAA, Conference USA, WAC and West Coast with one apiece.

In late December, the Wooden Award Committee will release the Midseason Top 30 list, followed in March by the National Ballot, consisting of approximately 20 top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA. The Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced the week of the "Elite Eight" round during the NCAA Tournament.

The 34th annual Wooden Award ceremony, which will include the announcement of the men's and women's Wooden Award winner, and the presentation of the Wooden Award All-American Teams and the Legends of Coaching Award, will take place the weekend of April 9-11, 2010.

Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is one of the most prestigious individual honors in college basketball. Since its inception, the award has contributed close to a million dollars to universities' general scholarship funds in the names of the All-American recipients.

The award also has sent more than 1,000 underprivileged children to week-long college basketball camps in the award's name. Additionally, the John R. Wooden Award partners with Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) each year to host the Wooden Award Special Olympics Southern California Basketball Tournament. The day-long tournament, which brings together Special Olympic athletes and the All-Americans, takes place at The Los Angeles Athletic Club on the Friday prior to the John R. Wooden Award Ceremony.

Fans can follow the candidates and get the latest Wooden Award news throughout the season by logging on to www.WoodenAward.com.

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