Tabb leaves Hoop Vols

Tennessee's basketball program still has plenty of able bodies. The Vols are beginning to get low on role players, however.

Head coach Bruce Pearl announced today that 6-foot-4 junior wing Josh Tabb has left the program to be with his ailing mother back in Carbondale, Ill.

The Vols earlier lost Emmanuel Negedu, a 6-7, 230-pound sophomore post player, to a heart condition that will sideline him for this season and perhaps end his competitive career.

Tabb averaged just 3.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game last season but shot 50.6 percent from the floor and a team-best 42.4 percent from 3-point range. He also was the Vols' best backcourt defender. Negedu averaged a mere 1.9 points and 1.7 rebounds last year but led the Vols in free-throw shooting (80.0 percent) and was a crowd favorite because of his all-out hustle on defense.

"Emmanuel Negedu and Josh Tabb were our two best role players," Pearl said. "They're two guys that would defend, less was more offensively (they didn't take a lot of shots) and they were very productive"

Tabb had been suspended from the team about six weeks ago due to academic deficiencies.

"I was not thrilled with having to suspend Josh indefinitely at the time we did it," Pearl said, "but it was what was required because he just wasn't taking care of his business.

"Then his mom got sick. At that point - with him not playing right now - I think it was in his best interest to go home and be with her ... help her fight her battle."

Pearl left the door open for Tabb to return to the team, noting: "We'll see what will happen in the future. He still has another year of eligibility."

Tabb projected to be Tennessee's No. 3 point guard in 2008-09, so the Vols now must find someone to fill in behind first-teamer Bobby Maze and second-teamer Melvin Goins.

"Bobby's got an advantage in knowledge of the system," Pearl said, noting that Tabb's departure leaves the Vols with "not a lot of depth at that position if one of those guys goes down. You'd like to have more than two point guards."

So, who is the third option behind Maze and Goins?

"Probably Michael Hubert," Pearl said, referring to a junior walk-on. "And J.P. (Prince) potentially could play the position."

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