Tyler Smith announces he will stay at UT
UT basketball coach Bruce Pearl comments on Tyler Smith returning to Tennessee for his senior year. Watch »
Tyler Smith, who is returning to UT for his senior year, shared feedback he received from NBA draft scouts. Watch »
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Tyler Smith said he was wrong about how his decision on coming back to Tennessee would play out.
“I thought it would come down to my gut feeling, but my gut was leaning toward leaving,’’ Smith said. “But then in talking to my family, friends and teammates these past few days, I’ve decided to return for my senior year.’’
Smith, a 6-foot-6 forward, said the attitude his teammates have shown in the offseason, and the Vols’ potential for success out-weighed his professional opportunities.
“We have a great team coming back, and a lot of guys have really grown up and they’ve been right behind me calling me and telling me they wanted me to come back,’’ Smith said. “I think we have a great chance to make something special happen.’’
UT coach Bruce Pearl was smiling like a Cheshire Cat when he took the podium at Smith’s Thursday afternoon press conference at Pratt Pavilion.
“Obviously this is a great day for us; I continue to be impressed by Tyler,’’ Pearl said. “He went through the process, he had some terrific workouts with a number of teams and he trained extremely hard.
“He did exactly what he said he would do.’’
Pearl said when it became apparent that Smith was not “locked down’’ as a first-round pick, Smith weighed that against his opportunity to return to UT and graduate and lead the team.
“Those were some things he wasn’t wanting to give up,’’ Pearl said. “Tyler would make a (NBA) team. He would just put a coach in a position where they would have to keep him.
“But it’s not if you can make the league, it’s whether you can stay in the league.’’
Pearl said that’s where draft position and the contract considerations that go along with it become an important factor.
First-round picks in the NBA draft have guaranteed contracts — second-round picks and free agents do not.
Smith said that he considered playing in Europe, but he never seriously pursued it.
“There was a very slim chance I’d go there,’’ Smith said. “I thought about it, but you can’t get better fan support and exposure over there than you can right here at the University of Tennessee.’’
Former UT star Chris Lofton, who played in Europe last season and has a workout with the Memphis Grizzlies, said he’s happy Smith found a decision he’s comfortable with.
“I wanted Tyler to do what was best for him and his family,’’ Lofton said. “Of course I’m happy he’s coming back to the University of Tennessee.’’
Smith said Vols fans will see a different approach from him this season.
“It’s not about the minutes or the points or the roles with this team,’’ Smith said. “People on this team are ready to step up, including me.
“I’m going to count a lot more on my teammates rather than trying to put it all on my shoulders.’’
Smith said he and his teammates have high aspirations this season.
“We have five seniors, and we’ll all lead,’’ Smith said. “The improvement Scotty (Hopson) has made makes him another leader.
“Winning is what it’s all about. We’ll all benefit if we make it to the Final Four, and there’s a strong possibility we can.’’
Smith said he will play in the Pilot Rocky Top League, which begins Monday.
Andre Whitehead, the league commissioner, said Smith will be added to the Richardson Construction team, one of two teams that did not have a full allotment (2) of current UT players.