The Tennessee men’s basketball team landed its first verbal commitment in the class of 2011, dipping into Georgia for five-star point guard Kevin Ware.
Ware, a 6-foot-4 prospect who’s ranked as the No. 21 player nationally in the Rivals 150, plays at Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Ga. He averaged 16 points, 8.5 assists and eight rebounds as a sophomore last season.
“I came up and caught the last part of the basketball game Friday night and saw how they played, and then the football game was real cool,’’ Ware said. “I loved those fans, and the black jerseys they wore . . . it was cool how they warmed up in orange and then turned around and put the black on.’’
Ware said recruits do notice and like that sort of thing.
“Oh yeah, you notice that, because I had never seen them in black before,’’ he said. “We went into the locker room, and the Tennessee players were all real excited putting them on, and the coaches were yelling and screaming and getting them real focused.’’
Ware’s focus is getting the ball up the court quickly and scoring in transition when he’s not defending and distributing the ball.
“Those are some of Kevin’s strengths, and we felt like Tennessee fit what he does best,’’ said Al Williams, who took Ware’s Rockdale County team into Georgia’s Sweet 16 in his first year there as head coach last season. “We were all very impressed with the university, and we do the same types of things that Coach (Bruce) Pearl does in our system, and that’s what prompted the commitment.’’
Williams said Ware’s commitment wasn’t necessarily planned before the visit, as he has also been offered scholarships by Miami, Fla., Florida and Georgetown.
“We went up there to look at the facilities and talk to the players, and even without Coach Pearl around, it was very evident those guys really love each other,’’ Williams said. “A lot of schools can talk that talk, but don’t walk the walk.’’
Ware is an AAU teammate on the Atlanta Celtics with the Vols’ two verbal commitments in the class of 2010, point guard Trae Golden and shooting guard Jordan McRae.
“It’s good knowing I’m going up there with people I already know,’’ said Ware, whose primary recruiter is UT associate head coach Tony Jones. “It’s just Tennessee’s style of play, how I fit the system, and the academics.
“Georgetown was too far away, Florida stopped recruiting me once, and the only reason they started up again was they lost a player, and I only talked to Miami four or five times.’’
Ware said he had a long talk with his parents about making a verbal commitment more than a year before he can sign with the team.
“It’s a commitment, and my dad told me once I’m in it, I should plan on staying with it,’’ Ware said. “He said if you decided to go somewhere else after making a commitment, people will look at you differently; I don’t want that.’’