The University of Tennessee men’s basketball team will be back on the recruiting trail today in the form of Vols assistant coach Jason Shay.
Shay is expected to attend the Beach Ball Classic high school tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., before heading to Atlanta to see other top recruiting targets and Class of 2011 signees Kevin Ware and Chris Jones.
The Vols’ coaching staff was suspended from off-campus recruiting beginning Sept. 24 as part of UT’s self-imposed sanctions related to the NCAA investigation into the men’s basketball program.
Shay’s suspension was for three months, associate head coach Tony Jones was given a nine-month suspension and head coach Bruce Pearl and assistant Steve Forbes were handed one-year suspensions.
In the absence of off-campus recruiting, Forbes and Pearl have been active communicating with players on Facebook.
“It’s a good way to communicate with kids because a lot of them are on it every day,’’ said Forbes, the primary recruiter for current UT players Scotty Hopson and Melvin Goins. “You can e-mail them on Facebook, but you can’t post on their wall, and you can’t (Facebook live) chat.
“We can also send them links to articles or videos.’’
While Facebook has been an effective way to maintain relationships, Forbes concedes there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication and evaluation.
While UT has not yet received its letter of allegations, much less gone in front of the NCAA’s committee on infractions, the self-imposed penalties are taking their toll.
The off-campus recruiting suspensions have short-circuited UT’s efforts to evaluate players and start new relationships this recruiting season.
That’s why Shay’s appearance at the 16-team Beach Ball Classic is significant.
The tournament has been rated the No. 2 high school boys basketball tournament of the season by MaxPreps.com.
The Targets: Among the 2012 blue chip prospects playing in the Beach Ball Classic is Tony Parker (6-foot-9, 250 pounds) from Miller Grove (Ga.) High School in Lithonia, Ga.
The Vols are clearly in need of posts in the next two recruiting classes, as current UT centers Brian Williams and John Fields are seniors.
Pearl has said UT sophomore Kenny Hall will grow more into the position as he adds size, but in Pearl’s system up to three post players see minutes in each game.
Tennessee has heavily recruited Parker, along with Jarnell Stokes (6-7, 230) of Memphis Central High School in the Class of 2012.
Stokes will play against another UT post recruiting target, Shaq Goodwin (6-8, 230) of Southwest Dekalb High School in Decatur, Ga., on Tuesday night in Atlanta.
Stokes and Goodwin played together on the Atlanta Celtics AAU team at the adidas Invitational in Indianapolis last summer.
Shay also is expected to go to the 27-team Hoops in Overdrive tournament at Centennial High School in Roswell, Ga., this week.
The Hoops in Overdrive tournament will enable Shay to catch up with Class of 2011 UT signees Jones (Oak Ridge, N.C., Military Academy) and Kevin Ware (Rockdale County, Ga., High School).
The Vols also have interest in class of 2011 prospect Lekan Ajayi, a 6-11, 235-pound post from the Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem, N.C., who also will be competing in the Hoops in Overdrive tournament.
Ajayi is averaging 9.5 points, 15.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks this season.
Rankings: Jones is the No. 39 overall player and Ware is No. 56 in the Class of 2011 Rivals 150.
Stokes is the No. 9 overall player in the Class of 2012 Rivals 150, while Goodwin comes in at No. 20 and Parker is No. 64.