MEMPHIS - Having played before whom he intends to be his college coach last Monday at FedExForum, Melrose High School junior guard Chris Jones said late Sunday night he has committed to the University of Tennessee.
"They've been at me since the ninth grade," said Jones, a 5-foot-9 standout whom Rivals.com ranks the No. 36 overall prospect in the Class of 2011 and the No. 10 junior point guard prospect nationally.
Jones' Melrose team beat Germantown, 85-61, last Monday at FedExForum as part of the Memphis Grizzlies' eighth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration. Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl sat courtside during the game, watching Jones contribute 18 points, 10 assists and four steals for the Golden Wildcats.
"I really feel comfortable playing for Tennessee. Coach Pearl and I made that bond with each other," Jones said Sunday.
As a sophomore last season, Jones averaged 17.6 points, eight rebounds and six steals while leading Melrose to a 29-7 record.
Melrose coach Jermaine Johnson said Jones had been a soft commitment to Tennessee since the fall.
"He went on and committed after we played Germantown, whole-heartedly," Johnson said. "He's a program changer.
"Anytime you can get a point guard who's just fearless, a competitor and one of the hardest workers you've ever come across, it's just priceless. Chris has really turned around the Melrose High School basketball program, and I think he'll do the same at Tennessee."
Johnson said he'll seek another year of eligibility for Jones, who turns 19 in July, next year at Melrose through a hardship request to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.
"After the season, I'm going to submit a hardship because he definitely has a hardship case," Johnson said. "If the TSSAA doesn't rule on his hardship for next year in a positive way, then he'll go to Hargrave Military (Academy) in Chatham, Va., (for his senior season)."