Fields, a fifth-year senior with one year of eligibility remaining, has completed his transfer from UNC Wilmington to join Tennessee’s basketball program and started summer classes Monday.
The 6-foot-9, 230-pounder has graduated with his bachelor’s degree, and NCAA rules stipulate Fields be eligible immediately because his graduate study field of choice, Sport Management, isn’t offered at UNC Wilmington.
Fields’ pending waiver request to the NCAA is considered a formality.
Pearl considers Fields’ presence on the front line a necessity for the Vols to make another deep NCAA tournament run.
“We lost our starting three, four and five from last year,’’ Pearl said, referring to UT’s original front line last season of Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince.
“You look at the SEC and you see a common denominator,’’ he said. “Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and Vanderbilt all have very good, deep front lines.
“The only inside guys we’re returning are Kenny Hall and Brian Williams.’’
Fields, who also visited Xavier, Rutgers and Miami, set a UNC Wilmington single-season record with 59 blocked shots and had a school-record 21 rebounds in a game against Towson.
Pearl said Fields can play post or power forward.
“It’s a motivator for Kenny and Brian, as they both played complimentary roles last season and they’ll be challenged by John,’’ Pearl said. “John is a college graduate, and he’s very mature. Defensively, he’s ready.
“He can box you out and rebound, and he plays hard and fits our style of play; he can run.’’
Pearl said the addition of Fields clears the path for junior Renaldo Woolridge to return his focus to playing on the wing while also affording Hall more time at power forward.
Woolridge will compete with junior Cameron Tatum and incoming freshman Jordan McRae on the wing, while incoming freshman Tobias Harris has been penciled in as the starter at power forward.
Senior Steven Pearl also will play on the wing and power forward as matchups dictate after proving his worth as a defensive stopper and team energizer coming off the bench last season.
“Joining the Vols is an incredible opportunity that I’m blessed for,” Fields said in a UT release. “I’m ready to help the team in whatever capacity I can and advance far in the NCAA tournament.
“The relationship I’ve been able to develop already with Coach Pearl and the rest of the coaches has been amazing. I felt right at home and felt like I fit in perfectly.”
Fields announced his commitment July 1 while attending the Pilot Rocky Top League championship game at Bearden High School.
Fields led UNC Wilmington with 8.7 rebounds per game last season and was second in scoring with 10.2 points per game, shooting better than 53 percent from the floor with a team-high 33 dunks.
He spent his first two years at East Carolina, earning Conference USA All-Freshman honors in 2006-07. Fields averaged 9.6 points and 5.4 rebounds as sophomore with the Pirates, moving up to No. 2 on the school’s all-time blocked-shots list with 104 rejections in two seasons.
Originally from Fayetteville, N.C., Fields will wear the No. 25.