Griffith: UT men take aim at big man

Mike Griffith

A list of prospects in the Class of 2011 that Tennessee is believed to be recruiting (listed alphabetically), with Rivals.com 150 ranking:

No. 27 Kentavious Caldwell (6-6, 185), shooting guard, Greenville, Ga.

Offers: Tennessee, Xavier, Oklahoma State, Indiana, Georgia, Clemson, Cincinnati

No. 10 Mike Chandler (6-10, 220) center, Lawrence North HS, Indianapolis

Offers: Louisville, Ohio State

No. 84 Tim Dixon (6-9, 200), center, Kendrick, Columbus Ga.

Offers: Georgia, Oklahoma State, Florida State, Alabama, Auburn

NR Moussa Gueye, (7-0, 245), center, Lake Land (Ill.) Community College

Offers: Purdue, Illinois, Marquette

No. 91 Rodney Hood (6-7, 180), wing, Meridian Miss.

Offers: Tennessee, Wake Forest, Georgia, Marquette, Clemson, North Carolina State

No. 54 Desmond Hubert (6-8, 195) center, New Egypt, Cream Ridge, N.J.

Offers: Connecticut, Ohio State, Pitt, Villanova, West Virginia, Xavier

No. 94 Nick Jacobs (6-8, 215), center, South Atlanta, Atlanta

Offers: Tennessee, Oklahoma, Georgia, Miami, Fla., Virginia Tech

No. 85 Kedren Johnson (6-4, 200), shooting guard, Marshall County, Lewisburg

Offers: Vanderbilt, Louisville, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Memphis

No. 67 Cedrick McAfee (6-3, 175), shooting guard, Memphis Melrose

Offers: Tennessee, Memphis, Arkansas, Missouri, Clemson, Illinois

NR (Four-Star) Ben McLemore (6-5, 185), wing, Eskridge, St. Louis, Mo.

Offers: Kansas, Tennessee, Illinois, Purdue, Southern Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri

No. 13 Johny O'Bryant (6-9, 235), power forward East Side, Cleveland, Miss

Offers: All SEC schools except Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, Texas, USC

No. 44 Mike Shaw (6-8, 205), power forward, De La Salle, Chicago

Offers: Illinois, Louisville, Southern Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin

No. 11 Adonis Thomas (6-6, 205), wing, Melrose, Memphis

Offers: Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Memphis, Missouri, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee

NR Rico White (6-3, 175), shooting guard, Bearden, Knoxville

Offers: William & Mary, Chattanooga

No. 52 Amir Williams (6-9, 220), center, Country Day, Beverly Hills, Mich.

Offers: Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Kentucky, Florida, Duke

NR Lester Wilson (6-4, 205), wing, Carter, Knoxville

Offers: East Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee State

Tennessee men's basketball is aiming big in the Class of 2011.

Could the search for bigger players signal an adjustment in style for coach Bruce Pearl?

Perhaps.

But don't think for a minute Pearl will abandon his preferences for putting points on the board and shooting the 3-pointer.

"As long as they are worth one more point, we'll keep taking them,'' Pearl likes to say.

Pearl wants to keep a pressing element to some degree. The extent to which the Vols' press depends on the team's collective quickness and ability to execute.

The Vols have a pair of athletic guards committed in the Class of 2011 in Kevin Ware and Chris Jones. Theoretically, that leaves UT two more scholarships; the Vols are expected to be able to sign four.

It's a sure bet there will be at least one big man added, if not two.

The 6-foot-4 Ware, from Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Ga., is ranked No. 22 in the Rivals.com 150.

Memphis Melrose's Jones, 5-10, is No. 36 in those same rankings but likely will jump closer to No. 20 when the next set of ratings come out.

Not that ratings influence Tennessee's recruiters.

"Recruiting rankings should take place after the players leave school to be totally accurate,'' UT assistant Steve Forbes said. "The rankings are good for the fans, though.

"We look at recruiting as it relates to our needs, and we feel we have a very good (2010) class.''

How they fit

In essence, the Vols replaced Wayne Chism with Tobias Harris, J.P. Prince with Jordan McRae and Bobby Maze with Trae Golden.

Harris, from Half Hallow Hills West High School in Glen Head, N.Y., fell from No. 4 in the Rivals 150 to No. 7 in the final rankings.

"That's ridiculous,'' said Vols' associate head coach Tony Jones, who recruited Harris. "Tobias was on his way to being the McDonald's game MVP before he hurt his foot.''

The 6-8 Harris scored 13 points in the 12 minutes he played in the McDonald's All-America Game in Columbus, Ohio, last month. Harris said he'll be cleared from his broken foot the first week of June and will enroll at UT for the second term of summer school.

McRae, a 6-6 wing, finished rated No. 47 and Golden dropped to No. 63.

My assessment after seeing all three play:

n Harris will start at power forward and give the Vols a versatile presence in the lane similar to Tyler Smith while also being able to pop out and shoot the 3-pointer like Chism.

n McRae has good shooting range and great leaping ability, but his slight frame will limit his minutes against bigger, more physical opponents.

n Golden, the Georgia player of the year, scores in spurts and sees the floor well. His defensive skills need polishing, but his strength and athleticism make him a solid backup at point guard to senior Melvin Goins.

Final 2010 rankings

UT's 2010 class dropped from No. 4 in the fall signing-period rankings to No. 9 in the nation, according to Rivals.

UT hasn't added any new players in the spring signing period. There could still be a transfer, but with each passing day that becomes less likely.

It's the third top-10 class in Pearl's six-year tenure: The Class of 2008, highlighted by Scotty Hopson (No. 5 overall), ranked seventh and the Class of 2006 with Chism and five-star recruits Duke Crews and Ramar Smith, finished No. 6 in the Rivals.com team rankings.

The Vols' Class of 2007, which included freshman signees Cameron Tatum and Brian Williams, wasn't ranked in the top 25.

But that's a little misleading: Tyler Smith transferred in from Iowa and was immediately eligible and J.P. Prince completed his transfer from Arizona.

Jones said he's not going to get too caught up in Kentucky zipping to No. 2 in the final recruiting rankings after landing three spring signees ranked in the top 25 in the nation.

"I look at our team and class, and we have two kids from the state of California in Renaldo Woolridge and Melvin,'' Jones said. "Then we've got the best player from the state of New York (Harris) signed and the Georgia player of the year (Golden).

"When we go out to recruit, people have a perception of our winning ways, our style of play, our television appearances and our five straight NCAA tournament appearances.''

What's Next

The Vols will encourage prospects to take unofficial visits to Knoxville and attend their camps while carving their list of players to see in the various AAU national tournaments in July.

"We'll be at the adidas Nation, the LeBron James Camp, the Peach Jam, Las Vegas and Orlando,'' Forbes said. "Between now and July we'll talk to the kids and figure out their summer schedule so we can be in front of them as often as we can.''

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. He can be reached at griffithm@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 20

CoverOrange writes:

Mike, I'm pretty sure Pearl has wanted a big in the middle since the day he arrived in Knoxville. It is not new. He had big plans for Major before it was smoked away. I would bet he recruited Wayne believing he would be that dominant center only to find he was better at the 4. Also, Brian was hoped to be that dominant 5 but has taken time to develop. What is notable is that Pearl is versatile enough to coach a pressing or a straight up basketball team.

always_vol (Inactive) writes:

Bruce took a flyer on Jurick...and I think the kid would have delivered if he had bought in. I know Wayne said he was a tough defender.

Too bad on that one...

memphis_vol_fan writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Mike, I'm pretty sure Pearl has wanted a big in the middle since the day he arrived in Knoxville. It is not new. He had big plans for Major before it was smoked away. I would bet he recruited Wayne believing he would be that dominant center only to find he was better at the 4. Also, Brian was hoped to be that dominant 5 but has taken time to develop. What is notable is that Pearl is versatile enough to coach a pressing or a straight up basketball team.

I wouldn't count out Brian Williams just yet. He got alot better towards the end of the season and was an excellent rebounder down the stretch.

osbymartin#581730 writes:

Could they have filled us in on who they are looking at? The story doesn't elaborate on the headline...I have seen that they are looking at Adonis Thomas just like almost every other big time school. A big man prospect list would have been nice.

osbymartin#581730 writes:

in response to osbymartin#581730:

Could they have filled us in on who they are looking at? The story doesn't elaborate on the headline...I have seen that they are looking at Adonis Thomas just like almost every other big time school. A big man prospect list would have been nice.

THANK YOU KNS!

blazeglory07 writes:

They should not need anyone else with these recruits and SP coming back.SP will probably win the Naismith award and carry us to a national championship.

always_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to slaw_way:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

rankings mean squat, are just for fan babble. Coaches go by what they feel will fit.

For example, in my state, their are only a few newspapers; the sports editors of those few newspapers have a few favorite kids they cover, every one else is ignored. That pretty much drives the all-state teams. These kids then travel with that 'baggage' of being such-and-such all-state, and they gen up some rankings by some guy who sees them for five minutes at an AAU exposure event.

Meanwhile, the coaches are scanning games, looking for players. They could care less about the 'rankings', they just want to see who is a baller.

The saddest, stupidest thing?? A coach will find a kid or two who is not on the recruiting 'guru's' radar, and the fan base will start whining "why aren't we getting so-and-so, why are we signing these nobodys".

If you seriously knew who and how these rankings where created....you would give them as much credibility as your local care salesman.

givehim6 writes:

Personally I like the look of having about 4 big men on the team, especially when you need a strong defense. Like to see the big guys get about 4 to 6 inches off the ground and hit a 3.

sitinhere writes:

If we were Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas or UCLA, our class would be ranked higher. I'm not sayin'....I'm just sayin. UT is still the new kid on the block as far as the natational sports media is concerned. It took about 10 - 15 years for the natational sports media to not automatically rank Notre Dame in the top 10 in football every year. Let's face it sports writers are lazy and will rank whoever gives them the most free meals higher.

orangecountyvols writes:

When the words 'big man' are used, once upon a time that would mean someone along the lines of Robey and Turpin at KY, Oden at Ohio State, Cousins and Patterson, Kosmalski, etc. In other words, somebody who wouldn't be pushed around in the paint. Williams is what you'd call a big man too. People in the neighborhood of 6'10, 250 pounds, as opposed to 6'10 and 180 pounds.
However, Bruce knows more than I about what works for the Vols. You sure don't want some 7 footer, 300 pounds who can't get up and down the floor.
One thing you can count on with Tennessee, as long as he's here, we'll still be listening to the Stephen Pearl complaints. After him, who'll be next?

Bigger_Al writes:

I love the Hoops (Men's, of course) coverage - please keep bringing us as much as possible.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

When the words 'big man' are used, once upon a time that would mean someone along the lines of Robey and Turpin at KY, Oden at Ohio State, Cousins and Patterson, Kosmalski, etc. In other words, somebody who wouldn't be pushed around in the paint. Williams is what you'd call a big man too. People in the neighborhood of 6'10, 250 pounds, as opposed to 6'10 and 180 pounds.
However, Bruce knows more than I about what works for the Vols. You sure don't want some 7 footer, 300 pounds who can't get up and down the floor.
One thing you can count on with Tennessee, as long as he's here, we'll still be listening to the Stephen Pearl complaints. After him, who'll be next?

Skylar McBee. Just a prediction, not an advocation.

striker4545 writes:

Is it me, or is it official that Tennessee has become a Basketball School? It seems the Mayans were correct, the world is coming to an end.

I just hope we can nab a Championship before 2012. That just leaves us one year. We wont even get into SEC play that year before the Planets line up, and they start loading the Arks.

Think Bruce Pearl will have enough saved up to buy a ticket?

CoverOrange writes:

in response to memphis_vol_fan:

I wouldn't count out Brian Williams just yet. He got alot better towards the end of the season and was an excellent rebounder down the stretch.

Wasn't counting him out, just saying it has taken 3 years for him to get to where he is, and he is still getting there. Brian reminds me of that guy that played for Arkansas back in the days of 40 minutes of H3ll. Round but dominated the boards.

osbymartin#581730 writes:

in response to always_vol:

rankings mean squat, are just for fan babble. Coaches go by what they feel will fit.

For example, in my state, their are only a few newspapers; the sports editors of those few newspapers have a few favorite kids they cover, every one else is ignored. That pretty much drives the all-state teams. These kids then travel with that 'baggage' of being such-and-such all-state, and they gen up some rankings by some guy who sees them for five minutes at an AAU exposure event.

Meanwhile, the coaches are scanning games, looking for players. They could care less about the 'rankings', they just want to see who is a baller.

The saddest, stupidest thing?? A coach will find a kid or two who is not on the recruiting 'guru's' radar, and the fan base will start whining "why aren't we getting so-and-so, why are we signing these nobodys".

If you seriously knew who and how these rankings where created....you would give them as much credibility as your local care salesman.

I agree rankings are just for the fans to see and discuss. 2 of the last 3 #1 classes have not been very successful. I believe that everyone knows that a player's "stars" more times than not are associated with how many big time schools offer them a scholarship.

VolunteerLifer writes:

I don't think Pearl's desire for a good big man is any indicator of the style of play he prefers. Williams will graduate next year, and that leaves only Hall as a low post player when he is a junior. Pearl needs a good big man to back up Hall his junior year and keep his playing style options open. The presence of Demarcus Cousins didn't keep Kentucky from running. Pearl simply needs a couple of good big men no matter what style he prefers to play.

1vavolfan writes:

The fact that Bruce is looking for a big man doesnt mean he is changing styles Griff.Unless he is looking to start 4 guards he had better be looking for a big man.Right now by 2012 we will have Harris(if hes not a pro) and Maymon, so a big guy is badly needed. As far as UK's class, yes it was good, but now they have 1 big man on the roster and he is a freshman (unless you count Harrellson). Good class, but very small.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

I like it, I like it a lot. BP still proving he was a smart hire.

Rockytop38 writes:

Does anyone know who has the lead on Johnny O'Bryant, the 6'9 kid from Cleveland, Miss.
He must be somthing else!

osbymartin#581730 writes:

in response to Rockytop38:

Does anyone know who has the lead on Johnny O'Bryant, the 6'9 kid from Cleveland, Miss.
He must be somthing else!

It is according to where you look...Rivals has everyone at Medium..from Harvard to Kentucky. Scout has Auburn, Memphis, and Mississippi as High interest.

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