Tennessee’s search for a front-line player continues after Adonis Thomas announced Thursday that he’ll stay home for college and play for Memphis.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Thomas, the top-rated high school basketball player from the state of Tennessee in the Class of 2011, was considering UT, Florida, Arkansas and UCLA.
Thomas’ visit to UT couldn’t have been timed much worse. He arrived on campus hours after the Vols held a Sept. 10 press conference to address their NCAA letter of inquiry and announce self-imposed sanctions.
Memphis was considered the leader for Thomas’ services from the onset, and he said as much at a press conference at Melrose High School.
“My gut feeling was staying home at Memphis,’’ Thomas said. “I’d prayed about it.’’
Whatever chance the Vols had were affected by the ongoing NCAA investigation.
“It was just the uncertainty about the program that I didn’t want to involve myself with that in my recruitment,’’ Thomas said on ESPNU. “... I didn’t want to jeopardize my college career.’’
Thomas is ranked as the Class of 2011’s ninth overall player by ESPN. He averaged 19.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.3 blocks and 3.7 steals last season.
Thomas helped Team USA win the 2010 FIBA Under-17 World Championship in Germany in July. UT coach Bruce Pearl attended.
UT is already in on another top-flight Memphis player: Jarnell Stokes, a 6-9, 245-pounder from Memphis Central is ranked No. 9 in the Class of 2012.
Stokes came to UT on an unofficial visit last weekend.
“The visit went good,’’ Stokes said. “I’d say Tennessee is in my top three. That’s how high I am on them.’’
Stokes said he was surprised to hear Thomas announce for Memphis.
“I didn’t think he’d go to Memphis,’’ Stokes said. “I thought he was leaning toward Tennessee.’’
Stokes said he’s not overly concerned about the NCAA investigation at UT.
“It should be cleared up by the time I get to college,’’ he said. “So it’s no big deal.’’
UT has two verbal commitments in the Class of 2011, Kevin Ware of Rockdale County, in Conyers, Ga., and Chris Jones who attends Oak Ridge Military Academy.
Both players are guards and are expected to sign in November.
But with current UT posts Brian Williams and John Fields both being seniors, and 6-7 junior Scotty Hopson considering turning pro after this season, the Vols are in need of front-line support.
The Vols’ recruiting efforts will be hampered by an off-campus recruiting suspension that Pearl and his assistants began serving on Sept. 24.