Cuonzo Martin knows what he’s looking for in a point guard at Tennessee.
Wes Washpun of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fits the mold.
So much so that Martin offered the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Washpun a scholarship twice in the past three months.
On Sunday, Washpun became Martin’s first verbal commitment since he was hired as UT’s men’s basketball coach.
Washpun, a senior at Washington High School who plays AAU basketball for the Iowa Barnstormers, said his relationship with Martin was the key to his decision.
“A lot of it is about Coach Martin, just being the guy that he is, and recruiting me for so long,’’ Washpun said. “Iowa kind of came in at the last second.’’
Washpun never has stepped foot in Knoxville, but he believes in Martin and Tennessee basketball.
“I know it’s big-time down there, and I’m up to the challenges,’’ said Washpun, who has a 43-inch vertical leap. “Coach Martin is a really upfront guy. Everything he says is 100 percent the truth. He’s honest and caring.
“He told me he wouldn’t have offered me a scholarship if he didn’t think I could play at this level.’’
Martin has been recruiting Washpun since late November and first offered him a scholarship on Feb. 22, when he still was the coach at Missouri State. Martin was named UT’s coach on March 27.
Washington High School coach Brad Metzger said Vols fans are going to like what they see in Washpun, who averaged 18 points, 5.5 assists, six rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game last season while also setting the school record for steals.
“Wes, first of all, is a great defender who can defend anybody; the one, the two or the three,’’ Metzger said. “His vertical (leap) is underrated — it’s probably closer to 45 or 46 (inches). He’s extremely fast with long arms, and he handles the ball well.’’
Metzger said he thinks Washpun’s energetic style of play and outgoing personality will make him an immediate fan favorite.
“He’ll come out of nowhere and end a fast break for somebody; come from behind and swat the ball off the backboard,’’ Metzger said. “He’s a bright kid who lights up a room, and he’ll play with emotion. You’ll see him slam over someone and pump his fist. But it’s all in a positive way.’’
Washpun received a three-star rating from Rivals.com, and ESPN.com ranks the left-hander as the No. 57 point guard in the Class of 2011.
Washpun visited Iowa coach Fran McCaffery on Thursday in Iowa City, but he did not make a verbal commitment after receiving an offer, according to HawkCentral.com.
According to an ESPN.com recruiting evaluation, Washpun pushes the ball with great pace and “can change speeds and directions on a dime.’’
The report on Washpun said he’s a streaky outside shooter beyond the 3-point arc and must get stronger to play at the high major level.
“I really believe Wes and Coach Martin have a connection,’’ said Metzger, who coached Washington High School to the Elite Eight of the Iowa state tournament last season. “Wes is a lot like him, a fiery competitor.’’
The spring signing period begins Wednesday and runs through May 18.
The Vols have one signee, guard Chris Jones of Melrose High School in Memphis. Jones, a 5-10 scorer ranked 39th nationally by Rivals.com, met with Martin last Friday and indicated he wants to remain a UT signee.
UT has also offered a scholarship to Josh Richardson, a 6-5 combo guard out of Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Okla. Richardson is expected to come to Knoxville for an official visit Friday.
Kevin Ware, a 6-4 guard out of Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Ga., who’s ranked 56th nationally by Rivals.com, tentatively is scheduled to visit UT next Sunday with his parents. Ware originally signed with the Vols but asked for and received a release from his National Letter of Intent.
UT has between four and six scholarships to offer in the Class of 2011, depending on the futures of junior All-SEC shooting guard Scotty Hopson and freshman All-America forward Tobias Harris.
Hopson and Harris have said they will test the NBA draft waters before deciding by May 7 whether to return to the Vols for another season.
Hopson has been working out in New Jersey and Florida, while Harris went through individual workouts with Martin and the new UT coaching staff last week.