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Point guard Wes Washpun made his future in the Tennessee men’s basketball program official, signing his National of Letter Intent on Wednesday morning.
“It’s official,” Washpun said in a phone interview Wednesday morning, “I’m a Vol!”
Washpun, who played at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, chose Tennessee over Iowa even though his high school teammate, Josh Oglesby, signed with the Hawkeyes.
The spring signing period began Wednesday and runs through May 18.
As one might expect, Washpun faced pressure to stay with the home-state school.
“It was really hard, especially with my teammate and good friend Josh Oglesby going there,” Washpun said. “But I think I made the right decision to come to Tennessee.”
Washpun is a 6-foot-1, 170-pounder with a 43-inch vertical leap who UT coach Cuonzo Martin began recruiting when he was coach at Missouri State.
Martin did not comment on Washpun’s signing on Wednesday because UT had yet to process Washpun’s paperwork.
Washpun averaged 18 points, 5.5 assists, six rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game and set his school’s record for steals last season.
Washpun said his relationship with Martin led to him signing with the Vols despite having never been to Knoxville.
“The big part of my decision was definitely Coach Martin and how he has been recruiting me throughout this whole process,” Washpun said. “He’s a man I trust.”
The Vols have one other signee in the Class of 2011, Chris Jones of Melrose High School in Memphis. Jones is a 5-10 guard ranked 39th nationally by Rivals.com.
UT also has offered a scholarship to Josh Richardson, a 6-5 combo guard out of Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Okla., who is Rivals’ No. 121 overall player. Richardson is expected to make an official visit to UT on Friday and Saturday.
The Vols still are recruiting one-time signee Kevin Ware, of Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Ga. Ware, a 6-5 wing ranked No. 56 nationally by Rivals, tentatively is scheduled to visit UT on Sunday.
Washpun received a three-star rating from Rivals.com, but he is not ranked in Rivals’ top 150 players.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Washpun said. “It just motivates me to work on my game and prove the people that do the ratings wrong.”
Washpun said he needs to work on his perimeter shooting.
“I definitely will be doing lots of reps on my shot, trying to get it down,” Washpun said. “I don’t think I’m a totally bad shooter. It’s just inconsistent moments I have. I think that is one of the biggest areas of concern about my game.”
The good news for Vols fans is that the left-handed Washpun has many strengths, and he’s anxious to use them in what Martin has told him will be an exciting style of play at Tennessee.
“They’ll play very fast and very energetic and get after it on the defensive end,” Washpun said. “It’s going to be very up-tempo, a lot of pressure, getting up and down, making it hard for the other teams’ guards.”
Washpun made it hard on North Carolina guard Harrison Barnes last season when the pair met in the first round of the Iowa high school state tournament.
“It was definitely a good experience,” Washpun said. “Me and Harrison played in the first round of the state tournament last year, and it was going pretty well until the third quarter when I got in foul trouble and had to sit down.
“When I sat down, he had six points . . . ”
Barnes scored 20 points after Washpun exited the contest.
“I like challenges, and going up against (SEC) guys will be challenging,” he said. “But I think I’m up for it.”
The Vols will sign between two and six players in the Class of 2011, depending on the futures of Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris, who have said they are testing the NBA draft waters.
The players have until May 8 to decide if they will return to UT for another season.
Martin said Tuesday he doesn’t think the Vols will use all of their allotted scholarships this season.
“I don’t think we’ll use all 13 scholarships,” Martin said. “I don’t want to sign someone for one year, then have them be unhappy when we recruit over them the following year.
“We’re already evaluating the next recruiting class. We’re already looking at 2012, 2013, 2014.”
Martin said he is aware UT is facing the possibility of scholarship reductions when it goes before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on June 10-11 in Indianapolis for a hearing involving recruiting improprieties that occurred under former coach Bruce Pearl.