Mike Strange: Tennessee, Georgia battling for wins and men's basketball recruits

Mike Strange
Tennessee forward Jordan McRae (52) goes in for a dunk but is denied by Georgia forward Marcus Thornton (2) during the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.  Tennessee won 73-62 over Georgia.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2012

Tennessee forward Jordan McRae (52) goes in for a dunk but is denied by Georgia forward Marcus Thornton (2) during the second half at Thompson-Boling Arena Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. Tennessee won 73-62 over Georgia. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

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We heard a lot about battleground states during the last presidential election. When it comes to basketball recruiting, Georgia is a battleground state.

To Tennessee's basketball program, you could say it's the most important state.

Protecting the home turf first is fine, but the facts are UT's roster includes two scholarship players from Tennessee and four from Georgia.

Which raises the question:

Will the outcome of Wednesday's game between the Vols and Georgia Bulldogs at Thompson-Boling Arena have any impact in shaping the future of these two SEC rivals?

Tennessee assistant coach Tracy Webster doesn't think so and I tend to agree with him.

"You can talk about 'they beat this team or that team,' but at the end of the day,'' Webster said, "it's all about relationships with the kid and if they feel like they fit and they have a chance to come in and play.''

At the moment, both programs offer ample opportunity.

Neither the Vols (11-9, 3-5 SEC) nor the Bulldogs (10-11, 4-4) are setting the world on fire this winter.

As for recent history, Tennessee has the upper hand with six NCAA tournament appearances to Georgia's two in the past seven years.

That factors into why the Vols have three Georgians on the roster who were Rivals Top 150 recruits.

"Georgia recruited me,'' junior Jordan McRae of Midway, Ga., said Monday, "but I was pretty sold on Tennessee.''

The Bulldogs recruited senior Kenny Hall in Stone Mountain. Hall, however, was looking north to UT, which was then deep into a 10-game winning streak against the Bulldogs.

"I enjoyed the atmosphere at Tennessee a lot more than I did Georgia,'' Hall said. "I just really wanted to get out of Georgia.''

Junior Trae Golden of Powder Springs had Georgia on his mind and his shortlist, but ultimately picked Tennessee.

Freshman Armani Moore is UT's fourth Georgian. He attracted only mild interest from the Bulldogs, he said.

November signee A.J. Davis of Buford, Ga., will replace Hall on the roster next year.

The Atlanta metro area is important to UT because it's closer to campus than Memphis. Then again, it's important to a lot of schools.

Georgia (20) is the leading producer of SEC players, edging Texas (19) and Tennessee (17). (Those figures include walk-ons.)

The ACC schools also work Georgia hard. For the blue-chippers, everybody shows up. Jeremy Lamb, out of Norcross, Ga., was a key cog on Connecticut's 2011 national title team.

Keeping the blue-chippers home has been daunting for the Bulldogs. Mark Fox, in his fourth year at Georgia, has scored one major recruiting coups.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was ranked No. 12 in the Class of 2011. A sophomore, he's playing at an All-SEC level.

Fox has also stopped the bleeding in the UT rivalry, splitting his first six games with the Vols.

It's probably accurate to say Wednesday's outcome won't tilt the recruiting landscape greatly one way or the other.

Still, as long as Tennessee is going to emphasize raiding Georgia for talent, when the battle spills over to the court, it doesn't hurt to win.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 11

wigmeister writes:

Well, I know we will show up. Whether we will play good enough basketball to win is the question.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

Once again Mike, great column. Maybe you could take the time to give J.A. a class on journalism 101.

8inarow writes:

#2 UF has one from Tenn and none from Ga.

DC82_Vol writes:

I am in a "wait and see" mode with CCM. It only takes one or two players to be able to turn around a basketball team. Year three, we will see what he can or cannot do.

mloaks#222092 writes:

good read re Bobby Maze and buddy: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/...

hikerdude writes:

BBB

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mloaks#222092:

good read re Bobby Maze and buddy: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/...

Wow! Thanks for the link, a look into a world most of us would never otherwise encounter. Gives a fresh perspective on those who manage to rise above such tough circumstances, and the all too many more who never do. But for the grace of God....

The_View_From_Memphis writes:

So, if I read this article correctly, UT is advised to ignore Memphis altogether in favor of Atlanta? Well, my friends, every year the cities of Memphis and Atlanta stage a challenge series akin to the SEC vs Big East, and every year the top Teams/kids out of Memphis, TN DESTROY their counterparts from Atlanta.

Before someone reminds me, yes, I know, Memphis will almost always get the top guys from the city. But, there are so MANY great players in Memphis that UT should sign a couple every year just because. I'm sure that Martin and staff are well aware of this. The same applies to football also. Attention Coach Jones, the state's greatest athletes, both in quality and quantity reside in Memphis. Log on to Google Maps and get your butts over here!!

licknpromise777#651578 writes:

Davis,,,Mr 2 star...nobody really recruited replacing Hall?? That's really got me excited along With 2 star Landry the no# 62 Rated PG

dcap8424 writes:

in response to mloaks#222092:

good read re Bobby Maze and buddy: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/...

One of the finest point guards we've had in a long time. Under-appreciated during his time. Allen Iverson-esque. Seems like such a long time ago now.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to The_View_From_Memphis:

So, if I read this article correctly, UT is advised to ignore Memphis altogether in favor of Atlanta? Well, my friends, every year the cities of Memphis and Atlanta stage a challenge series akin to the SEC vs Big East, and every year the top Teams/kids out of Memphis, TN DESTROY their counterparts from Atlanta.

Before someone reminds me, yes, I know, Memphis will almost always get the top guys from the city. But, there are so MANY great players in Memphis that UT should sign a couple every year just because. I'm sure that Martin and staff are well aware of this. The same applies to football also. Attention Coach Jones, the state's greatest athletes, both in quality and quantity reside in Memphis. Log on to Google Maps and get your butts over here!!

No one would ever say that Memphis doesn't have a wealth of talent. I would surely hope that CCM and staff do all they can to bring some of it to K'ville. They should make it a goal to bring in at least one of the top ten players in Memphis each year, if only to keep UT's name out there in the basketball community. I think Adams' main point was that UT has always done pretty well in recruiting Georgia players and would be well advised to continue to do so. I'm also pretty sure every UT coach has tried to recruit Memphis with generally poor results. The distance from Memphis is surely a factor, not to mention less-than-welcoming attitudes of too many in the Vol fan base, the ones who repeatedly show contempt for the city.

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