Former Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson thought he had two of the top basketball prospects in the state locked up.
With new coach Bruce Pearl at the helm, the Vols have missed out on both of them in a matter of days.
Giles County High standout Tyler Smith will become the latest to turn down Pearl. Smith made plans to attend a prep school next year after Pearl denied his request earlier this week to be released from his scholarship.
“At this point, we’re not releasing him,” Pearl told The Tennessean. “Tyler and his father have some decisions to make and have to represent what they feel is in the best interests of Tyler, and I’ve got to represent what’s in the best interests of all my student-athletes who are hoping to have him as a teammate next year.
“I’m going to stand with my team and my university on this issue.”
Nashville native Jamont Gordon signed with Mississippi State on April 13 after cancelling his trip to Tennessee the weekend before to travel to Starkville, Miss.
Gordon and Smith were UT’s top targets this year under Peterson. Former assistant Chuck Benson was heavily involved in the recruitment of both players, but Pearl elected to replace Benson with Alabama-Birmingham assistant Scott Edgar last week.
Benson was briefly retained by UT during the search for Peterson’s replacement.
Pearl met with Smith, Giles County coach Billy Holt and Smith’s father, Billy, Tuesday in Pulaski. It was Pearl’s second meeting with Smith since he was hired in March.
Billy Smith said his son would not be at Tennessee next season, according to The Tennessean.
“It was all Tyler’s decision, and he’s the one making the choice,” Billy Smith said. “I was just being there as a father.”