|Pearl quickly fills void at guard |
| Pearl moves quickly to fill void at guard |
Just over a week after bidding farewell to Ramar Smith and Duke Crews, Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl filled the void at point guard by signing first-team junior college All-American Bobby “Big Money” Maze to a national letter of intent. Maze, who was the Most Valuable Player in the Jayhawk Conference’s Western Division, has to complete some academic work at Hutchinson Community College before enrolling at Tennessee this summer.
Maze began his collegiate career at Oklahoma where he played in 22 games during the 2006-07 basketball season. He started five of the Sooners’ final six games and finished the year averaging 5.6 points and 2.5 assists per contest.
Maze left the Oklahoma program following a head coaching change and landed at Hutchinson. This past season he poured in 20.7 points per contest, had 6.8 assists and 1.7 steals per outing. In one game vs. Barton County Community College, Maze dished out an incredible 16 assists. On the year, he handed out 218 total assists.
“Bobby was the best point guard in all of junior college basketball this year,” Pearl noted. “We added incoming freshman point guard Daniel West, but with the loss of Ramar Smith, we needed another ballhandler. Bobby is very fast with the ball, is excellent in the transition game and the ball screen offense. He is a pass first guard who can also make open shots.”
With the addition of Maze, Pearl, who is now 77-24 during his three years as head basketball coach in Knoxville, has assembled, perhaps, the finest recruiting class in the school’s history. Not only was Maze a consensus first-team juco All-American, but shooting guard Scotty Hopson (6-7, 185), of Hopkinsville, Ky., was rated among the top 10 prospects in the nation by most all the major recruiting services and was a first team McDonald’s All-American selection.
When you add pure low post man Philip Jurick (6-11, 250) from Chattanooga, the aforementioned point guard Daniel West and still growing forward Renaldo Woolridge (6-8, 210), you have not only a star-studded but very well-rounded and proportioned class. The five new Volunteers hail from five different states. Woolridge will travel the most miles. He played his high school ball at North Hollywood in California.
Jurick and Woolridge joined Hopson on several of the top 100 high school prospects in the nation lists this year. One might argue that since he is a true center, Jurick was the top prospect in the state of Tennessee this year. Hopson was Mr. Basketball in Kentucky. It also might be worth noting that Maze cancelled a scheduled visit to the University of Kentucky prior to signing the national letter with Tennessee.
The Big Orange football staff has secured four verbal commitments for the 2009 signing class. The big fish thus far has been five-star wide receiver Je’Ron Stokes from Northeast High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 6-1, 180 pounder has sprinter’s speed. Reports claim that he is a physical wide receiver who can get separation from defensive backs and also can catch the ball in traffic. Stokes has run a 4.45 forty and hopes to be covering that distance in a time of 4.4 flat before he enrolls in college.
Two running backs have also indicated that they will sign with Tennessee next February. Toney Williams (6-1, 230, 4.65) is a power back from Milton High School in Alpharetta, Georgia. Damien Thigpen has been given an early four-star rating by Scout. Thigpen is a 5-9, 170-pound speed merchant who has run the 40 in 4.34 seconds. He is also a nationally-ranked sprinter at 55 meters with an outdoor time of 6.41 seconds. A two-way player for Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Va., Thigpen is one of the top cornerbacks in the entire Piedmont area.
Scout.com is also listing defensive end Dominque Allen (6-0, 250) as a UT verbal. That name ought to ring a bell with some of you. Allen will be a senior at Henry County High School in Paris next fall. Allen is also a bruising running back who has lugged the leather for 2,866 yards over the past two seasons for the Patriots.
Tennessee offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dave Clawson has also extended an offer to quarterback Josh Nunes of Upland, Calif. Nunes, who is ranked 20th at his position nationally by Scout, is a 6-4, 210-pounder with a big-time arm. Nunes has indicated he will make his choice of schools known shortly after Memorial Day. He currently has 17 Division One offers on the table.