Pearl: Smith ready for the NBA
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl thinks Tyler Smith is ready for the NBA. The star forward is just going to have to prove it to scouts.
"Tyler is such a versatile player," Pearl said recently. "I think his game does lend itself well to the next level."
Analysts have projected Smith to go in the second round. That wouldn't guarantee him a salary and might prompt him to return for his senior season.
Smith will participate in six or seven workouts with NBA teams in hopes of impressing scouts enough to push his projection into the frist round, where he would be guaranteed money.
"I think he's on the bubble," Pearl said. "If he goes and has the kind of workout I know he's capable of, it can happen."
Smith has until June 15 to decide if he will stick with the June 25 draft or return to Tennessee for his senior season.
Pearl knows the Vols could be a great team should the two-time All-Southeastern Conference pick decide to go pro.
"I think we'll still be competitive without him, but you can't take my best player off my roster and a two-time All-SEC guy for me to begin to think we'll be better without him," he said. "We won't be as good, but we'll be different."
Players like forwards Wayne Chism, Emmanuel Negadu and Renaldo Woolridge; guard J.P. Prince; center Brian Williams or signee Kenny Hall could help fill the void left by Smith, who averaged a team-high 17.4 points and helped the Vols eke out a few close wins.
One player whose fate with the team is uncertain is Philip Jurick, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound center from East Ridge who took a redshirt freshman season last year.
Pearl said he's aware of rumors that Jurick is considering leaving the team and expects Jurick to make a decision in the next few weeks.
"Where there's smoke, there's fire," Pearl said. "There's some smoke there involving whether or not Philip is going to return. He sort of put that out there himself.
"It was never like I thought he was going to come in and (immediately) dominate the SEC," Pearl said. "But I felt like his best basketball is ahead of him. I still do."
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