KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee men’s basketball star Tyler Smith announced moments ago that he would pull out of the NBA draft and return to school for his senior season.
Smith, a 6-foot-7 forward from Pulaski, Tenn., declared for the draft weeks ago but never signed with an agent and reportedly stayed in good academic standing. NBA teams paid for his expenses while working out for the draft, but that’s also allowed under NCAA rules.
The Volunteers are now on track to return every significant contributor — including their unquestioned leader — from last season’s 21-win team. Smith averaged 17.4 points and 5.8 rebounds as a junior, and he lead the team in assists.
Players can declare and pull out of the draft once during their careers. Smith also held a press conference last summer to announce his return, but he hadn’t formally declared for the draft.
Smith’s return will be a big boost for the Volunteers, but most preseason polls will probably still slot them behind Kentucky and first-year coach John Calipari. The Wildcats are awaiting word on guard Jodie Meeks’ NBA future, but Calipari has already stockpiled a star-studded recruiting class around a solid returning nucleus.
Read Friday’s Times Free Press for more UT coverage, and contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.twitter.com/wesrucker.