KNOXVILLE — New Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall's task of replenishing the depleted roster he inherited got a boost late Thursday night.
That's when Jabari McGhee, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward from Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, committed to the Volunteers while on an official visit to Knoxville, and Tyndall's first pledge as Tennessee's coach signed with the program officially on Friday.
McGhee was committed to Auburn out of Monroe High School in Albany, Ga., before attending prep school.
"It was definitely Coach Tyndall," he said by phone Friday afternoon, "and the way he looked me in my eyes and told me he was ready to work and that he's going to push me as hard as I've ever been pushed and that I could benefit from that.
"He was just like, if I work my tail off, then I'll play," McGhee added. "He kept everything real, 100 and straightforward. You work your tail off, you do what you're supposed to do and you'll be successful here at Tennessee, and we will win games. That's enough for me."
Tyndall and assistants Adam Howard and Chris Shumate recruited McGhee while at Southern Mississippi, and McGhee knew assistant Al Pinkins, who recruited while on the staff at Ole Miss.
Before visiting the Vols, McGhee, who averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds for Hargrave this past season, took visits to Western Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida Gulf Coast, and he'd received late interest from Ole Miss, Georgia Tech and South Carolina but said he didn't want to take any more visits.
In high school, McGhee scored more than 1,200 points and averaged a double-double as a senior.
"I'm very excited to add Jabari to the Tennessee basketball family," Tyndall said in Tennessee's release. "He's an outstanding young man who will bring length and size to our frontcourt. His toughness and competitive edge will allow him to contribute early in his career."
McGhee said the weight room inside Pratt Pavilion jumped out to him, "especially for a player like me, who needs to gain a couple pounds," and added that he knew of Tyndall before arriving on campus Wednesday.
"I knew a little bit about him, but now I know more about how he does things," he said. "He's a really -- how can I say this? -- he's a live wire. He's a live wire. He's excited about breakfast. I love being around those kinds of guys, especially when I'm on the court."
The Vols lose four seniors, including three starters, from last season's Sweet 16, and All-SEC forward Jarnell Stokes elected to jump to the NBA draft. In the first few days following Tyndall's hiring last week, the four new signees predecessor Cuonzo Martin assembled all requested and were granted releases from their national letters of intent.
While point guard Larry Austin, wing Jordan Cornish and forward C.J. Turman are headed elsewhere, Tennessee's staff traveled to Georgia on Tuesday night to meet with forward Phil Cofer, the son of a former Vols linebacker, in trying to recruit him back to the Vols.
The Vols are hosting another official visitor this weekend.
Tennessee hoped to get guard Kevin Punter from State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo., on campus last week, but the 6-4 former Missouri commitment didn't make the trip. He was scheduled to visit SMU this weekend, but a midweek change of plans brought him to Knoxville on Friday.
Punter averaged 20.3 points per game for State Fair this season and was a first-team NJCAA All-American.
With McGhee now on board, Tyndall and the Vols have five available scholarhips for the upcoming season.
"I'm a hard player," McGhee said. "I play hard. I'm real rugged; I'm real nasty with it. I rebound. That's what I do: I rebound and I finish around the rim. That's what I do."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...