Head coach Bruce Pearl announced late this evening that forward Duke Crews and guard Ramar Smith will not return for the upcoming season. Both would have been juniors.
Here's the explanation Pearl gave in a statement released by the UT sports information office:
“I am disappointed to announce that neither Duke Crews nor Ramar Smith will be a part of the 2008-09 University of Tennessee basketball program. Both were provided every opportunity to succeed here but have not met our expectations.
"With both Ramar and Duke, we came to the conclusion that it was in their best interest to transfer to another institution in order to continue their academic and basketball careers.”
Smith, a 6-2, 200-pounder from Mt. Clemens, Mich., started 46 games at point guard in his two collegiate seasons - 28 as a freshman and 18 as a sophomore. He averaged 10.7 points per game as a rookie in 2006-07 but slipped to 7.5 ppg last season.
After starting the first three games of 2007-08, he lost his first-team job to senior Jordan Howell. Smith reclaimed the job in time to start 14 of 15 games between Jan. 26 and March 15 before ultimately losing it again - this time to J.P. Prince.
Crews, a 6-7, 233-pounder from Hampton, Va., started 18 games as a freshman in 2006-07 and two more as a sophomore in '07-08. He missed more than a month of last season after an abnormality was found in his heart.
Eventually cleared by doctors, Crews returned after missing nine games and recorded a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) vs. Arkansas in his sixth game back. He finished the season with averages of 5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
With Crews gone, Tennessee's inside game now consists of 6-9 junior Wayne Chism, 6-9 senior Ryan Childress, 6-10 sophomore Brian Williams, 6-7 junior Tyler Smith and 6-10 signee Philip Jurick.
Smith's departure, coupled with Howell's graduation, leaves Tennessee with just one guy who has played the point in a collegiate game - the afore-mentioned Prince. The Vols recently added high school point guard Daniel West (Saginaw, Mich.) and may sign junior college point guard Bobby Maze (Hutchinson Community College), as well.