Tennessee Basketball: Cuonzo Martin Continues to Heavily Recruit Memphis Players

Mark AlewineContributor IJune 10, 2012

KNOXVILLE, TN - JANUARY 7: Tennessee Volunteers head coach Cuonzo Martin looks on during the game against the Florida Gators at Thompson-Boling Arena on January 7, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee defeated Florida 67-56. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It seems Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner’s threats to end the Tigers rivalry with Tennessee because of recruiting has fallen on deaf ears.

After landing Memphis native Jarnell Stokes midway through last season, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin has continued his heavy recruiting emphasis in Pastner’s backyard by extending formal scholarship offers to four Memphis high school players.

Headlining Martin’s wishlist is East High School small forward Nick King, who is currently ranked 15th overall by both ESPN and Rivals. The 6’6”, 210 pound rising senior was recently invited by the National Basketball Players Association to attend its Top 100 camp later this month, and has received scholarship offers from Georgetown, Arkansas, Auburn, Marquette, Oklahoma State and Memphis.

Slightly behind King in the national rankings is power forward Johnathan Williams, III (16th in ESPN100, 17th in Rivals150). Unlike King, who has only recently become a highly sought after recruit, Williams has drawn attention for several years for his versatility at the power forward position and was named one of the standout players (along with Shabazz Muhammad) by ESPN in the Elite Athletic Training All-American Clinic before his sophomore season in 2010. To land Williams, though, Martin will have much stiffer competition. Powerhouse programs Michigan State, Florida, UConn, UCLA, Georgetown and Texas are among a long list of schools who’ve joined Tennessee and Memphis in extending scholarships to the rising senior.

If Martin is able to land either or possibly both Williams and King, it would be a seminal moment in his young career in Knoxville. Realistically, though, the Vols’ second-year coach may have a better chance snatching Memphis area players JaJuan Johnson and Markel Crawford from his cross-state rival.

With King and Williams likely joining higher profile programs, losing Johnson and Crawford could possibly leave Pastner with no home town players in his 2013 recruiting class. One can imagine this will not bode well in negotiations to continue the rivalry between the Tigers and Vols.