Memo to Tyler Smith: The Vols Don't Need You

Eddie BeckerCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2010

LAWRENCE, KANSAS - JANUARY 3:  Tyler Smith #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers walks on court during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on January 3, 2009 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Too many times the selfishness of a prima donna collegiate athlete tends to have largely negative consequences on a team. The dumb decision made by Tennessee's Tyler Smith just over a week ago is proving to have the opposite effect.

After Smith and three other University of Tennessee men's basketball players were pulled over in Knoxville for speeding, things spiraled downward from there. Drugs, guns, and an open container of alcohol were all located in the car. The handgun found in the car had what was described as an "altered" serial number. That's a felony.

So while coach Bruce Pearl made the expected damage control PR by apologizing to everyone who bleeds at least a little bit of orange, he also made another move that was somewhat expected: kicking Tyler Smith off the team.

So while high hopes preceded the Vols coming into the season, bringing back Smith (an All-SEC first teamer last year) and other quality starters to a team that garnered preseason top 10 placement, those same expectations seemed dead in the water this time last week.

Then came a game against Charlotte on Wednesday night in which the Vols looked like the same old team, but even better without Tyler Smith. They romped over the 49ers and gained a 20 point lead early on, never to look back. Tennessee won 88-71. Vols fans hoped the impressive effort was enough to at least keep them competitive in today's matchup with No. 1 Kansas.

Be careful what you hope for.

Tennessee pulled off perhaps the most stunning of upsets this season given the circumstances, and while short four players and at times rotating in three walk-ons, Tennessee stunned the top-ranked Jayhawks in Knoxville Sunday evening 76-68. 

Of all the piling on that has occurred over the past week or so on Tennessee's athletic programs, this gives some vindication, some sense of swagger that Tennessee's basketball team is more than Tyler Smith. That the moronic actions of a few players cannot dampen the spirit, hustle, determination, and attitude of the collective remainder, also known as the team

So Mr. Smith, you can take your 11.7 points per game and your 4.7 rebounds per game and toss them in the wastebasket along with your hopes of a professional basketball career.

Meanwhile the team that you inadvertently tried to irreparably damage is looking just fine without you.