With the recruitment of senior center Brian Williams from the Bronx and freshman forward Tobias Harris from Dix Hills, Tennesse basketball coach Bruce Pearl essentially has restored the recruiting connection to the New York metropolitan area. It's a history that goes back most famously to the era when Brooklyn's Bernard King (pictured) and Ernie Grunfeld of Forest Hills gave the Volunteers a prolific 1-2 scoring punch.
Pearl enjoyed being reminded of that legacy after Tennessee defeated Virginia Commonwealth, 77-72, in the NIT Tip-Off semifinals tonight at Madison Square Garden. "Ernie and Bernie," Pearl said. "Two of the greatest players in the history of Tennessee basketball. And then [former Knick] Allen Houston sitting right behind our bench. Those are three great New York Knicks who played in this building."
Referring to the pregame introductions for the Vols that began with Williams and Harris, Pearl added, "I'm sitting there listening to the starting lineups in Madison Square Garden, and the first two kids that trot out there are from New York. So, it was special. And by the way, all three of those [New York alums] are huge -- they are very involved in our program. Ernie and Allen and Bernard attend our games, and they stay in touch with our players and our kids. I wouldn't mind coming back here and keeping that thing going."