File Photo by Lido Vizzutti Philip Jurick is seen at East Ridge High School.
As Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl predicted when Philip Jurick left his program, the 6-foot-10 former East Ridge High School star has landed at Chattanooga State.
In a conversation Thursday at the local community college, Jurick said he expected he would get some playing time for the Volunteers this coming season but not as much as he felt he needed after redshirting last year. He plans to play a season for the Tigers and coach Jay Price and then move on again.
"We would love to have Philip for two years, but that's not realistic," Price said. "Looking at his transcript, he did what he was supposed to do in the classroom and he's on track to graduate after one year here."
Jurick already is taking a six-hour class schedule at Chattanooga State, "since he's back home this summer anyway," Price said.
The coach is excited about adding the big man to a lineup with two 6-6 returners, 6-6 freshman Alex Dean from Lithia Springs, Ga., and 6-7 sophomore guard B.J. Frazier -- a transfer from Western Kentucky -- along with Jurick's all-star guard teammate from East Ridge, Alex Wells.
"We're putting together what we consider to be a pretty good team," Price said. "Philip's going to be able to play his game and not worry about double- and triple-teams all the time. The way he's developed since I saw him in high school, he's really matured offensively. His defense was always good."
Jurick agreed with that assessment.
"I feel like I'm on another level," he said. "My defense has always been there -- that's what I loved doing -- but after being at UT a year, I'm stronger and can do a lot more on offense. Everything up there was good experience for me. I don't regret it at all."
Jurick backed up Pearl's public statements that the coach encouraged him to stay and to consider coming back to the Vols, and Jurick said he had not ruled that out. But he emphasized that he was thinking only of this year and making no plans beyond that.
"When I decided to leave UT, basketball was kind of set on the side. I let all the other pieces fall into place first, and that's what I'm doing now," said Jurick, who admitted that playing with Wells again was a nice bonus but not a big factor in his decision.
He said Pearl agreed to release him "with restrictions" -- he couldn't go to any school on the Vols' schedule -- but Jurick didn't need the release to go to a junior college. And he said Chattanooga State was the only one he considered because it was in his hometown, close to his mother, he knew Price and the Tigers had a track record for championship contention.
Price, a former Vols guard, said he is convinced from conversations with Pearl that the UT coach does want Jurick back. He just knows he's glad to have Jurick for now.
"He gives us an inside presence we haven't had since Rashad Jones-Jennings was here," said Price, referring to the dominant rebounder who went on to star at Arkansas-Little Rock.