Southern California's Nikola Vucevic, left, and Tennessee's Tyler Smith go after a loose ball during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009, in Los Angeles. USC won the game 77-55. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
KNOXVILLE — A late-morning traffic stop today near the University of Tennessee campus ended with four of the school’s men’s basketball players arrested for misdemeanor drug and felony weapons possession charges.
Senior All-Southeastern Conference forward Tyler Smith, junior center Brian Williams, junior point guard Melvin Goins and sophomore guard Cameron Tatum were in a car that was stopped for speeding at about 11:30 a.m., according to Knoxville Police Department documents.
According to the incident report, one KPD officer immediately requested backup and a K-9 officer after approaching the vehicle — driven by Tatum — and smelling a “strong odor of marijuana.”
The four players then were removed from the vehicle so it could be searched, and officers found two handguns, drugs and an open container of alcohol. One weapon was discovered under each of the front seats, and the one discovered under Smith’s passenger seat had an altered serial number — a felony offense.
“It could not be determined if the driver and passengers were under the influence of marijuana or not, although the strong odor indicated that marijuana had been recently smoked in the car,” the report stated. “Because of this, physical arrests were made instead of misdemeanor citations for the misdemeanor charges.”
Smith and Williams, who was seated behind him, were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and felony unlawful possession of a firearm with an altered serial number. Williams, the only player with three charges, also was cited for possession of a schedule VI drug.
Tatum and Goins were charged with misdemeanor unlawful possession of a firearm. Tatum was cited for the open container of alcohol, and Goins was cited for possession of a schedule VI drug.
KPD’s statement said today’s report will be “the only information released on this incident” until Monday.
UT coach Bruce Pearl issued a statement on the situation this afternoon.
“We take these matters very seriously,” Pearl’s statement said. “We are still gathering information. Once the appropriate authorities have provided us with all of the facts, we will act accordingly.”
A retired KPD official told the Times Free Press tonight that all four players could be stuck with weapons charges, despite just two guns being found in the car.
“It depends on a lot of factors, especially whether one or two of the guys in that vehicle step forward and claim responsibility for the weapons,” the official said.
The official, speaking without direct knowledge of this particular case, said he’d expect the guns to get traced and fingerprinted for possible owner or handler identification.
At the very least — and this might be the best-case scenario — UT could be without four of its top eight players for key nonconference home games against Charlotte and top-ranked Kansas next week. All four players average at least 16 minutes per game, and their combined average input is 32.4 points, 14.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists.
Williams (5.4) and Smith (4.7) are second and third on the team in rebounding, and Smith has nine more assists than any teammate.
All four players were at the Knox County Detention Facility at 6:15 p.m., according to a spokesperson, but none had yet been booked and processed.
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