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 Friday near the University of Tennessee campus ended with four UT men's basketball players arrested for misdemeanor drug and 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, the report said. That led to felony charges at first, but all charges were misdemeanors later in the evening, according to multiple sources.
"We take these matters very seriously," Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl said in a statement released Friday afternoon. "We are still gathering information. Once the appropriate authorities have provided us with all of the facts, we will act accordingly."
Friday night, though, Pearl issued a new statement saying the four were "indefinitely" suspended "from all team activities until we have more information about today's incident." He began the statement by saying, "I am deeply saddened and troubled" and ended it with an apology "for the embarrassment this has caused to our university."
Those suspended are four of the Vols' top eight players with high-profile nonconference home games coming up next week against Charlotte and top-ranked Kansas. 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.
"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 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 Friday's report will be "the only information released on this incident" until Monday.
A retired KPD official told the Times Free Press Friday night that all four players could face 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.
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