published Thursday, May 16th, 2013

Justin Tuoyo looking at UTC: Mocs signee Jonathan Stark granted a release

T.J. Williams is coming to play basketball at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Christian Kennedy is coming as well.

Jonathan Stark is not.

Two of three UTC signees are ready to play for new UTC head coach Will Wade who spent the past four seasons on the bench next to Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth.

And former VCU forward Justin Tuoyo, who was granted his release on Wednesday, has plans on visiting the Scenic City and his former assistant coach over the upcoming weekend.

"I have a lot of interest in UTC," Tuoyo said. "Coach [Wade] and I have had a relationship since we've known each other for about three years. He's brutally honest with me. He knows my game up and down."

Wade granted Stark, an incoming freshman who would have been the only true point guard on the Mocs' roster, a release from his national letter of intent Wednesday morning.

"It's nothing personal against Coach Wade, and I'd heard nothing but good stuff about him," said Jonathan's father Jerry Stark who asked UTC for his son's release soon after former coach John Shulman was dismissed.

"We're just hoping to move forward," the elder Stark said. "Coach Wade understands the process and that these things happen and what's important to him is Jonathan getting his release as soon as possible and getting him into a new school."

The release of Stark leaves Wade with two scholarships available, not counting the likelihood of Tuoyo joining the team and sitting out one season. Tuoyo who is a 6-9 forward from Hampton, Ga. Tuoyo averaged 7.6 minutes, and 1.1 points per game while playing off the end of the bench last season for the Rams.

"He's a coach, but we have an off-the-court relationship," Tuoyo said of Wade. "He's somebody I can count on."

But Tuoyo stopped short of confirming he will wear blue-and-gold in the future. Nevertheless, Wade has spent parts of his first few days on the job recruiting future UTC players.

"I think coach Shulman did a good job building the roster, and we'll just have to fill in a few pieces," Wade said on Tuesday. "We'll be fine at the point. Chattanooga is a popular spot now, and a lot of kids want to come here. It's just a matter of choosing the right kid."

Point guard is the most pressing issue for Wade to address. Junior shooting guard Ronrico White played out-of-position for most of last season while filling in for the injured Dontay Hampton. White has said before that he'll play any position to help the Mocs.

"I think we've got some really good pieces, and some long and athletic guys," Wade said. "We're a little light on shooting right now, but we have good shooters and I want to give them confidence and let them loose."

Stark, a 6-foot, 160-pound point guard who played his senior season at Munford High School outside of Memphis, can now be recruited by any school with a scholarship.

"We both spoke with Coach Wade and those conversations went well," Mr. Stark said. "I was impressed. He originally chose UTC over New Mexico State, Western Kentucky, Southeast Louisiana and a couple other schools."

Williams and Kennedy -- the two post players Shulman and his staff signed -- never wavered in their commitment to UTC. Even though they signed to play for Shulman, more importantly to them, they signed to play for UTC, said Williams on Wednesday.

They endured the eight weeks of not knowing the identity of their college coach together.

"It felt longer," said Williams. "At times it was stressful, but I knew Chattanooga is where I wanted to be because I love the school and my future teammates.

"Me and Christian got kind of close and talked about everything from basketball to weight-lifting supplements. As long and he was going to UTC, then I was going to do the same."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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