The door remains cracked on Darius Thompson returning to Tennessee, and the Volunteers are hoping to get an answer from the point guard soon.
The 6-foot-5 Murfreesboro product requested a release from his scholarship earlier this month, but new Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall has been open to having him come back for his sophomore year.
Tyndall elaborated on the situation with Thompson prior to Monday night's Big Orange Caravan stop at The Chattanoogan Hotel.
"We've talked throughout this whole process, both Darius and I and his dad, Lonnie, and I," Tyndall said. "As I've mentioned, I don't want it to become a pressure situation. Darius is sorting some things out. He's taken a couple of visits, and I told him when he left I didn't want to rush him, but we do need an answer by the time we start summer school.
"I'm guessing -- could be wrong -- we'll have an answer from Darius later this week."
Summer classes at Tennessee are slated to start on May 29.
After adding seven players to replace four departing seniors, NBA draft early entrant Jarnell Stokes, transferring players Quinton Chievous and A.J. Davis, the Vols currently have a single scholarship available for next season.
Tennessee hosted Tariq Owens, a forward out of Maryland and a former Ohio signee, on an official visit late last week and hope to get involved with Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter, a 6-foot-8 forward who was the nation's 33rd-ranked player out of high school in 2012 according to Rivals.com.
Thompson played in every game as a freshman for Cuonzo Martin's Vols in 2013-14 and averaged 2.6 points and 1.9 rebounds in 16.8 minutes, and he has more natural point guard skills than any other Tennessee's returning or incoming players. He's reportedly visited Purdue and Virginia since asking for his release.
"If Darius doesn't do it, if he decides not to come back, then we'll have one scholarship to give going into the summer," Tyndall said. "My plan on the front end would be to hold it, unless we could get an impact-type transfer that would sit out the year and have remaining eligibility left.
"As it sits right now, I'll believe we'll have 12 within the next week starting summer school, and we'll go from there."
Tyndall and his new staff can start conducting individual workouts with their new team, and though it happened quickly and included a stretch of four additions in one two-day span, Tennessee's new coach is happy to have nearly all of his roster in place heading into the summer.
"It's a relief," he said, "from the standpoint of the guys we've signed I feel like can help us. They're my type of guys, and most important to me, they're going to be very prideful to wear a UT uniform and be in our program."
• Tennessee football coach Butch Jones said freshman tailback Jalen Hurd has to be ready to play this fall and will get "every opportunity" to make an impact.
"We have no choice," he said. "I thought Marlin Lane did a great job of really providing some stability to the running back position, but we're going to rely on Jalen a lot. He has to have a great offseason of really building up the stamina and the durability that it takes in a running back at our level."
• All-SEC linebacker A.J. Johnson has "a lot of room for continued growth," Jones said, particularly in the areas of leadership, rushing the passer on blitzes and in coverage.
"He's as hard a worker as we have in our football program," Jones added, "and I know he's very determined right now and very focused."
• Jones said he still is awaiting the final academic report on his players from the spring semester and added that he didn't anticipate any casualties or major negative surprises.
• Tyndall said his original plan of adding some fifth-year transfers, junior college players and any available 2014 recruits to rebuild Tennessee's depleted roster came to fruition, and he's looking forward to getting the new additions and the five-man returning cast on the floor for workouts soon.
"I can't wait," Tyndall said. "The funnest part of coaching for me is practice, and obviously that includes individual workouts. I can't wait to get to the floor. It's my favorite part of coaching, and I think our guys are eager to get there and work as well."
• Tyndall said Florida Gulf Coast transfer Eric McKnight, who officially joined the program on Sunday nearly a week after committing, gives the Vols needed size and length.
"He's an experienced guy," said Tennessee's new coach. "He's been at the Division I level for four years. He's played in big games, including the team that went to the Sweet 16. I like Eric, and he's a guy that I think is hungry for a fresh start, and he's certainly going to have the chance to come in and compete for a starting role and certainly contribute in a big way."
Contact Patrick Brown at email@example.com.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...