KNOXVILLE - Point guard Trae Golden is transferring from Tennessee's basketball program.
A 57-game starter over the past two seasons, Golden was the Volunteers' third-leading scorer (12.1 points per game) and finished third in the SEC in assists (3.9 per game).
"We want nothing but the best for Trae," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said in the program's release. "Everyone associated with our program wants to see him be successful, and we wish him well."
A source inside the program told the Times Free Press on Tuesday afternoon that Golden's departure is academic-related.
The Georgia native led the Vols in scoring (13.6 ppg) as a sophomore in Martin's first season, and he garnered a preseason All-SEC second-team selection from the league's coaches heading into last season. Golden scored 25 points in Tennessee's win over eventual Final Four participant Wichita State in the Vols' December win in Knoxville. A combination of nagging injuries and poor play, though, cost him his starting job for a stretch of his junior campaign.
Once he got out of the funk, Golden was a key part of Tennessee's late-season run, during which the Vols won eight of their final nine regular-season games and just missed the NCAA tournament.
A number of former Vols took to Twitter to voice their opinions on Golden's departure.
"Vol Nation y'all don't want to know how I feel about all of this .... SMH [shaking my head]!!" tweeted Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris, one of Golden's closest friend who invited him to attend the 2011 NBA draft with his family in New York City.
"Welp I guess it's time to take a twitter break," posted guard Jordan McRae, the Vols' leading scorer last season.
Golden would have to sit out next season if he transferred to another Division I program and couldn't obtain an NCAA waiver for immediate eligibility.
"I had a great three years here at Tennessee, but I plan to play my senior year somewhere else this fall," Golden said. "I really appreciate the staff and all the great support from Vol fans. I'm definitely going to miss my teammates.
"I want them to have nothing but success in the future."
Golden's exit is the third and most surprising of Tennessee's offseason personnel moves.
After signing two more players in the late signing period, the Vols were two scholarships over the 13-player NCAA limit for next season. Center Yemi Makanjuola was granted his release to transfer after playing two seasons, and Tennessee released Huntington Prep point guard Travon Landry from his letter of intent this weekend. He signed with New Mexico State this week.
The Vols do return McRae and Josh Richardson on the wings and big men Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, who redshirted this season due to a lingering knee problem. Five-star shooting guard Robert Hubbs is the headliner of Martin's second signing class. There's now a void at point guard, one Murfreesboro Blackman High School's Darius Thompson now may need to fill as a freshman next season.
When Golden struggled last season, Tennessee used McRae, Richardson and walk-on Brandon Lopez to take those minutes at the point, though Maymon's return should help the Vols' ballhandling.