KNOXVILLE -- The University of Tennessee men's basketball team seems to have found much-needed frontcourt depth.
Former UNC Wilmington player John Fields said Thursday night that he would transfer to UT for his final season of eligibility. He averaged 10.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season at UNCW, and he set a single-season program record with 59 blocked shots.
The 6-foot-9 forward will be eligible immediately because he's already graduated from UNCW.
Fields said he plans to enroll for the second session of UT's summer school, which starts July 8.
"I'm so excited," said Fields, who also considered Xavier, Miami (Fla.) and Rutgers. "Nobody on the list could compete with the magnitude of Tennessee. As soon as Coach (Bruce) Pearl offered, I said yes.
"Tennessee is just ... it's Tennessee basketball, man. Coach Pearl has built a great program here, and I'm just ready to walk in and contribute. A chance to be a part of a winning situation for my last year, that was the most important thing for me. When I got here and saw the campus, saw the atmosphere and saw that I could make a good fit to help out the frontline, I said I was in."
Fields said "the wheels started spinning" for his transfer about 10 days ago.
"Coach Pearl called the house and said he was interested, and I said I was interested in taking a visit," Fields said. "I got all my other visits out of the way and made sure I saved this one for last, because I knew this was where I wanted to come the whole time.
"I was interested as soon as they called, because this program commands respect, and I've been a fan since I was little. When the opportunity arose to play at the University of Tennessee, I had to take it."
Pearl and his players can't comment on an unsigned player -- Fields said he'd sign by Monday -- but former UT player Dane Bradshaw said the Vols "really, really needed another big body."
The Vols lost a big part of their frontcourt future when UT refused to clear forward Emmanuel Negedu for competition because of a heart condition. Negedu transferred to New Mexico, and the Vols were left with little depth behind 6-10 senior center Brian Williams and 6-9 sophomore Kenny Hall.
Marquette transfer Jeronne Maymon, a 6-7 forward, will be eligible after the fall semester.
"I haven't seen the guy play, but seeing him today ... he looks good," Bradshaw said Thursday night. "To be honest with you, I thought he was an alum, because he's such a big guy and looks older. Those are the kind of men-type bodies that you need in the SEC and down the stretch in the NCAA tournament.
"Brian Williams is a big body, but Kenny Hall is a light frame. And then after that, where's your next big guy? You've got to have depth at the position. I haven't seen him play, but physically he looks like he's ready to contribute.
"The shot-blocking ability is certainly welcome. Tennessee really hasn't had a great shot blocker in a long time. They're going to have to replace Wayne (Chism) by committee, and this is just another piece to the puzzle.
Fields went to Knoxville Bearden High School on Thursday night, joining a capacity crowd for the annual Pilot Rocky Top League's championship game.
"I wanted to be out here, get to know the guys and have some fun," Fields said. "It's Tennessee, man. I love it out here. I love the hometown feeling, and the fans are incredible. The chance to play in Thompson-Boling Arena, where they will it up every night, that's going to be good.
"Good thing I hit the books, so I could have this opportunity.
Other contacts for Wes Rucker are www.twitter.com/wesrucker and www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.