Vols dismiss Smith; 3 remain suspended

Updated: January 8, 2010, 8:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl dismissed senior forward Tyler Smith from the team on Friday, a week after his arrest with three other players on misdemeanor gun and drug charges.

Pearl had indefinitely suspended Smith, guard Cameron Tatum, center Brian Williams and point guard Melvin Goins following the Jan. 1 arrest.

"I am deeply troubled and saddened," Pearl said. "Playing basketball at the University of Tennessee is a privilege, and where conduct is displayed that is detrimental to the team and the university this discipline is required. Tyler has accomplished a great deal, and we are all disappointed his playing career at the University of Tennessee will end this way."

The other three players will continue to serve their suspensions when the Vols (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 16 AP) play host to No. 1 Kansas on Sunday -- easily the biggest game on Tennessee's home schedule.

"I am truly sorry for my actions in the recent case that everyone is familiar with," Smith said in the statement. "From the beginning, I have accepted responsibility for my actions and what I have been charged with, and I am very sorry that my decisions have affected Brian, Cam and Melvin."

Police pulled over the vehicle the four players were in for speeding and said they smelled marijuana coming from the car and found a handgun with an altered serial number, a bag of marijuana and an open container of alcohol. Tatum was driving the car, which was a rental borrowed from one of the player's friends, and is also charged with violating Tennessee's open container law.

Smith's lawyer, Knoxville attorney Don Bosch, said, "I hope and believe that the misdemeanor cases against him will be resolved quickly and consistent with the thousands of other true first offenders in Knox County."

The four are scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday.

Smith, a Pulaski, Tenn., native and a two-time All-Southeastern Conference player, acted as the Volunteers' leader on the court, averaging a team-high 17.4 points last season and helping to drum up energy when his teammates struggled with their play. Smith started 12 games this season, averaging 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He led the team with 44 assists and had 17 steals.

"I didn't just lose a teammate," senior guard J.P. Prince said. "It was like I lost a brother, so it hurts. This is one of the few days I wasn't excited to practice just thinking about not having him alongside me anymore. You just hate the way things ended."

Smith, who played at Iowa as a freshman but transferred to Tennessee to be closer to his ill father, considered skipping his final year of eligibility to enter the NBA draft in June but decided against it when analysts failed to project him as a first-round pick.

Tennessee had only six scholarship players available for Wednesday's 88-71 victory over Charlotte, and that might be the case again for the Kansas game.

For the Vols to have a chance to beat the Jayhawks, Pearl said forward Wayne Chism will have to rebound well against Cole Aldrich; Scott Hopson and Renaldo Woolridge will have to make 3-pointers; and Bobby Maze must limit turnovers against Kansas' Sherron Collins.

The Vols defended well against Charlotte by limiting the 49ers to 27.6 percent on 3-point attempts and 36.2 percent overall.

Both Pearl and Smith expressed hope that the senior would return to Tennessee to complete his degree, though Smith will be subjected to a student disciplinary hearing at the university because of his arrest.

"One day soon I hope I can finish the 12 classes that I need for my degree," Smith said. "My recent actions do not reflect who I am, and I can only hope that what I do in the future can make everyone believe in me again."

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.