Monday featured news on Tennessee men’s basketball stars of the present and future.
Tobias Harris, who again was named SEC freshman of the week, missed Monday's practice with a "sore" ankle.
Hours after forward Tobias Harris was named SEC freshman of the week, UT announced that former All-American Allan Houston’s No. 20 will be retired in the rafters at Thompson-Boling Arena before the March 6 home game against Kentucky.
Houston, whose 2,801 career points still stand as first in UT history, second in SEC history (to Pete Maravich) and 16th in NCAA history, was a two-time All-American and four-time All-SEC guard. He left the Vols as a first-round draft pick and played 12 seasons in the NBA, also winning an Olympic gold medal.
“Allan represents everything the term ‘student-athlete’ is supposed to represent,” UT men’s athletic director Mike Hamilton said. “He was a very good student, a campus leader and tremendously successful on the court. We are thrilled to have his number hang in the rafters at Thompson-Boling Arena as a tribute to who he was, and is today.”
Vols coach Bruce Pearl said Houston is “as fine a human being, a philanthropist and community servant as this university has produced.”
“You can aspire to be the kind of player that Allan Houston was, but that pales in comparison to try to become the kind of man he is, to try to become the kind of father he is, to have the kind of relationship with the Lord that he has, and how he wears that on his sleeve” Pearl said. “We can honor a lot of great basketball players — and we’ve got a lot of great basketball players to honor, and we will. But we may never be able to honor a man — and a man of God — like Allan Houston.”
Hamilton told Houston in late November that his jersey would be retired, and Houston — currently the New York Knicks’ assistant general manager — said he was “honored.”
“I always thought it would be a special honor because of the way that I came to Tennessee, and that is when my dad (Wade Houston) got the (head coaching) job,” he said. “My family has always been very close. For not just the number to go up, but the name to go up, ... the first thing that I thought about was my family's legacy.”
Houston, who comes back to Knoxville as often as his busy job allows, was at Thompson-Boling for the program’s first jersey-retirement ceremony — Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld.
Vols coach Bruce Pearl said freshman guard Jordan McRae would be back at some point from his "team conduct policy" suspension.
“Just the lineage of Bernard coming from New York and me with the Knicks and Ernie, who brought me to New York, I'll never forget when I was fortunate enough to break the scoring title of Ernie’s,” Houston said. “To be in their company is truly special, because they brought a lot of excitement during that time, and they brought a lot of memories.”
Of course, Allan Houston’s story can’t be told without the caveat that his father, Wade, was fired in 1994 after five years as UT’s head coach. Wade Houston’s final record with the Vols was 65-90, and he never took them to the NCAA tournament — or past the second round of the NIT.
“There was some honest disappointment and resentment,” Allan Houston said of Wade’s dismissal. “I think it was natural. My whole coming back (to the program) was I just felt like Mike Hamilton understood what it would take to make basketball engaging and make people really enjoy it. Coach Pearl, i just thought, I could be wrong, I could be so mistaken, but I thought they got it. I just thought that they got it. After being around a program that really was a basketball program, I felt they really understood what it took. When they came and we sat and talked, we talked about the division, and keeping ex-players engaged as well.
“Obviously, when you really win, you get the excitement of the fans.”
Allan said he and Wade have spoken on the phone about Allan’s jersey retirement, but it’s not clear whether Wade — an East Tennessee native — will be at the ceremony.
“He understood how to keep together but separate his situation from mine,” Allan said of Wade. “Mine was I had a career there and memories, something that will last forever, and it was because of him. And I think he understood that.”
HARRIS' ANKLE 'SORE'
Harris, as expected, sat out Monday’s practice after tweaking his ankle in UT’s Saturday win at Ole Miss. Pearl said Harris’s situation is day-to-day, but it’s hard to see the freshman missing Thursday’s game at Auburn, considering he came back and finished the game against the Rebels.
Harris wasn’t available for comment because he didn’t practice, but Pearl said the situation wasn’t too serious.
“Tobias’s ankle is stiff. It’s sore,” Pearl said. “But he’s been, as you would imagine, Tobias approaches an injury like he approaches his training, and that is every day, all day. Trainer Chad Newman didn’t have much time with his family (Sunday), and (Harris) was in the training room with us (Monday) morning at 6:15. He’s in a boot, and he may get out of the boot this afternoon, to see if we can start to do some movement exercises. It’s not serious from a standpoint of he won’t be out that long, but it’s painful and stiff, and obviously his status for this week is still to be determined.”
MCRAE BACK ... SOMETIME
Pearl said freshman guard Jordan McRae — who missed practice and games last week while serving a suspension for a team conduct policy violation — “will be back when I tell him he’s coming back.”
“But I can confirm for you that he’ll be back,” Pearl added with a laugh.
Contact Wes Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247