KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Tyler Smith is returning to Tennessee for his junior season, hoping to improve his NBA draft prospects for next year.
The 6-foot-7 forward scored 13.5 points a game and led the 31-win Volunteers in rebounds and assists last season. Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said Smith would have faced tough competition in the draft against 38 other underclassmen.
``I have come to the conclusion that I want to be a Volunteer next year,'' Smith said. ``Coming back wasn't really a big problem because, I mean, I am here. I am home. I am with my family and I am really enjoying college life.''
Pearl is excited to have him coming back and says Smith will take on more of a leadership role with the departure of seniors Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith.
``I told Tyler, 'Tyler, we are going to be good without you. Don't do this for us,''' Pearl said.
But the coach conceded: ``Can we be championship-good without Tyler? It would be more difficult.''
Next season's team will add newly signed McDonald's All-American Scotty Hopson and redshirt freshman guard Cameron Tatum, back from a knee injury. But with Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith gone, new leaders will have to be found - both on and off the court.
``Tyler will be our leader now. This is going to be his team,'' Pearl said. ``He has to buck it up, suck it up and be a pro while he is still in college.''

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