Vols’ Tyndall gets hoops program rolling with McGhee signing

New Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall posted a superb 56-17 record at Southern Miss (two seasons), culminating with a school-best 29-7 mark for 2013-14 (regular season C-USA title).

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — New Tennessee men’s basketball coach Donnie Tyndall landed his first signed recruit over the weekend.

Jabari McGhee (6-foot-8, 225 pounds) played forward last season at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va. He averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds in helping his team to a 32-8 record.

"I’m very excited to add Jabari to the Tennessee basketball family," Tyndall said of McGhee, who will enroll at Tennessee this summer and have four years of eligibility in the fall.

"He’s an outstanding young man who will bring length and size to our frontcourt," Tyndall added. "His toughness and competitive edge will allow him to contribute early in his career."

McGhee prepped at Albany (Ga.) Monroe High School, where he scored more than 1,200 career points. After averaging a double-double in scoring and rebounding as a senior, he was named Class AAAA all-state by The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association and the Georgia Sportswriters Association.

McGhee had originally committed to attend Auburn under former Tigers coach Tony Barbee. But when Barbee was fired in March and Auburn hired former Volunteers coach Bruce Pearl, McGhee re-opened his recruiting.

He reportedly also had offers from Georgia, Western Kentucky and Florida Gulf Coast.

Heading into the upcoming school year, Tennessee now has five scholarships available. Tyndall released four signed recruits — center C.J. Turman, forward Phil Cofer and guards Larry Austin and Jordan Cornish — who were signed by former Volunteers coach Cuonzo Martin, who left Knoxville for the University of California-Berkeley last month.

"One thing I always say in recruiting is, ‘We won’t sign a guy just to fill a spot.’ If we don’t feel like a young man can 100 percent fit into how we play, then we will just hold the scholarship until the next classj," says Tyndall, formerly the head coach at Southern Miss.

Tyndall takes over a team that lost four starters, including the talented inside tandem of junior Jarnell Stokes (declared early for the NBA) and senior Jeronne Maymon,. Also graduating are wing Jordan McRae, the team’s leading scorer the past two seasons, and point guard Antonio Barton.

Key returnees for Tennessee include senior guard and SEC All-Defensive Team member Josh Richardson, sophomore point guard Darius Thompson and junior guard Amani Moore.

McGhee was an AAU teammate of Moore with the Atlanta Xpress program.

Tyndall finalizes staff

On Wednesday, Tyndall formally introduced his first Volunteers coaching staff, beginning with assistants Al Pinkins, Adam Howard and Chris Shumate.

Tyndall also named Jareem Dowling as director of player development, Justin Phillips as director of basketball operations and Todd Moyer as the Volunteers’ strength and conditioning coach.

Most recently an assistant coach at Ole Miss, Pinkins is the only new staff member who wasn’t with Tyndall at Southern Miss. They were both assistants, however, at Middle Tennessee under Blue Raiders coach Kermit Davis (2003-06).

"I couldn’t be more excited about the staff that we’ve assembled here at Tennessee," Tyndall said. "Every one of these guys is a great mentor and role model for our student-athletes. This is a young, ambitious staff that will never be outworked, I can assure you."

Pinkins, an assistant under Rebels coach Andy Kennedy the past three seasons, is considered one of the best recruiters in the southeast. A former North Carolina State and professional post player, Pinkins will work closely with the Vols’ inside players.

"There’s not a better person in this profession," Tyndall said of Pinkins, who was instrumental in Ole Miss making the NCAA tournament two years ago. "He has great contacts throughout the southeast. And, in my opinion, he’s one of the best recruiters in all of college basketball."

Tennessee to play Butler

The Volunteeers have contracted to play a home-and-home series with Butler, which recently completed its first season as member of the Big East Conference.

Tennessee will host Butler on Dec. 14. UT will then travel to play the Bulldogs the following season (Dec. 12, 2015) — at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Butler is coached by Brandon Miller, who succeeded Brad Stevens after he was named head coach of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Under Stevens, Butler was national runner-up in both 2010 and 2011, falling to Duke and UConn, respectively.

For the 2014-15 season, Tennessee is also expected to host a Big 12 opponent as part of the second annual SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Volunteers are scheduled to travel to North Carolina State, as well.

Tennessee is also part of the eight-team Old Spice Classic, to be played over Thanksgiving weekend in Kissimmee, Fla (Walt Disney complex). Other teams include Georgia Tech, Kansas, Marquette, Michigan State, Rider, Santa Clara and Xavier.