February 22, 2008

Evolving Jurick loves Vols rise

Before Philip Jurick can settle in to watch THE game in college basketball this season, the University of Tennessee signee has some hardwood matters of his own to handle on Saturday.

Jurick's East Ridge Pioneers play at Meigs County Saturday at 7 p.m. in a Region 3-AA Tournament opener. Jurick hopes to extend his senior season with a win against the Tigers and then race the roughly 60 miles back home to watch the second-ranked Vols (24-2) battle top-ranked Memphis (26-0) inside the FedEx Forum at 9.

"That kind of sucks we play that night," said the four-star recruit. "But we should get back in time. It's just amazing where (the Vols) have come from the start of the year."
Jurick's evolution mirrors that of the Vols under {db]Bruce Pearl[/db], who signed the Jurick and Renaldo Woolridge last November.

A 6-foot-10, 250-pound center rated the No. 13 player at his position in this year's class, Jurick has become a more complete player in his final prep season. He's averaging 18 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots per game.

"Right now I'm starting to improve on the offensive side and it makes it easier and makes the game easier," said Jurick, who notched a new career-high with 39 points this season against Marion County and once recorded 21 blocks in a single game. "I'm stepping outside more and facing the basket and not just playing with my back to the basket. I've hit a couple of 3s, and I didn't even feel comfortable last year taking them. Confidence-wise, mid-range jumpers and stuff like that."

Though he knew big things were in store for Tennessee basketball when he signed on with Pearl, Jurick admits the Vols' rapid ascension has taken him slightly by surprise.

"I thought it was going to take a little bit more time," Jurick said. "I didn't think it was going to be this year or even when I get up there next year. …

"It's exciting with where my career is going to go from here and the opportunities I'm going to have."

Jurick, who chats online with fellow signee Woolridge, will continue preparing to join the Tennessee team even when his high school season ends.

"Just me and one of my coaches getting in the gym, running and getting up and down the court and hitting the weights real hard," he said.

And what about a prediction for Saturday night's Vols-Tigers showdown?

"I definitely think Tennessee should win, but it will be a good game though," Jurick said.

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