Crawley: Superb Play Of Vols' JaJuan Smith No Surprise To McMinn Coach

"The Pest'' Has Played Key Role In UT's 16-3 Start

Monday, February 06, 2006 - by Stan Crawley
JaJuan Smith.
JaJuan Smith.
- photo by UT.

Even when JaJuan "The Pest'' Smith was an eighth-grader, he was making folks around Decatur and AThens raise their eyebrows in disbelief while watching his antics on the basketball court.

"He was real skinny, but he was real good,'' said McMinn County's Keith Elliott, who coached Smith in high school ball.

"We were struggling a little his freshman season, so we moved him into the starting lineup,'' Elliott said. "He was our leading scorer the last 10 games that year. From the beginning of his high school career, you good tell he had a lot of skills.''

Smith walked on at Tennessee last year and earned a scholarship. He had limited playing time under coach Buzz Peterson, but has blossomed this year under new UT coach Bruce Pearl as the Vols have raced to a 16-3 start.

Smith, nicknamed "The Pest''by members of the Tennessee radio team due to his aggressive play on defense, is averaging 24.6 minutes-per-game for the Vols. He scored a career high 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting during Saturday's victory over Ole Miss. Smith also had seven rebounds and four steals.

"He is a pest,'' Elliott said. "It's unreal they have T-shirts of him in Knoxville with 'The Pest' written on them.

"It's a good description of him. He always guarded the other team's best offensive player for us. He was our stopper.''

Elliot said Smith was a "tweener'' in high school due to his size, meaning he was recruited mainly by mid-majors like Arkansas State, MTSU and UT-Chattanooga. Tennessee did show some interest, but didn't have a scholarship available at the time.

"We were 17-17 his senior year and he didn't get a lot of tournament exposure,'' Elliott said. "Still, he had three 40-point games, four 30-point games and averaged 22 per game.

"He had his heart set on D-I basketball and UT was a dream for him. He decided walking on was his best option. Really, the fact he wanted to go there so badly may have led some schools to think he wasn't interested in them.''

Smith has put on 15-20 pounds since joining the Vols, and fits perfectly into the Pearl's offensive and defensive schemes.

"His style of play is to get after people,'' Elliott said. "He has long arms, quickness and great anticipation. And under coach Pearl, he has become more than just a shooter. Now, he's driving, rebounding and finishing plays.''

Elliot said he stressed one thing to Smith during his four seasons in Athens -- become a complete player. He never was that at McMinn County, mainly concentrating on shooting three-pointers.

"And now he is starting to develop into that complete player,'' Elliott said. "That's why he is seeing so much significant playing time for the Vols.''

(E-mail Stan Crawley at wscrawley@earthlink.net)


Notre Dame's Kareem Orr Looking For Big Results

(This is the 16th in a series of preseason stories on new high school football coaches, or veteran coaches at a different school, and top players in the Chattanooga area) Notre Dame’s football team has won 18 games in the first two years of Charles Fant’s time as the Fighting Irish head coach. The Signal Mountain Eagles have beaten Notre Dame in both of ... (click for more)

UTC's Jay Hay Has Found a Football Home

“Without a doubt, I cannot think of a place I would rather be than here at UTC playing football. The veteran players welcomed me this summer as a junior college transfer with open arms.” UTC defensive back Jay Hay It’s been a crazy, at times frustrating and difficult, four-year football journey for Dade County, Fla. native Jeremiah “Jay” ... (click for more)

School Board Delays Decision On Big-Ticket Health Insurance Item For 1 Week

The Hamilton County School Board on Thursday night voted to delay a vote on a new insurance plan for employees until next Thursday. Sandy Hughes, president of the Hamilton County Education Association, said, "I have a difficult time trying to think of what priority in spending is more important than the well-being of your employees and their children...You've not given us enough ... (click for more)

Man Charged In Westview Elementary Rampage Under Treatment At Moccasin Bend

The 22-year-old charged with a rampage through Westview Elementary School is under treatment at Moccasin Bend Psychiatric Hospital, officials said. Aaron Roden had been set for his first court appearance on Thursday morning. Attorney Allen Dunn of the public defender's office said the hearing needed to be delayed. A status court appearance will be Sept. 23 at 1:30 p.m. Sheriff ... (click for more)

Black Creek TIF Decision-Who Guards The Hen House? - And Response

Citizens of Chattanooga were invited to give public comment before their own Industrial Development Board Aug. 15. They arrived to find foxes guarding their hen house.  Many thought the meeting was their opportunity to seek redress in the ill-conceived Black Creek Tax Increment Financing plan. However, they learned it was a sham orchestrated by both the past and present ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Let’s ‘Pay It Forward’

At 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, this at a Starbucks coffee store located at 2186 Tyrone Blvd. in St. Petersburg, Fla.,  an unidentified woman who was first in line at the drive-through window, politely told the drive-through window clerk she would like to “pay it forward.” The clerk checked the next order – it was a caramel macchiato – and the first customer paid for both her ... (click for more)