KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee guard Darius Thompson and swingman A.J. Davis have asked to be released from their scholarships.
Volunteers coach Donnie Tyndall confirmed Monday at a Big Orange Caravan event in Atlanta that both players had asked for their releases "to explore their options."
"I don't think in either case, at least what they're telling me, that these guys have made their mind up to not come back," Tyndall said. "The door has been left open. We certainly hope they will come back, but at the end of the day, they need to be comfortable in what they're going to do the rest of their career, so we've released them to explore their options with the hopes that they'll decide to return."
Their departures would be the latest defections to hit Tennessee since an offseason coaching change. California hired Cuonzo Martin away from Tennessee on April 15, and Tyndall was announced as his replacement a week later. All four recruits to sign with Tennessee in November - guards Larry Austin Jr. and Jordan Cornish and forwards Phil Cofer and CJ Turman - have been released from their letters of intent.
Thompson's father, Lonnie Thompson, said that "I really don't know" the chances of his son choosing to return.
"As of the first of last week, he was set on staying," said Lonnie Thompson, the coach at NAIA program Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. "Then at the end of the week, he just felt like it may be time to move on. I guess with the new coaching staff coming in, the new team, he didn't feel like he wanted to stay anymore."
Thompson, a 6-foot-5 guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, started 10 games and averaged 2.6 points, 2.4 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game as a freshman this past season. He led the Volunteers with 1.0 steals per game and was second on the team in assists.
Davis, a 6-foot-9 guard/forward from Buford, Georgia, averaged 1.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 9.4 minutes per game as a freshman. Davis is the son of former NBA forward Antonio Davis.
Thompson and Davis were part of a three-man freshman class that also featured Robert Hubbs III, a former five-star recruit who averaged 5.0 points and 1.5 rebounds in 12 games this past season before undergoing surgery on his left shoulder in January. Hubbs' father, also named Robert Hubbs, said his son hasn't requested a release at this point.
"Right now, Robert's still a Tennessee Vol," Hubbs' father said. "We're going to talk about a lot of things when we get home this week. ... We're going to sit down and talk."
The departures of Thompson and Davis would force Tyndall to scramble to fill out his roster. Tyndall already has refortified Tennessee's decimated recruiting class by signing forward Jabari McGhee on Friday and junior-college guard Kevin Punter on Monday.
Tennessee has to replace four of its top five scorers from a team that went 24-13 and reached an NCAA regional semifinal this season.