Former Christ Presbyterian Academy point guard Braxton Bonds has officially accepted a walk-on role at the University of Tennessee, his former high school coach said Tuesday.
CPA Coach Drew Maddux confirmed that Bonds, a two-time Class AA champion, had accepted the walk-on spot from first-year Vols head coach Donnie Tyndall.
The 6-foot-1 Bonds signed with Liberty before deciding to walk on at UT.
Liberty (Lynchburg, Va.) is an eight-hour drive from Nashville, and being far from home was difficult for Bonds.
"My heart was just leaning towards coming back home, being closer to home," Bonds said. "It was such a big move. I've never been away from home that far. It had nothing to do with Liberty, but I felt like I needed to be closer to home."
His playing status for next season is uncertain. He has been released from his national letter of intent to Liberty.
"Right now that is being reviewed by the NCAA if I will have to sit out a year or if I will be able to play next year," Bonds said.
Bonds is optimistic about his future with the Volunteers.
"I've spoken to Coach Tyndall and he just said that he gives the same opportunity to any player, (including) walk-ons," Bonds said. "We didn't speak about (a potential scholarship in the future), but I felt like if anybody worked hard enough in a walk-on spot if the coaches wanted to reward them with a scholarship that that was possible, but we never talked about that. We just talked about me coming in and if I would work hard and earn a spot then I could get a chance to play as long as I had earned my time in practice and in the weight room."
"I think first and foremost, for whatever reason, (Braxton) just did not connect with Liberty in the time that he was there this summer and just had a change of heart," Maddux said. "Ultimately, he wanted to continue to pursue college basketball so he applied to some different schools and got in some different schools."
Maddux said Bonds also applied to Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss, but felt Tennessee presented the best opportunity.
"He had visited Liberty once and had a great visit, and pretty much committed after the visit," Maddux said. "I think it's just one of those things where he got there and realized it just was not where he felt comfortable, so he wanted to be in another environment.
"I think they're going through the process with the NCAA to look at that. I don't know exactly the language of the release, but I'm pretty sure it would be one of those releases where he would have to sit out a year at this point."
Bonds probably will be able to practice with UT while he sits out.
Maddux, a former Vanderbilt player, believes Bonds can be successful at the Southeastern Conference level.
"I certainly believe in Braxton and I believe in his gift sets and his abilities, and I think he could have a chance to be a great college player," Maddux said. "So it just depends on how he performs and ultimately the way that Coach Tyndall recruits to get players to go be a part of his new program at UT.
"I told Braxton growing up he had the ability to play at that level, and so now that it's kind of coming to fruition it's kind of fun to see that dream now become a reality."
CPA rising junior forward Braxton Blackwell, a major college prospect, has an offer from Tennessee.
"It's way too early to speculate," said Maddux when asked if Blackwell might join Bonds at UT. "I know there's been some Internet speculation and Twitter speculation about that. Way, way too early in the process for (Bonds' situation) to affect anything in terms of Braxton Blackwell's recruitment."
Blackwell's latest offer was from Missouri last week. Rivals.com lists him with 17 offers.
Bonds averaged 15.3 points, 7.8 assists and 3.5 steals during his senior year.
He is the nephew of Major League Baseball home run king Barry Bonds.
Bonds helped lead CPA to three state tournament appearances and a 96-game winning streak against in-state opponents that ended in a Class AA semifinal loss to Jackson South Side in March.
The Vols lost a senior walk-on over the weekend. Brandon Lopez has a torn ACL and will miss the 2014-15 season.
Tennessee associate director of sports medicine Chad Newman said Lopez suffered the injury playing basketball with his teammates Saturday.
A 6-1 point guard from Knoxville and a graduate of Austin-East, Lopez appeared in 31 games over the past three seasons. He has scored five points and has eight assists and three steals.
"This is a huge blow to our team, as Brandon had worked himself into a position where he was competing for a starting role," UT head coach Donnie Tyndall said. "It's very disappointing for our team, but it's even more disappointing for a great young man who has worked extremely hard this offseason. Brandon's positive attitude and upbeat mentality will get him through this tough time."