By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember when Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari joked about maybe getting UK football player Lynn Bowden — an all-state high school basketball player in Ohio — to join the basketball Cats.
Well, it sure sounds like Tennessee is going to have two football signees — Dee Beckwith and Malachi Wideman — playing basketball next season.
Beckwith was a football, basketball and track star in Florence, Ala.
Beckwith comes to the Vols from Florence, Alabama, where he played on both sides of the ball for Florence High School and also starred on the basketball and track and field teams.
“He’s a guy that projects to play a number of positions, but when you watch him play, where he’s the most dynamic is when the ball is in his hands,” Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt said.
Wideman is a receiver from Sarasota, Fla., that Pruitt called an “unbelievable athlete” who also won the 2019 City of Palms Classic Dunk Contest.
I had the opportunity to watch him play a basketball game and you can just see the athleticism all over the basketball court,” Pruitt said.
Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes said both players spent time with the basketball program when they made officials visits to Tennessee but it sure sounds like he’s excited about adding them to his roster next season after football ends.
“They have signed a football scholarship and that will be their first priority. With that said, I think we’ve become pretty good at adding guys in the middle of the year. So we know how to deal with that. But their first look, they know it’s football,” Barnes said. “I think our (football) program is on its way, where I do think that we’ll be playing in bowl games later (in the year).
“The fact is, we like both of them. I’m just excited they’re here. As they get here, they get settled in, it will be their call. Jeremy (Pruitt) and I have talked about it and we both know it will be their call, what they think once they go through it, live it and see if they can do it.”
Barnes had a football player, Patrick Sapp, play basketball for him when he coached at Clemson. Sapp played quarterback and then moved to linebacker.
“He came in and he was our hatchet man. And he did a good job of it, too,” Barnes said. “But rules were a little bit different back then, too.
“These guys are more skilled. Patrick was a big-time competitor and what that team was kind of built on. At Texas, we recruited some (two-sport) guys. Once they get in, they have to decide. It’s up to them to do that.”