Tyler Summitt gathered the opening tip-off, made his way past halfcourt and initiated the offense. It was Summitt's sophomore year at the Webb School of Knoxville and his first career start. Right as Summitt hit the floor with his first dribble, the sea of opposing fans on the sideline began the unyielding chant:


"That's all I heard the entire game," Summitt, now a sophomore walk-on for UT, said. "But really, I'm just so used to it."

As the son of Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt, Tyler's place in the spotlight was reserved since birth. But a new challenge awaits him this season, as he looks to join Steven Pearl, son of UT head coach Bruce, as the second family affair to grace the roster of Tennessee basketball — two coaches' sons hoping to shake off the name on the back of the jersey and make an impact for the Tennessee family.

"I told him coming in, every question you get asked will be about being a coach's son," Steven, a redshirt senior, said of Tyler. "At this point, I'm used to it.

"It might frustrate him a little bit, but it's an interesting story."

Childhoods of hoops

For the Summitts and Pearls, basketball was a lifestyle. As Pat Summitt enters her 37th season of coaching — all with Tennessee — Tyler's childhood memories evoke characteristics of experiencing a coach as a parent.

"My bedtime story was my mom screaming in the living room watching game film," he said. "That's just how it was growing up."

For Steven Pearl, the life of a basketball family wasn't as stand-still. As his father moved between schools in Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin, the scenery changed, but the longing to learn the game remained for Steven.

"Always being around basketball has been my passion," Pearl said. "The exposure hasn't been as big as it is now, obviously. It's 10 times different than it was at Indiana, Milwaukee."

"He was a gym rat growing up," Kim Pearl, Steven's mother, said. "He was always in the gym with his dad for practice."

Likewise, the opportunities to tag alongside his mother left Tyler acclimated to such exposure in Knoxville. Climbing up ladders and clipping off basketball nets after winning championships were norms for Summitt's experience on the sidelines of Lady Vol games, especially with a mom boasting eight national titles to her name.

But basketball wasn't always on the horizon for Summitt.

"He didn't play basketball first," said R.B. Summitt, Tyler's father. "He played a lot of soccer. He's a heck of a soccer player.

"At one time, Tyler told me he was going to be a writer/photographer for National Geographic."

But after childhoods of cultivations at the hands of hoop-crazy parents, the path to the Tennessee hardwood became a likely scenario for both players.

Dreams realized

Steven Pearl spent his first year in Knoxville as a senior at Knoxville West High. For a program that had won three games during the previous season, Steven injected life into the offense by averaging 21.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest.

"Sometimes you have trouble finding someone to step up," Gary Petko, Steven's coach at West, said. "(But) Steven wanted to be that guy. It was really hard for a defense to handle him, but he was an outside shooter at 6-5, 6-6. He was tough as nails."

But after an impressive senior season and a solid year playing AAU basketball yielded few major offers for Steven, the opportunity to walk-on as a member of the Big Orange became too good to pass up.

"After I got a couple of offers, my dad was like, 'So are you going to go?'" Steven said. "And I said 'No, I think I'm going to stay here.'"

Steven took a redshirt early and became a practice team player amid some of UT's deepest squads — "I wanted to play, but we had so much talent," he said — but made an impact in his junior year as a defensive stopper and rebounder. Steven also made his mark in the weight room.

"When he came in out of West High School, he wasn't nearly what he is now," Bruce Pearl said. "(Now) he's the strongest guy on the team. When I first got here, I was the strongest guy on the team. Five years later, that's not the case."

For Tyler Summitt, a three-year captain at Webb, his size (6 feet tall, 175 pounds) played a part in few major scholarship offers out of high school. But walk-on and practice-player opportunities at other large programs paled in comparison to UT, where Tyler's newfound interest — coaching — could finally blossom.

"Right around my senior year, I started realizing I wanted to coach," Tyler said. "I have a notebook where I wrote down everything I've learned from my mom's staff, but now I'm writing down everything from practices with coach Pearl."

Attending UT and walking on to the roster wasn't the plan from the start — "It was not a no-brainer by any means," R.B. said — Tyler's experience as a practice team player against the Lady Vols helped prepare him for the rigors of college basketball. After a sit-down meeting with his mother and coach Pearl, the option to walk on became a reality.

"(My mom) saw me working with her team, pushing them to the limit, beating them on sprints," Tyler said. "She knew I deserved it."

All in the family

Tyler Summitt and Steven Pearl contrast on the basketball court. Summitt's guard-oriented game plays to strengths of distributing the basketball, while Pearl feels more comfortable banging low in the post for clean-up duty, rebounding and defense.

But the two players share common characteristics: a love for the game and parents roaming the Tennessee sidelines.

"People are going to say I'm on this team 100 percent because of my mom," Summitt said. "But my friends that know me know that's not true. A lot of people say, 'You're just a walk-on because you want to coach.' But that's not true, I love to play."

As a redshirt senior already well-versed in fan criticism, Pearl knows what Summitt's future holds with a Tennessee icon as a parent. His advice to Summitt? Get used to it, and just play your game.

"He just has to understand that (criticism) is going to happen," Pearl said. "His mom's the best coach in college basketball."

But the newcomer views his and Pearl's situation with appreciation, knowing that in truth, no roadblocks were taken away en route to the hardwood.

"We have to be confident to know that it's because of our hard work that we've made it this far," Summitt said.