KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Expectations are through the roof for Rick Barnes and the Tennessee men’s basketball team this season. The Vols brought in a top five recruiting class to mesh with a group of veterans who have seen quite a bit of playing time.
“The older guys have helped us because they know what culture we’ve created here. They know what are the pillars of our program, what’s important, and how things are done,” Barnes said. “I think I’m being frank and honest when I tell you I think we probably had the best leadership with our upperclassmen that we’ve had in a couple years.”
Last season Tennessee shot .331 from the 3-point line but added sharp shooter Justin Powell to the roster this year via the transfer portal. In 10 games last season with Auburn Powell averaged 11 points per game and shot .441 from beyond the arc.
“Again, he’s another player that just fits perfectly. I mean everything we’re about, he’s about – hard worker, very unselfish, he wants to be a part of it, and I’m excited about him because he put the time in and did the things he needs to do” Barnes said. “Like I said, he does a lot, so many good things on the offensive end. But I would say this, right now as a team we all need to continue to get better defensively.”
One of the veterans expected to be leaned on this year is Josiah-Jordan James. Last year he averaged 8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game despite being slowed by a wrist injury.
“He is a mismatch nightmare when he’s at that spot,” Barnes said of James. “He’s already proven he can do it when the lights come on, shooting the ball, rebounding the ball. He’s proven that.”
Tennessee opened up preseason practice on Monday at Pratt Pavillion. The Vols open the regular season on Tuesday, November 9th when they play host to UT Martin at Thompson Boling Arena.