KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Josiah Jordan-James and Santiago Vescovi are not just a vital part of the Vols lineup. Both guards are the heartbeat of the orange and white.

“When they’re playing whether in practice or in a game, they impact the game when they’re not because they’re able to coach, and they’re able to help guys coming out of timeouts or just on the sideline,” said Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes.

“I think that coach puts a lot of emphasis on us being the leaders of this team and pulling us in the right direction and being people who he can rely on day-in and day-out to get the job done,” said Vols guard Josiah-Jordan James.

Having players with a voice will be important with a new associate head coach. Justin Gainey is taking over Mike Schwartz’s spot, with that comes new responsibility.

“I would say the biggest difference would be in charge of the defense. Last year, that was Mike, and we were a really really good defensive team,” said Gainey. “I assisted that with him last year. Just being in being in full responsibility of the defense.”

Rick Barnes wants the Vols on-ball and ball screen defense needs to improve before games start counting in 34 days.

“You can’t play defense, you’re not gonna play,” said transfer guard Tyreke Key. “I think really just coming in with that mindset everyday and getting better at those things.”

“When we’re all communicating and we’re all on the same page, it works out and looks great,” said sophomore guard Jahmai Mashack. “We have a very capable team of doing that on and off the ball.”