When former Tennessee Volunteers shooting guard Josh Richardson was drafted by the Miami Heat with the 40th overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft Thursday night, he became the third Vol in two years to be drafted into the NBA. The rash of Vols drafted into the league are the most since Tennessee had seven players drafted in an eight year span from 1979-1985.
Last week, former Tennessee basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin was tabbed as one of the main reasons the Vols have enjoyed the success they have in the NBA draft recently. But new head coach Rick Barnes brings a recruiting caliber rarely seen on the basketball court at Tennessee and could bring the Vols' basketball talent to new heights.
When talking about recruiting and and the Vols, football is usually the sport being discussed. But with Tennessee's recent draft success and the arrival of Barnes, basketball recruiting has been a hot topic of conversation. Bruce Pearl showed that the Vols can be successful without churning out consistent NBA talent, but Barnes and his staff are taking a different approach. And their track record backs up their philosophy.
In 28 years as a basketball head coach, Rick Barnes has had 23 players drafted in the NBA. In that same span, the Vols have had 12 players taken in the draft. Of those 23 players Barnes has had selected, over half (13) have been drafted in the 1st round. Tennessee has only had 7 players taken in the 1st round in school history. Barnes' most notable player currently in the NBA is Keven Durant. Tennessee's most notable former player currently in the league is Tobias Harris.
Even though Barnes has been critiqued for his team's decline in play over the last few seasons, he was still able to pull in NBA caliber players at Texas. Myles Turner played under Barnes last season and was drafted by the Indiana Pacers with the 11th overall pick in Thursday's draft. Barnes has used his recruiting success to guide himself to 604 career victories, 22 NCAA Tournament appearances, and a Final Four appearance.
Barnes has handed a short deck in terms of recruiting when he took over as Tennessee's head coach, but he was still able to pull together what appears to be a solid core of players in the 2015 class. All five of Tennessee's 2015 commitments are rated as 3-stars according to 247Sports, but they all have quite a bit of upside and all fill needs for the Vols this upcoming season and beyond.
Power forward Ray Kasongo and point guard Lamonte Turner are the highest rated players in the class, and those two figure to see the most playing time in the 2015-16 season. Kasongo measures in at 6-foot-9, 235 pounds and has so far proven this offseason in the Rocky Top League, a local recreational league made up of current and former Vol players along with other local players, that he can protect the rim and produce some flashy dunks as well. Turner has yet to enroll at UT, but given the state of the point guard position for the Vols, he should play many meaningful minutes right away for Tennessee.
Rick Barnes hasn't been able to flex his recruiting muscles since taking over as Tennessee's head basketball coach. But once he has the time to do so, Tennessee basketball will be ushered into a new era of recruiting, one the program likely has never seen before.