Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes sounded pretty confident in his 2017-18 team on Thursday at the team’s media day. He praised his newfound depth and the improvements that some specific players have made.
“There’s no question that we’ve got more depth this year than we’ve ever had,” Barnes said. That’s something that I’ve personally pointed to since Tennessee signed their 2017 class. Instead of having 7-8 guys ready to play, Barnes could very well have 10-11. That’s a big difference.
“This will be the first time that we can survive some injuries,” Barnes said. He of course was referencing the loss of Kevin Punter two years ago and having to rely upon a banged up Robert Hubbs down the stretch last year.
When asked what he thought would be improved this year, Barnes mentioned ball handling. “The addition of James Daniel and Chris Darrington allows us to handle the ball better. Derrick Walker gives us another guy that can pass and handle the ball,” Barnes said. He also mentioned John Fulkerson and Jordan Bone as guys that haven’t been in the mix yet, but can help out in that area.
“It’s the best culture that we’ve had in the three years that we’ve been here,” Barnes said. “We’ve built it every year. You see teammates holding each other accountable. It’s easier when everyone is pulling in the same direction. The gap between 1-16 has really closed.”
The Tennessee head coach seemed excited about his roster, mentioning a handful of players like Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden and how they’ve improved. He also said that incoming transfer Chris Darrington “played as well as anybody” during their overseas trip.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for big time basketball to come back to Knoxville. It’s been too long. Barnes has a tough road back to contention, but it sounds like he’s ready to roll with this group this season.