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Tennessee still taking a patient approach with Lamonte Turner

A key piece remains sidelined for Tennessee.

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Kentucky at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

When you evaluate Tennessee, you’ve got to keep in mind that they’re missing one of the more important pieces on the roster. The 2017-2018 SEC sixth man of the year Lamonte Turner hasn’t been able to contribute much this year, coming off of shoulder surgery in the offseason.

Turner came back for the trip to Brooklyn to play in the season tip-off NIT tournament, but was shut down after a couple of ineffective games. Rick Barnes has been honest with the media, telling them that he doesn’t want Lamonte back until he feels like he’s ready to go.

Barnes stuck with that message again on Friday, saying it’s unlikely to see Turner on Saturday against Tennessee Tech.

“I don’t think he will (play) tomorrow,” Barnes said. “The ball is in his court and he has to decide when he’s ready to go. That’s what we’re waiting to see.”

Turner went 0-8 from three point range against Eastern Kentucky, which prompted the Tennessee staff to shut down Turner once again. The Vols have won some big games without him, including their upset of the then No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs. They’ve handled everything else since then with ease without Turner, which is a nice reminder of how good this team is.

“I think the doctors have told him that he’s fine, that he can go,” Barnes said. “They said it’s up to him from the mental, psychological standpoint, what he feels he can do. So really it is up to him. I’ve dealt with shoulder problems and I know it can be very painful. If you’re going through it for the first time, it’s tough. But once you’ve been through it, you realize that you have to work through some things.”

Tennessee’s need for Turner is obvious. Jordan Bone has been playing a ton of minutes, but the Vols will need to take some minutes off of his plate to get through conference play. There are going to be times when the offense isn’t working. That’s typically when Turner stepped up last season, nailing big shots in big moments. Barnes hasn’t had the luxury of pulling him off the bench when he’s needed some offensive energy this year.

Tennessee can get through and survive without him, but come March, the Vols are going to need their big shot maker. Hopefully he’s back long before then.