The news came down today that top guard Anfernee Simons would indeed be declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft. Simons, who was rated as a top ten player in the 2018 recruiting class, is eligible to go directly to the league after spending a post-grad season at the IMG Academy.
Simons was Tennessee’s top target to fill their (currently) one open scholarship. The writing seemed to be on the wall here, which is why Rick Barnes and his staff starting pouring their efforts into a few backup plans over the past few days.
With James Daniel heading out, Barnes wants to fill this spot with another point guard. The most obvious answer is Tyler Harris, who Tennessee has been coming after for some time. The three-star, 5-9 guard is out of Cordova, Tennessee and has interest from Baylor and Memphis, in addition to Tennessee. The Vols offered Harris back in August of 2017.
James Akinjo has emerged as another option after his decommitment from UConn. Akinjo had been committed to the Huskies since the fall, but left after Kevin Ollie was fired. Tennessee offered the four-star guard on Tuesday. Akinjo is 17th ranked point guard in the nation, according to 247 Sports.
Tennessee is late to the party here and an obvious longshot. Georgetown is hot on his trail with Patrick Ewing visiting the 6-0 guard himself earlier this week.
Harris and Akinjo seem to be the main targets for Tennessee right now, but that could always change. If they swing and miss here, Barnes could always explore some grad-transfer options. Credit this staff for swinging away on Simons, though. Tennessee hasn’t exactly been a destination for big time NBA talent to come through. With another successful season, maybe Barnes can parlay that into some elite talent down the road.