Tennessee basketball is wrapping up week two of practice, looking to get ready for a new-look season which will feature life without Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. The Vols will rely on youth, both in the starting lineup and off of the bench to get through.
However, three members of that 2019 signing class are dealing with injuries, Rick Barnes revealed on Thursday. Josiah James, Davonte Gaines and Drew Pember are each a little banged up to enter the season.
“(Josiah) has had an injury he has had to work through a little bit,” Barnes told the media on Thursday. He is a tough kid. He doesn’t want to talk about it and doesn’t want to tell anybody about it. We have kept him out of practice some the past couple weeks because we know we have to have him fresh and ready by the time the season rolls around.”
According to 247 Sports, it’s a hip injury for James.
James was a five-star prospect who picked Tennessee over Duke and Clemson. He’s expected to be an instant starter, looking to replace some of the offensive production that Tennessee lost with Jordan Bone and Admiral Schofield.
But he’s not alone. Davonte Gaines and Drew Pember are also deal with injuries.
“(Pember) has had a foot problem since he has been here,” Barnes said. “He is trying to work his way back.” Pember has a chance to carve out a role off the bench this season, though it’s possible he’s in for a redshirt campaign.
As for Gaines, he’s working back from a ligament repair in his thumb. The three-star signee could find some minutes at guard or wing this season, considering Tennessee’s lack of depth there.
Tennessee is still waiting to hear back from the NCAA on a waiver for big man Uros Plavsic, who transferred in from Arizona State this offseason. The redshirt freshman stands in at a legit seven feet, giving the Volunteers some much needed size in the frontcourt.
Rick Barnes expects an answer on his eligibility “in the next couple of weeks,” but remains confident that there will be no issues.
Tennessee will open the season with an exhibition game against Eastern New Mexico on October 30th. Their first game that counts will be on November 5th against UNC-Asheville.