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Making the leap: Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner

How far will Tennessee’s senior leaders be able to carry the Vols?

Alabama v Tennessee Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images

Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden have each had their moments leading the Tennessee basketball program. Turner is no stranger to hitting big shots in massive moments. Bowden has plenty of experience taking over games and scoring in streaks for the Volunteers.

They’ve each seen it all over the last three seasons. From missing the NCAA tournament, to an SEC regular season title, to a 31-6 record and an AP No. 1 ranking.

But they’ll both be seeing a new challenge as seniors. For the first time in their college careers, they’ll be primary scoring options full time for Tennessee. How they respond to that new role will determine how far the Vols can go in a bit of a reloading year.

It’s time for Lamonte Turner to run the show.

Lamonte has delivered some incredible moments for Tennessee over the last two seasons. The guy is totally fearless, which has made him the go-to guy in crunch time spots for the Vols, even with guys like Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield on the roster. Turner takes the bull by the horns anytime he gets the chance. This year? He’s going to have all the chances he can handle.

Turner will step into the starting point guard role for Rick Barnes, attempting to pick up where Jordan Bone left off. Turner actually started 19 games for Tennessee last season, filling an off-ball roll at the shooting guard position. Now it’s his show to run.

The senior guard averaged 11 points per game last season after getting a late start due to a lingering shoulder issue. He ran hot and cold from the field — something that hurt Tennessee near the end of the season. His 32 percent shooting from three-point range came down from 39 percent in 2017-18. That’s something that will have to bounce back for Tennessee to keep pace in the SEC race.

Turner’s assist numbers nearly doubled, however. He ended up averaging just shy of four per game, while attacking more often in the paint. Overall, Turner shot 42 percent from the field.

How will Turner handle being option 1A for Tennessee? That’s the big question mark here, because that’s something that we haven’t seen outside of a few minutes here and there. You can expect huge gains statistically from Turner as Tennessee plays a more guard-oriented game this season.

Can Jordan Bowden find consistency?

If Turner is option 1A, Bowden is option 1B for Tennessee. He’s someone that we’ve seen flashes of dominance from, but Tennessee has never really needed him to be the guy for large stretches. That changes this season.

The 6-5 senior out of Knoxville is another guy that’s seen it all with Turner. From the lean 2016-17 season to the two gigantic seasons that followed, Barnes is hoping that experience will help bridge the gap to the next era of Tennessee basketball.

Bowden was the sixth man for most of the year in 2018-19, but still averaged north of 27 minutes per game. He was that first shot of energy off the bench, averaging ten points per contest and settling in as one of Tennessee’s sharpest shooters.

Much like Turner, Bowden ran hot and cold last year. We saw him at his best in January, where he scored at least 17 points in four straight games. We saw him go cold in February, where he failed to score five points in four consecutive games. Without his production in those games, Tennessee went 2-2 during his cold stretch.

That’s something Tennessee can’t afford to have this season. The Volunteers are going to be playing through their guards much more without Grant Williams or Admiral Schofield available. Bowden is going to have the green light from just about anywhere on the floor — for Tennessee’s sake, Bowden just needs to fire away.

With a solid senior season, Bowden could find himself on the NBA’s radar by the end of the year.

We can talk about Josiah James, John Fulkerson, Uros Plavsic, Jalen Johnson, Yves Pons or anyone else, but this team starts with Bowden and Turner. It’s going to create a little bit of a different look for Tennessee, but it should be fascinating to watch these two transform into primary scorers this season for Rick Barnes.

Replacing production from four of five starters seems like an impossible task for this coaching staff to accomplish, but having these two seniors on the roster should make things a lot easier.