Tennessee basketball is a bit of a mess right now. They’ve been tasked with figuring out a way to play without Lamonte Turner after his season was shut down due to a shoulder issue. In their first game without him, they took a 20 point loss to a 7-5 Wisconsin team.
Next up? SEC play begins with LSU coming to town next weekend. Yikes.
Tennessee desperately needs someone to step up and be the aggressor on offense. Jordan Bowden has tried, but his jumpshot hasn’t been there for the better part of this season. Josiah James is the next logical option, but he doesn’t seem all that comfortable just yet, which has to change.
That was a topic of conversation for Rick Barnes on Monday, following James’ first start at point guard.
“I think with Josiah, I think the same thing. He has to be more aggressive,” Barnes said. “He’s going to have to play harder on offense. He’s going to have to continue to work hard on his defense, to stay in front of the ball. Offensively he has to totally change his mindset in terms of playing to the rim more. When he’s open, he has to take shots. The same with Bowden. We’ve got to take open shots.”
Tennessee has been held under 50 points in two of their last four games. The Volunteers needed a lot more out of James on Saturday, who added just four points after shooting 16 percent from the field. James has flashed his offensive game just once this year, scoring 14 points against Memphis a few weeks ago.Outside of that, it’s been a struggle for the five-star freshman guard.
According to Barnes, stamina might be part of his issue.
“I think conditioning is still a big part for him,” Barnes added. “I don’t think he’s in the kind of shape he needs to be in to play the kind of minutes he wants to play.”
James is now being forced to handle a ton of minutes now with Turner out of the picture. It’s the main argument for playing Santiago Vescovi, who just arrived and joined the team last week. Vescovi should become eligible later this week, but it remains to be seen if Tennessee will burn a year of eligibility to play him this year.
After the Turner injury and with what we saw on Saturday against Wisconsin, it’s tough to imagine leaving him on the bench.
But Barnes is absolutely correct on James. It’s exactly what I wrote about this team on Saturday after the game. They don’t currently have a guy that wants the ball. They don’t have they guy willing to go make something happen. That has to change — Josiah James needs to change his mentality.
Barnes has been praised for his undeniable player development, but can he get more out of these guys this year? The answer to that question will determine whether or not the Volunteers make the NCAA Tournament this season.