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Rick Barnes talks roster construction, potential transfers, NBA Draft decisions

It’s time to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional Practice Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

After a brief detour involving UCLA coming after Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes, we now return to our regularly scheduled offseason content. That means waiting on decisions from Jordan Bone and Grant Williams on the NBA Draft.

During his introductory press conference for new assistant Kim English, Barnes addressed how he and his staff will navigate the next month.

“Well you have to be ready,” Barnes said on Tuesday. “This (NBA Draft) process is in place so players can get a feel for what professional teams think about them. So what you hope is that they get the right advice and that they make the right decisions. With that being said, you’ve also got also think in terms of, if they hear what they want to hear, they’ll be gone.”

Both Williams and Bone declared for the draft this month, but each have an opportunity to come back to Tennessee as long as they don’t sign an agent. They have until the end of May to decide. While that process allows them to gather information, it puts coaches in a tough spot. It’s something they have to be ready for, both on the recruiting trail and in the grad-transfer world.

“You never stop recruiting,” Barnes said. “You’re getting calls about this, that, whatever, players that are available. You look now at the transfer portal, I mean every year now you’re going to have to remake your team it seems like. Guys leaving, guys entering that transfer portal. I don’t care where you are, it seems like every year you’re going to have to think about, we’re going to have to rethink our whole roster.”

Tennessee graduated Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander, but they’ve already replaced their three openings this year with Josiah James, Drew Pember and Davonte Gaines.

“We’re going to stay on top of it,” Barnes told the media. “We’re going to do everything we can to support our guys that are going through this. With that also being said, we’ve got to be in a position to protect our program.”

Tennessee has been quiet so far on the grad-transfer front, at least to outsiders like us. They have, however, extended an offer to 2020 point guard Jalen Cone to reclassify to the 2019 class, along with Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. That would seem to bee their backup plan if Bone stays in the draft.

But in this environment, you better have backup plans — along with backup plans for your backup plans.

“You’re always looking,” Barnes said about adding to his roster. “Right now I don’t see anything happening with our roster, but I’ve been caught off-guard before. We’ve talked to our players, we had great meetings with them. Our assistants met with them and got their take on what they think. These guys have jumped right back in it. Guys that didn’t get a chance to play last year, they feel like they’ve got a chance.”

You could make cases for guys like Jalen Johnson, Derrick Walker and Zach Kent to look around for other opportunities. But there’s a chance that each of those guys could have large roles on this team, depending on Williams and Bones’ decision.

This time of year is always fascinating. We will get final answers on NBA draft decisions by the end of May. Until then, it’s the staff’s job to prep for the worst.