The COVID-19 shutdown has impacted every sport in its own unique way, forcing coaches and trainers to somehow keep players in tip-top shape without being at their own facilities. The impact won’t truly be realized until players get back on campus, which is slated to happen at the beginning of June.
But the downtime has offered players a unique chance to try some different things while at home. In an appearance on WNML in Knoxville, Tennessee head basketball coach Rick Barnes gave one example of that, speaking on rising sophomore guard Josiah Jordan-James.
The former five-star prospect arrived with high expectations after Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone moved on to the NBA. The immediate returns for James? Not great. A hip injury cost him most of training camp and lingered around for the first few games. A new injury emerged later in the season, forcing him to the bench for a handful of conference matchups.
Barnes explained that the coaching staff wanted James to gain durability, and had an idea on how he could accomplish that goal.
“Obviously we told them what we would like to see them work on,” Barnes said last week. “Being in such a unique situation, with so much down time, gave the players the opportunity to focus on that one weakness while taking care of other assignments.
“For instance, we told Josiah James, with the fact that he had to deal with injuries all year from a flexibility standpoint, I said to him, why don’t you get into yoga? Why don’t you just try it?”
Barnes says, according to James, he can already tell a difference.
“He has transformed his body in a way you wouldn’t believe, in terms of flexibility,” Barnes continued. “We actually FaceTimed him the other day and was talking about his yoga.”
James averaged 7.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in his freshman season. It took him a bit to find his offensive confidence, but we did see flashes later on in the season. James ended up with an impressive 36.7 percent mark from the three-point line, giving him something to build on for next season.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the guard rotation shakes out this season, now with two additional five-star guards in the fold, along with Oregon transfer Victor Bailey Jr. Santiago Vescovi is also in the mix, looking to build off of an impressive short freshman season. Wherever James fits into the rotation, Tennessee is set to have one of the best backcourts in the country with Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson now in town.