Yesterday, we took a brief look at the dueling crown jewels of Tennessee’s 2020 recruiting class, Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. Today, let’s look at the rest of the class.
Corey Walker has been a bit overshadowed by the two 5-star guards, and that’s fair. They both look like fantastic players who will hopefully have serious impacts on the basketball program for the next few years.
And just because Walker may have been overshadowed, so far, I don’t think he’s being overlooked. Currently, he’s a 4-star prospect on any recruiting service you check, but he was a 5-star on 247Sports back when he committed in 2019. And that kind of thing happens — guys go up and down in the rankings and sometimes it’s more about the players ranked around somebody than it is about the initial player’s own performance. Either way — it’s whatever because Corey Walker is really good.
Highlight tapes should always be taken with a grain of salt because they do exactly what they’re supposed to do — highlight a certain players skills or abilities. Now it’s just as much about stacking views as it is about showcasing the player’s actual skills.
But that’s sort of my point here — there’s not one specific skill I can pick out after watching Walker’s videos. The kid does everything. He handles the ball, he scores, he rebounds, he plays defense. He shoots from the outside, and he shoots from the inside. He scores off the dribble or off the catch. At the two-minute mark, he brings up the ball against the full-court pressure of a smaller, quicker opponent and finishes at the opposite end of the court with a layup.
I usually don’t do player comparisons just because I don’t really like to pigeon-hole myself into it. But, I’m gonna make an exception in this case because when I first heard of Walker’s commitment many months ago, I came to the same conclusion I’m coming to now: he reminds me of former Vol Tyler Smith.
Smith could handle the ball, but he could also hang down low with the post players. He scored on face-ups, and he scored with his back to the basket. Walker brings that same flavor.
At 6-foot-7, Walker has the size and skill to make an impact in different places just like Smith. With Tennessee’s roster looking how it does, I imagine Walker makes an immediate impact in the post. In the first year of a post-Grant Williams-post, the Vols struggled down low. Tennessee finished 183rd in offensive rebounding and 262nd in defensive rebounding last year. Olivier Nkamhoua wasn’t ready and Uros Plavsic showed more bust than boom potential. I’d bet Walker takes minutes from both.
I’ll touch on Malachi Wideman here, because technically he’s part of the class and at the time of his commitment, playing both football and basketball was reportedly the plan.
Sources: While Malachi Wideman committed to Tennessee for football, the Vols basketball staff was also involved in the recruiting process. The expectation is that he will play basketball at UT too. Ranked No. 126 in the country.— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) February 5, 2020
The amount of stress on “student-athletes,” is silly for people who play one sport. I literally can’t imagine what life is like for those who want to play two sports. Color me skeptical Wideman ends up playing for the hoops team, but let’s watch his basketball highlights anyway.
Also, here’s a still from another video that shows his head about to collide with the rim, Yves Pons’ style.
Maybe it happens, and maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know — but if it does, it should be fun to watch.
We’ll round out the list by talking about the most recent addition to the class, graduate transfer EJ Anosike. Go read the post I wrote when he committed in late March.
The name should sound familiar — Anosike’s sister played for the Lady Vols from 04-08. EJ played his first three seasons at Sacred Heart and will have one season of eligibility left at Tennessee. Just a note — his minutes, scoring and rebounded increased incrementally in each of his first three seasons of college basketball.
He’s also in the 6-foot-7 neighborhood, but at 245 you can watch his tape and see the advantage he’s got inside. He’s just a bully in the paint. He averaged nearly 16 points and 12 rebounds last year at Sacred Heart and looks like he’ll bring a dimension of toughness to the Vols that didn’t much exist last season beyond John Fulkerson.
As impressive as Springer, Johnson, Walker (and Wideman) are, I think Anosike is poised to have the biggest impact next season for the Vols. He’s grown, mature and won’t need any time to adjust to college. Plus, he plays a position of ABSOLUTE NEED. Tennessee was terrible in the post last year, and Anosike should be part of the remedy.