Tennessee is struggling on the basketball court, and suddenly dealing with a couple of injury issues. The problems admittedly go deeper than that, but getting two key players back to 100 percent would certainly help the Vols out of this slump.
Jaden Springer has now missed two games in a row, and Tennessee has lost both. Taking it a step further, the Volunteers dropped their first game of the year against Alabama after Springer exited that game just five minutes in.
The former five-star prospect had been growing into a creator role for Tennessee, something that has been noticeably absent in the last two matchups. His ten points per game and 56 percent shooting from three-point range is something the Volunteers need back quickly.
“It’s on his timeline,” Barnes said of Springer’s ankle injury, which was reaggravated against Vanderbilt last weekend. “He’s got to be the guy that knows when he’s ready to go, when he feels like he can give everything he’s got. There’s no doubt where we felt we would get better with he and Keon on the perimeter in games like this, where they can do some of that. Jaden is missing it. Keon is still finding, both of them, they’re still learning while they’re on the job here. With that said, again, it’s on his time.”
Springer isn’t alone on the injury report. Starting point guard Santiago Vescovi is dealing with a hip injury, something he chose to play through against Missouri. Vescovi was largely ineffective, scoring just three points while adding four assists. He was also credited with four turnovers.
“Honestly, he’s not 100 percent, he’s not,” Barnes said of Vescovi. “But he’s such a tough, competitive guy. He said coach, I want to try it. He’s struggling a little bit there, but he’ll be back. I’m not worrying about it. I’m really not. I’m just impressed with the fact that he said I want to play. He said I’ve got to help my teammates. He’s not as quick as he normally is but he’ll be fine, because he’ll do all the things with our medical people to get right.
“He got hurt in the Florida game early. It’s a hip. He got hit in the hip area. It’s painful, obviously, when he tries to slide, do this or do that. He has not practiced since the Florida game.”
As I said, Tennessee’s issues go deeper than these two injuries. The Vols were beaten up on the boards last night and have struggled to find consistent offense even when 100 percent. Barnes has work to do with this team, and he’s got a little over a month and a half to get thing back on track ahead of tournament time.
For now though, just getting healthy again would be a good first step.