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Tennessee assistant Michael Schwartz breaks down roster

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 08 Ole Miss at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Basketball season is closing in fast as Tennessee kicks off the 2021-2022 season in two weeks with a home game against UT Martin on November 9th.

With that in mind, and the fact that Tennessee’s got seven new players (14 total on the team) this season, longtime Vols’ assistant and current associate head Michael Schwartz gave the media relations department a “personnel analysis,” yesterday.

Essentially, Schwartz went through the roster and talked about each of the players in their relative position groups. He started with Kennedy Chandler in the “point guard,” section and worked his way through the team. Aside from getting thoughts and opinions about each of the players, I found this interesting because it also gave us some insight into which positions the coaches have guys slotted in. I mean, there’s not really any big surprises, but for instance, Josiah Jordan-James is in the “point guard,” section, and then he’s mentioned in the “wings,” section, too.

There’s A LOT of information in the original story. Instead of just dumping it all on you, I’ll hit some of the high points and encourage you to go check out the full piece at your leisure.

POINT GUARDS

Kennedy Chandler

  • Dynamic speed — opens up the offense similar to Jordan Bone and makes other players better
  • Unselfish but can also score
  • Likes to create easy baskets for teammates
  • Ability to be an elite on-ball defender — needs to be consistent. Elite hand and foot speed

Santiago Vescovi

  • Mentioned Santi’s strong “presence” and how his confidence has grown this offseason
  • Playing creative, where he thrives — says Barnes encourages it
  • Shooting the ball well
  • Developed into one of the team’s best on-ball defenders
  • Not strongest or fasted but good with pace and anticipation
  • Smart off the ball
  • One team’s cornerstones, but team needs him to be a vocal leader (with JJJ and Fulky)

Zakai Zeigler

  • Impressed with how quickly he’s made an impact
  • Gritty, tough, high Bball IQ
  • Can shoot
  • impacts with speed on offense and defense, pushing in transition or full-court ball pressure
  • Can get to the rim
  • Quickly understood what Barnes wants out of transition offense, getting to the elbows and pressure on the paint
  • Serious competitor

Josiah Jordan-James

  • Can play just about every position
  • That’s given him better understanding as a PG
  • Barnes has confidence in his rebounding, leading fast break and making decisions with the ball
  • Will always be a primary or secondary ball handler no matter which spot he’s playing
  • Legit PG skills

WINGS

Victor Bailey

  • As hard a worker as there is on the team
  • Good for team culture — standard setter
  • Shoots it as well as anybody in practice — routinely makes remarkable percentages of shots
  • Improved his desire to be a complete player
  • Taking defense very seriously
  • Grown into one of team’s top-two or three on-ball defenders in terms of disruption

JJJ

  • Ability to play multiple positions creates mismatches
  • Barnes encouraging him to shoot more

Justin Powell

  • Big-time addition
  • High feel, IQ, very good shooter and passer
  • Picked up the offense quick
  • Staff excited about his ability to play off ball screens
  • Can handle and pass the ball
  • Innate ability to move without the ball and read defenses
  • Always trying to help other guys on the team — great for culture

Jahmai Mashack

  • Natural winner, selfless player
  • Elevates team toughness, very physical
  • Dominates offensive glass every practice
  • Gets the ball to the rim
  • Needs to be a blue-collar type guy early on

Quentin Diboundje

  • Strong, athletic with scorer’s mindset
  • Only been in US for about a year
  • Still making transition from international ball, has experience with French national team
  • More of a shot maker than pure shooter right now

FRONTCOURT

John Fulkerson

  • Absolutely need him to be a vocal leader, doing it more this fall but he has to want to do it at a really high level
  • Describes him as “slippery” saavy, crafty, smart but athletic too
  • Has put lots of time over 5-6 years developing his array of post moves

Oliver Nkamhoua

  • Need him to take a step similar to the one Pons took his JR year in scoring, rebounding, defense
  • Talented scorer, but at his best rebounding and playing defense
  • Worked hard on his offense, including from 3, Barnes encouraging him to shoot it
  • Need him to be a dominant rebounder on both ends of the floor
  • Need him to emerge as weak-side shot blocker, defensive presence

Uros Plavsic

  • Improved his ability to score on specific moves, hook shot in particular
  • Rebounding at highest level of all the bigs in practice right now
  • Needs to grow as a post defender but won’t be a shot blocker

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield

  • Young and skilled — size and ability has gotten him to where he’s at so far
  • Potential but needs to buy into the work and physicality that’s required to be special
  • Unselfish and talented passer on perimeter
  • Needs to get better at being physical and using his body
  • Can play above the rim, through and over the defense but doesn’t always recognize it

Jonas Aidoo

  • Best rim protector on the team
  • Battled injuries, but changes interior defense with shot blocking and shot altering when he’s practicing regularly
  • Skilled mid-range shooter and good left-hand hook — finishes around the rim when he gets the chance
  • Will help the team if he’s healthy

Handje Tamba

  • Neat story — came to US three years ago, didn’t know English and now is valedictorian-type student
  • Quick learner on court too, impressive how fast he picks up new things and improves them
  • Driven, coachable, communicates well, doesn’t make same mistake twice very often

Anything specific stand out to y’all here?

Seems like Vescovi might have a big year, and he mentioned several things the staff “needs,” from Olivier.

I wonder if Aidoo has had multiple injuries, or if it’s just something that’s lingering. If he’s ready and healthy, it sounds like his presence might help take the sting out of losing Pons to the NBA.

Kinda seemed to me like Q and Tamba might not be ready to play early — which is fine.

Lots of coach speak in there, but I also found it pretty informative. Be sure to go read the whole thing if you’ve got some time.