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Brandon Huntley-Hatfield has strong performance in exhibition win over Lenoir-Rhyne

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tennessee rolled through Lenoir-Rhyne on Saturday afternoon at Thompson-Boling Arena in their lone exhibition matchup of the season. The Volunteers received a strong performance from five-star freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler, who powered Tennessee to a big first half advantage.

Fellow five-star prospect Brandon Huntley-Hatfield also had a strong showing. He had more on his plate with the absence of John Fulkerson, who is expected to be healthy for the beginning of the season.

Huntley-Hatfield and Olivier Nkamhoua were the main interior players in the exhibition, and both responded with strong showings. Huntley-Hatfield poured in 15 points, while grabbing 12 rebounds against the undermanned Lenoir-Rhyne squad. Still, considering he should still be in high school, it was a strong debut.

“I’ll tell you, he surprised me today a little bit,” Barnes said of Huntley-Hatfield. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. There’s no doubt that Brandon has really, in the last two weeks, he’s taken a giant step. He really has. He’s taken a giant step in terms of understanding more. He’s a guy that, I’ll be disappointed, we’ll be disappointed, if he doesn’t get better and better each day.”

Huntley-Hatfield shot 7-10 from the floor, using his physicality to his advantage for a relatively easy day at the office. He was impressive with the ball in his hands, previewing a new offensive threat for Tennessee this season.

“He’s a terrific passer, has great feet, really sees the court,” Barnes said. “Really wants to pass the ball, maybe to a fault. He made a couple really nice moves. He’s so big and strong. And when he gets it going toward the basket, he’s a hard guy to defend because of his soft hands. But for him, getting his hands on a lot of balls was great today.”

Nkamhoua also appeared to take a big leap over this offseason, looking more comfortable on the offensive end on Saturday. He added 12 points and six rebounds, shooting 5-7 from the field. Uros Plavsic started in place of the injured Fulkerson.

Tennessee has to replace Yves Pons this year, and let’s be honest, you’re not going to replace that defensive impact. But Nkamhoua and Huntley-Hatfield appear ready to step in and deliver in the post. And we also have yet to see Jonas Aidoo, who has been called Tennessee’s best rim protector by the staff.

How will things change with Fulkerson back in the lineup? Will Tennessee try to play through him? Will they shoot 46 threes again? That’s what I’m interested in finding out on November 9th, when Tennessee plays for real against UT-Martin.