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Rick Barnes talks addition of Handje Tamba

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A project with some upside.

Syndication: Knoxville Saul Young/News Sentinel

Tennessee made one final addition to their 2021 class this week, adding local big man Handje Tamba. The seven-footer was long connected to Tennessee, and made the decision to reclassify and join the roster for the upcoming season on Tuesday.

The three-star center sent Tennessee’s class to No. 2 in the 247Sports class rankings.

Tamba is a bit of a project for Barnes, who has proven capable with player development. He’s expected to redshirt during the upcoming season as he continues to develop his basketball skills and body.

“Handje is a rim protector who can block and alter shots, and he plays with a ton of energy,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said.

Last season at Knoxville Catholic, Tamba averaged 2.4 blocks per game. His offensive game is still developing, coming off of a junior season that saw him average just over ten points per game.

He will now skip his senior year of high school to develop within the Tennessee system.

“He has the potential to become a strong rebounder, and he moves well for a player of his size who has only been playing basketball for four years,” Barnes said. “He’s going to provide added stability for our interior defense.”

Success stories with Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander and Yves Pons are what Barnes is looking to replicate here. However, Tennessee has seen a fair share of big men enter the program and quickly exit too — D.J. Burns, Derrick Walker, Drew Pember and Corey Walker for example. The jury is still out on guys like Olivier Nkamhoua and Uros Plavsic.

Tennessee is hoping that his floor is at least a rotational defender, and the lack of basketball experience does offer some true untapped upside. One thing he’s got that nobody can take away is size — a legitimate seven-foot frame with room to add weight.