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How five-star freshman Julian Phillips is ‘almost like a dream to coach’ for Rick Barnes

Phillips has made a big impression so far.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Tennessee has seen their fair share of one-and-dones over the past two seasons. Kennedy Chandler, Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer all made their one year appearance in college before heading on to the league. They very likely will have their fourth one and done player in the last three years this season with Julian Phillips.

The 6-8 wing screams NBA potential. His length, athletic ability, emerging outside shot and versatility will have teams very interested in him this spring. It’s an interesting spot for an 18 year old to be, but Phillips is making the most of it, per his new head coach.

“You know, I think when I think of Julian, it’s his mindset,” Rick Barnes said on Tuesday. “I don’t think Julian thinks about one-and-done. His family from the very beginning told us he will make that decision when it’s time to be made.”

Barnes opened camp noting how hard Phillips had been working with the strength staff, working to add a little weight and get stronger. Phillips arrived in Knoxville at 198 pounds, ranked as the 13th best player in the class, per 247Sports.

“His time here, it’s been incredible, almost like a dream to coach him,” Barnes continued. “Because I tell everybody, I don’t know, individually if anyone has spent more time with Garrett (Medenwald). We’ve had a lot of guys going above and beyond. Most times it’s guys having to lose weight, do whatever. Those guys never look forward to that. But Julian on his own has searched out Garrett more than anybody because he wants to be the best player he can be. He came in right away. And again, there’s no sense of entitlement on his part at all.”

Medenwald is the Director of Men’s Basketball Performance, for reference.

Phillips expected to immediately become a difference maker for the Volunteers, perhaps forcing Barnes to play a little smaller than we traditionally see. He and Josiah-Jordan James should split time at the 3/4, and Barnes has even left the door open for Phillips to operate at the point a little bit.

“We’re excited and happy that he’s with us because he gives us again, another guy that has terrific versatility,” Barnes said. “And as he continues to grow and understand the game more and more, I mean, he’s, he’s got a wealth of talent, but it’s his overall mindset that is really so much fun to be around, because he really is about all the right things and wanting to get better.”

Phillips will be tossed right into the deep end, although they will be exhibition matchups. The Volunteers will begin with a closed door scrimmage with Michigan State before taking on Gonzaga in a PPV scrimmage in Texas. Neither game will count towards Tennessee’s record.

Tennessee will officially open the season on November 7th against Tennessee Tech. Expect several different versions of lineups to be seen that night and through the rest of November.