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Rick Barnes talks about the development of Josiah-Jordan James

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

There was a time this season where we didn’t really know what to make of Josiah-Jordan James. Now we certainly do.

James has been a huge part of Tennessee’s push down the stretch, becoming one of the most consistent scorers on the team. The former five-star prospect has always lacked a little something on the offensive end, but we’ve seen him make big strides lately.

His 23 points against Georgia on Wednesday was the latest example.

“I thought his command out on the court was really good,” Rick Barnes said after the win in Athens. “You could tell he got in that groove where his midrange game opened up. Josiah, not only did he score the ball well, but he rebounded the ball well, had a couple blocks. His minutes at that point in time was the reason we were able to stretch it out.”

Tennessee had a couple of nervous moments against the Bulldogs, but James’ offense and a couple of clutch buckets from John Fulkerson were enough to escape.

The Volunteers have struggled offensively for much of the year, but they’re a different team when James is on. That’s been a trend lately, with James scoring in double-figures in seven of his last ten games.

According to Barnes, his scoring has been emphasized by the staff all year.

“We’ve talked to him about his game, being able to score at all three levels,” Barnes said. “I think he could be explosive around the rim if he would just make up his mind that he’s going to go in there and try to dunk the ball in there and explode. Because he’s long, he’s strong, he’s got an incredible body. I really liked his footwork tonight in his mid-range game. I thought he got there, I thought he sat down and popped up. I thought he shot the way we talked about. Then when he takes his time and he gets the looks from the perimeter like he did tonight, that’s what we want from him at all three levels.”

The development has been obvious. James has turned into a much more confident and assertive player, and Tennessee is clearly benefiting from the change in mentality. He’s had his cold shooting nights, but when the jumpers are dropping for him, Tennessee is a really tough out.

With Kennedy Chandler, Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Zeigler and now James emerging, Tennessee has four guards that can really light you up in different ways. We’re about to see how far that combination can carry the Volunteers, with tournament season kicking off next week.