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Rick Barnes gives initial impression of five-star Julian Phillips

An update on where Phillips is at in the early stages of his Tennessee career.

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

Another year, another five-star prospect breezing through Knoxville. There was a time last season where it looked like that wouldn’t be the case, but Rick Barnes and the staff capitalized on LSU’s firing of Will Wade to bring in Julian Phillips.

Phillips decommitted from LSU on March 18th and landed with Tennessee just two months later. The 6-8, 200 pound prospect does a little bit of everything on the floor and will likely man a wing spot for the Volunteers this season.

According to 247Sports, Phillips is the 13th ranked player in the class of 2022.

“You know what, a great teammate,” Rick Barnes said of Phillips this week. “A guy that really came in and has embraced what we’re about. Again, he’s one of those guys that has relied on the older players to know, to watch them, to see how they go about it. Terrific work ethic. He’s probably put as much time in the weight room on his own, maybe as much as any player, above and beyond what we do as a team in the weight room. He’s very committed to wanting to be the best player he can be. Without question, he’s proven he’s just a terrific teammate.”

Phillips enrolled at Tennessee on July 1st and has been working in the weight room and to learn the system since. He’s expected to start for Tennessee, giving the Vols a bit of a smaller look in their starting (?) five. (Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James, Julian Phillips and Olivier Nkamhoua).

His 6-8 frame and athleticism scream NBA first-round pick. The biggest knock on his game was a lack of strength, which the Tennessee staff clearly went to work immediately on in the weight room. He’s got a developing outside shot, and has the ability to handle the ball in the open floor.

“Julian is another guy where we have used him at the point some,” Barnes said. “We have used him all over. it is really hard to play the point in our system. It is really hard. It is not an easy thing to do. It is really tough defensively every day the way we look at that position. He has worked probably as hard as any player we have had since we have been here in terms of extra time in the weight room. He has gone above and beyond with his time with Garrett (Medenwald). Every chance he got on the weekend, he stayed and wanted to get that done.”

Post, wing, point — expect to see Phillips doing everything for Tennessee this winter.

“He is a very skilled basketball player. He has a terrific feel for the game. His versatility is going to be huge for us. Like all young guys coming in, he still has to understand a lot defensively. That is not unusual. He is going to work at it every day to try and get it.”

A two guard, two wing and a center lineup is more than likely what we’re looking at, and I’m really interested to see how that looks. That lineup would really spread the floor with capable shooters at least from the 1 to the 4.

Tennessee kicked off practice this week and will work throughout October. The Volunteers will open their season on November 7th against Tennessee Tech in Knoxville.