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Rick Barnes talks progress of Freddie Dilione

An interesting piece for this coming year.

South Carolina v Tennessee Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Right in the middle of the year, Tennessee threw us a mild surprise. Borderline five-star combo guard Freddie Dilione announced that he was enrolling early in order to get a headstart on his college career. He reclassified, went to Knoxville, and joined the team ahead of SEC play.

Dilione clearly wasn’t going to jump in and play like Santiago Vescovi did years ago, but this was an opportunity to start learning. It was a chance to adjust to college life, learn the system, and get his body ready for the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Earlier this week, Rick Barnes discussed his early progress at a Big Orange Caravan stop in Chattanooga.

“It’s big,” Barnes said of Dilione arriving early. “I think anytime you can get a jumpstart like he did — within three weeks on campus, he put on 15 pounds and you’re starting to see his body change where if he hadn’t had done that, he’d still be a couple weeks away from being able to get on campus, so him getting there and having a chance to work and actually be able to travel with us and see the environments we go into will probably help him some.”

For reference, Dilione was listed at 185 pounds in his 247Sports recruiting profile. He was listed at 180 pounds initially on the Tennessee roster, so he’s likely somewhere in the 195 pound neighborhood now.

Dilione was ranked in the 20s overall when he committed to Tennessee. He finished as the 41st overall player in the 247Sports Composite Rankings. The 6-4 guard comes from Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he averaged 25-7-7 during his breakout junior season.

He joined the Volunteers and was able to go through all of the practices in the second half of the year, going up daily against Zakai Zeigler and Santiago Vescovi.

“Nothing helps like being in the game and going through it,” Barnes said. “But he’s certainly taken advantage of everything he could within our program getting here earlier.”

Dilione’s body is now where Tennessee wants it, now it’s about getting comfortable in the system. Vescovi’s return, along with the additions of Justin Gainey and Dalton Knecht, could cap Dilione’s playing time this year. However, assuming Josiah-Jordan James and Julian Phillips do move on, he could be relied upon early in the year as Zakai Zeigler returns to full health from a torn ACL. BJ Edwards will also be in that equation.

Barnes has a lot to figure out between now and November, but Dilione’s headstart can only help him moving forward.