With today being the deadline for players to withdraw or remain in the 2023 NBA Draft, this has certainly been the most exciting day in college basketball in well over a month.
Entering the day, Rick Barnes and company had their eyes on one player in particular, Senior guard/forward Josiah Jordan-James, who ultimately decided to pull his name from the draft and return to the University of Tennessee, most likely as a walk on (such an electric move). While this announcement came as a shock to many, it does round out the men’s basketball roster, and as we say goodbye to the month of May, it’s the perfect time to revisit what Tennessee will look like next season.
Full disclaimer: this post will be very similar to the last roster preview, but will now have a concrete look into next year’s squad, as opposed to just speculation. Now enough talking, let’s dive in.
Current Tennessee Basketball Roster
It was a busy offseason for Coach Rick Barnes, who put a heavier emphasis on the transfer portal this year than any other season since taking over for the Volunteers — and it appears his efforts were well worth it (hope this isn’t a jinx we laugh at in February of next year). Tennessee was able to land two high-end veterans scorers in the portal in Chris Ledlum (previously at Harvard) and Dalton Knecht (previously at Northern Colorado) as well as solid three-point shooter Jordan Gainey (previously at USC Upstate). All three should play a vital role in helping solve Tennessee’s offensive issues, which at times could only be described as just that...offensive.
While lacking any real size, the roster is shaping up to be dynamic — at least on paper — with tons of depth on the wings, some of which can play stretch fours should Tennessee decide play small ball, a very likely option with the addition of Freddie Dilione.
Projected Starting Lineup
- G Junior, Zakai Zeigler (Pending ACL recovery of course, but the floor general will be in the starting lineup if healthy)
- G Senior, Santiago Vescovi (Sharpshooter. Were there any doubts?)
- G/F Senior, Josiah Jordan-James (Glue-guy, lifer, defender, leader. No matter what you call him, experience is invaluable in the game of college basketball and JJJ’s return is one that should be welcomed. Pls stay healthy)
- F Senior, Chris Ledlum (Oh hey, look, another bucket getter and this one rebounds too)
- C/F Junior, Jonas Aidoo (Rim protector, could he finally thrive in a starting role?)
- G/F Junior, Jahmai Mashack (Finally carved out a role for himself last year — excited to see what he does on both ends of the court with even more minutes)
- G Freshman, Freddie Dilione (The hype and promise are there — could crack the starting lineup pending summer workouts)
- G/F Dalton Knecht (Tennessee finally gets a consistent bucket getter, moved to the bench with the return of JJJ but fans should expect 25 minutes a game from this kid)
- F Sophomore, Tobe Awaka (Ferocious rebounder with a decent right jump hook - please work on free throws, please)
- C/F Freshman, JP Estrella (On a team where front court depth isn’t abundant, he could be an x-factor)
- G Junior, Jordan Gainey (40% career 3pt shooter — a marksmen off the bench? Yes please)
- G RS Freshman, DJ Jefferson (Hopes to be Jahmai Mashack 2.0, very athletic)
- G Freshman, Cameron Carr (A natural scorer but a bit too small, a potential redshirt)
- F Freshman, Cade Phillips (Tenacious defender but needs work offensively, a project for now)
- G Tyreke Key (graduated) - A disappointing start to conference play is what most may think of when they hear this name, but 8 points per game off the bench and veteran leadership can be hard to come by.
- F Julian Phillips (declared for NBA draft) - One of the more frustrating players in the Barnes era. Phillips never found his footing in conference play or the postseason, and his injury didn’t help.
- F Olivier Nkamhoua (entered transfer portal) - Jekyll and Hyde, but nobody can deny 11 points per game on 50% shooting is something the Vols will miss. Hopefully Ledlum fills this role.
- C Uros Plavsic (pursuing professional playing career, most likely Europe) - A bruiser that sometimes hurt as much as he helped. That said, the Vols will need to find a way to fill his enforcer role — albeit toned down a bit.