Rick Barnes knows just how young his second team at Tennessee will be. And with players like Kevin Punter and Armani Moore moving on, one would think that this team, with all of the youth and inexperience, would take a drop off.
Not according to Rick Barnes.
“It’s a whole different feel than it was a year ago,” said Barnes. “Last year we had almost no competition in practice, and this year we’ve got that competition.”
Seven true freshmen and one redshirt freshman will make their debuts for the Vols this season. This is an extremely large class for college basketball, and with the small amount of returning experience, the newcomers will be called upon to perform early and often. Here is what each of these newcomers will bring to Tennessee basketball this year.
Lamonte Turner, G
Turner is a bit different than the other newcomers. He was actually a part of Barnes’ first class at Tennessee, but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Turner was allowed to practice with the team, but was barred from playing in games. Coach Barnes said at several points last season that Turner would have probably been starting had he been eligible to play. Instead, Turner had a year of getting used to the system, and is figured to either take the reigns at the point guard position or play off the ball at the two guard.
Jordan Bone, G
Bone is another newcomer that is figured to factor in at the point guard position. Bone, who is the younger brother of former Vol Josh Bone, played his high school ball at Ensworth High School in Nashville. Bone averaged 20 points and five assists a game last year, as he led Ensworth to the state championship. Bone describes himself as a “pass-first guard” rather than a scorer. A true point guard is one of the things the Vols lacked last year, and that is something Bone will bring to the table.
Jordan Bowden, G
Jordan Bowden is a rarity for Tennessee basketball. Bowden is the first scholarship player for the Vols from Knoxville since 1985. A graduate of Carter High School, Bowden scored 932 points during his senior season. Bowden also scored 30 or more in 14 games and finished with 10 double doubles on the season. From there, Bowden spent a year at the prestigious 22 Feet Academy where he averaged 17 points per game. Simply put, Bowden is a scorer. Don’t be surprised if he ends up leading the team in three point shooting this season.
Jacob Fleschman, G
Jacob Fleschman joins the Tennessee team as a walk-on guard. Fleschman is from Westlake High School in Austin, Texas, where he averaged 11 points and led his school to a 30-4 record during his senior season. As is the norm with Rick Barnes, don’t ever count out anyone from playing. As a walk-on, Brad Woodson had meaningful minutes in several SEC games last season.
John Fulkerson, F
Fulkerson will provide much needed depth in the post for a Tennessee team that was very small last season. Fulkerson, originally from Kingsport, Tennessee, finished out his high school career at the Christ School in Arden, North Carolina. He averaged a double double during his senior season, and broke former Duke big man Marshall Plumlee’s record for blocked shots. Blocking shots will be one of the big things that Fulkerson brings to the table. He described himself as being a “defensive-minded big man.”
Jalen Johnson, G
Johnson was the first of the four recruits from North Carolina to sign with the Vols and was the first North Carolina native to sign with Tennessee directly out of high school since 1995. Johnson attended Wesleyan Christian Academy and was teammates with fellow newcomer Kwe Parker. He will bring more shooting depth to a team that relied too heavily on Kevin Punter for three point shooting last season. Johnson described himself as a “slasher and high-energy guy.”
Kwe Parker, G
The most heralded of the true freshmen is Kwe Parker. The excitement for Vol fans over Parker started when people were exposed to his highlight dunks that can be described by one word, “nasty.” Parker has a 45-inch vertical jump, and he will join other high-flyers on the team like Robert Hubbs III and Detrick Mostella in making this year’s Tennessee team exciting to watch. Parker describes himself as a “pass-first point guard who likes to play defense.” Between him and Bone, Parker will provide more of the scoring punch and play off the ball a little more, but it will be a relief for Barnes to have multiple guys who can play the point guard position naturally.
Grant Williams, F
Grant Williams is another big man that will provide more much-needed depth for the Tennessee frontcourt. Williams is a graduate from Providence Day High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. During his senior season, Williams led Providence Day to a state title while averaging a double double along the way. He has a junkyard dog mentality and will compete early for playing time. Williams’ biggest issue coming in was weight and fitness, but he has dropped almost 30 pounds in the offseason. He describes himself as being a “versatile forward who can also bring the ball up the floor.”
Edited by Dalton King
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics