Schofield declares for NBA Draft, not hiring agent

Junior Tennessee basketball forward Admiral Schofield plans to put his name up for consideration in the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft on June 21. However, the Illinois native did not hire an agent, meaning if he withdraws his name from the draft before May 30, he can return to the Volunteers for his senior season.

“Coach (Rick) Barnes has encouraged me to go through that process, work out for teams, and learn as much as I can about the transition from college to basketball,” Schofield said in a tweet Thursday. “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to receive feedback from the NBA personnel and where I stand.”

Earlier in the season, Schofield was named second-team All-SEC and played a large part in Tennessee’s first regular season conference championship in a decade.

After the Vols 63-62 upset loss to No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago, SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams and Schofield both indicated they would be returning for the 2019 season.

“I love my teammates, I love my family. These guys are my brothers,” Schofield said. “I really feel certain I want to come back.”

Regardless, the situation proves a win-win for the 6-foot-5, 238-pound Volunteer. Schofield led Tennessee in rebounds during the 2017-18 season and finished with an average of nearly 14 points per game, the second most behind Williams.

If Schofield does choose to return to the Vols next season, Tennessee will return every player on their roster from last season except senior grad-transfer James Daniel III.

Featured image of Tennessee Athletics

Barnes speaks to media in season-ending press conference

Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes held his first press conference in Knoxville since the Vols’ 63-62 upset loss to 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago in the NCAA Tournament last Saturday.

After notching Tennessee basketball’s first regular season SEC Championship in a decade and leading the Volunteers to their best record (26-9, 11-5 SEC) since 2010, Barnes still seeks areas of improvement.

“The word I used a lot was consistency this year… I think individual guys need to be more consistent,” Barnes said. “You really want to get back to fundamentals, conditioning I think is a big part of that.”

Barnes noted one key difference from this year’s NCAA Tournament than his previous 21 times in the Big Dance. He said sophomore center Kyle Alexander’s injury marked the first time he had a player injured in the tournament. However, Barnes did not shy away from complementing the Ramblers and their improbable Final Four run.

“I think they (Loyola-Chicago) have as good of a chance as anybody to win the National Championship,” Barnes said. “When you watch them play they’re a highly efficient offensive team and a very good defensive team.”

The aftermath did not turn out happy-go-lucky for No. 3 seed Tennessee after the Ramblers victory last Saturday according to Barnes, but his team was anxious to get back to work.

“They were devastated, there’s not much you can say” Barnes said. “Starting today they’re all back in the gym. They’re wanting to get back.”

Despite returning every player on the roster except for one, Barnes stated the lone senior on the team, James Daniels III, will be missed.

“He had an impact and we’ll miss what he gave us,” Barnes said. “I thought it was really good the pressure that he put on Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner.”

Barnes did hint that the orange-and-white put high-priority on finding a guard to replace Daniel III. However, he noted that he would rather bring in a high school player than another graduate-transfer.

The hardware did not stop at SEC Coach of the Year for Barnes, as he will be a recipient of the 2018 Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award during the Final Four weekend. The award is given to basketball staff that models high moral character, integrity and faith.

“Well first of all I can tell you there are a lot of guys more deserving of the award than me,” Barnes said. “It’s an honor… He (Wooden) impacted this sport long after he quit coaching.”

Barnes ended his press conference with news that will elate much of the Vols faithful: Tennessee will renew its in-state rival with Memphis next season. Newly hired Tigers Head Coach Penny Hardaway confirmed the news on Monday. The two teams will play one game each in Memphis and Knoxville and finish up with a matchup in the Music City.

“Don’t hold me to this, but I think the way the contract sets up, I think we go there first, they come here,” Barnes said. “We’d like to make it a big day of basketball in Nashville… Some kind of jamboree or extravaganza.”

The Volunteers and Memphis have met 25 times in the past, as Tennessee leads the series 14-11. The last rivalry game ended in an 85-80 win for the Vols in 2013.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Barnes speaks to media in season-ending press conference

Photo by Brad Blackwelder.

Tennessee head basketball coach Rick Barnes held his first press conference in Knoxville since the Vols 63-62 upset loss to 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago in the NCAA Tournament last Saturday.

After notching Tennessee basketball’s first regular season SEC Championship in a decade and leading the Volunteers to their best record (26-9, 11-5 SEC) since 2010, Barnes is still searching for areas of improvement.

“The word I used a lot was consistency this year… I think individual guys need to be more consistent,” said Barnes. “You really want to get back to fundamentals, conditioning I think is a big part of that.”

Barnes noted that one thing was different from this year’s NCAA Tournament than his previous 21 times in the Big Dance. He said that sophomore center Kyle Alexander’s injury was the first time he has had a player injured in the tournament. However, Barnes didn’t shy away from complementing the Ramblers and their improbable Final Four run.

“I think they (Loyola-Chicago) have as good of a chance as anybody to win the National Championship,” said Barnes. “When you watch them play they’re a highly efficient offensive team and a very good defensive team.”

Things weren’t so happy-go-lucky for No. 3 seed Tennessee after the Ramblers victory last Saturday according to Barnes, but his team was anxious to get back to work.

“They were devastated, there’s not much you can say” said Barnes. “Starting today they’re all back in the gym. They’re wanting to get back.”

Despite returning every player on the roster except for one player, Barnes stated that the lone senior on the team, James Daniel III, will be missed.

“He had an impact and we’ll miss what he gave us,” Barnes said. “I thought it was really good the pressure that he put on Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner.”

The hardware didn’t stop at SEC Coach of the Year for Barnes, as he will be a recipient of the 2018 Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award during the Final Four weekend. The award is given to basketball staff that models high moral character, integrity and faith.

“Well first of all I can tell you there are a lot of guys more deserving of the award than me,” said Barnes. “It’s an honor… He (Wooden) impacted this sport long after he quit coaching.”

Barnes ended his press conference with news that will elate much of the Vols faithful. Tennessee will renew its in-state rival with Memphis next season and newly hired Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway confirmed the news on Monday. The two teams will play one game each in Memphis and Knoxville and finish up with a matchup in the Music City.

“Don’t hold me to this, but I think the way the contract sets up, I think we go there first, they come here,” said Barnes. “We’d like to make it a big day of basketball in Nashville… Some kind of jamboree or extravaganza.”

The Volunteers and Memphis have met 25 times in the past, as Tennessee leads the series 14-11. The last game of the rivalry ended in an 85-80 win for the Vols in 2013.

Featured image courtesy of Brad Blackwelder

Daniel III leaves Vols with experience, new attitude

Hampton, Virginia native James Daniel III leaves Tennessee with a better attitude and improved skill. Daniel improved both his play and his outlook after Vols Head Coach Rick Barnes brought him in last summer as a grad-transfer. Daniel thanked Barnes and the program for his time on Rocky Top in an Instagram post Monday.

Daniel performed tremendously off the bench for the orange-and-white all season. With a season-high of 17 points, he had to change his play style after leading the NCAA in scoring (27 points per game) at Howard in 2016.

Averaging a solid 5.6 points, 2.8 assists and 1.4 rebounds per game off the bench this year, Daniel remained consistent for Tennessee.

The 2016 Volunteers team proved to be much deeper than what Tennessee faithful expected in previous seasons under Barnes. Daniel typically served as the second guard off Barnes’ bench behind sophomore SEC-Sixth Man of the Year Lamonte Turner.

Barnes reached into his bench for Daniel’s stability. Daniel brought crisp passing and the ability to lock up opposing guards. He recorded 10 assists in multiple games and recorded 28 steals on the year.

Daniel also made 37 percent of his 3-pointers after hitting nearly 50 shots from beyond-the-arc in the 2017-18 season. Barnes looked to him to play about half each game. Daniel averaged around 20 minutes per contest.

With plenty talent, Daniel fought and scrapped for minutes against starters Jordan Bone and Jordan Bowden. Daniel also competed for play time with Turner, who had a career year.

As much as Daniel did this season for the Tennessee, the most important legacy he leaves in Knoxville is a culture change for this young Vols roster. His motto, “turn me up,” has become a popular slogan around Knoxville. Players, fans and even coaches caught on to the team’s mantra.

Tennessee will have an extremely young team going forward. Three of the five starters are sophomores and the other two starters are juniors. With Daniel’s absence, Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander will be the only seniors with significant playing time on the roster next year unless Barnes manages to pick up another graduate transfer.

Daniel entered as a player from Howard with expertise in scoring, but he leaves Knoxville as a player who grew into a solid all-around teammate. Barnes and the Volunteers will miss his presence in 2019.

Written by Caleb Souders 

Edited by Seth Raborn/Lexie Little

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Oregon State tops Lady Vols in NCAA Tournament

Sixth-seeded Oregon State stunned the No. 3 Lady Volunteers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon. Tennessee fell 66-59 to the Beavers, as they notched their first home loss in tournament history in front of 4,338 Vols fans. Tennessee exited in the second round for the second consecutive season, a program first.

“This was a huge win for our program. It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us. It’s been a grind,” Oregon State Head Coach Scott Rueck said. “Today, this was really an incredible performance.”

The Lady Vols sparked an 11-2 run at the game start after a 3-pointer from senior forward Jaime Nared. Tennessee’s stout defense forced the Beavers to record just nine points in the first quarter. The Volunteers led 19-9 after 10 minutes of play, but the script flipped at the start of the second quarter.

Oregon State surged after a pair of free throws from guard Kat Tudor marked a 13-2 run for the Beavers to the give them the lead. Neither team scored for the next three minutes, until freshman guard Rennia Davis drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Tennessee a 26-24 lead at half.

The Volunteers shot just 25 percent from the floor in the second quarter. The Beavers knocked home nearly 60 percent of their shots from the field. Still, Tennessee had a prime chance to grind out the next two quarters for a win and defend its 57-0 record at home in NCAA Tournament games.

However, Oregon State transitioned to a 2-3 zone, which proved to be disastrous for the Volunteers in the second half.

“I think it just made us stagnate,” Vols senior center Mercedes Russell said. “”We were standing around on the perimeter a lot, not really passing and cutting and moving the defense, which we should have.

The Beavers went on an 11-2 run to end the third quarter and put Oregon State up 44-39 going into the fourth quarter. After Oregon State took its biggest lead of the game with more than three minutes remaining, Tennessee failed to claw back.

Four players logged double-digit points for the Beavers, as guards Mikayla Pivek and Katie McWilliams meshed for 30 points on the night. Seniors Russell and Nared led the Lady Vols in their last game in orange-and-white with a combined 30 points and 18 rebounds in the loss.

“My teammates, my coaches, everybody has just left an impact on my life. I wouldn’t change a thing. I think I’ve learned a lot,” Nared said. “It was a blessing to play here with the tradition and this team.”

Russell passed Candace Parker with her 46th career double-double on Sunday in her last game at Tennessee.

“I have a degree from the University of Tennessee, and I am a Lady Vol forever. Those are two things that you can never take away from me,” Russell said.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

Edited by Lexie Little

Vols fall to No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago in second round

Head Coach Rick Barnes and the No. 3 seed Volunteers’ season ended with a 63-62 loss to 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago Saturday night. Tennessee failed to advance to the Sweet 16 despite an and-one from forward Grant Williams, which put the Vols up one point with 20 seconds remaining. Barnes is now 22-23 in NCAA Tournament games in his over 40 years as a head coach.

Ramblers guard Clayton Custer got a friendly roll on a tough jump shot with four seconds left to give Loyola-Chicago a 63-62 lead with four second remaining. Tennessee sophomore guard Jordan Bone put up on off-balance jumper at the buzzer but couldn’t get it to go.

“It’s always a tough way to lose a basketball game with the buzzer beaters,” Barnes said. “I’m proud of our guys, they kept fighting today and finding a way to stay in it.”

The early game looked good for the orange-and-white, as they shot off to a 15-6 run after nearly five minutes of play in the first half. Forward Admiral Schofield had 11 of the Vols 15 points in the run. However, the Ramblers responded with a 23-10 run of their own and went up 29-25 at the halfway point.

“They started making shots,” Schofield said.

Grant Williams added, “We were playing hard, but we really weren’t playing smart.”

At the half, the Volunteers stood at just 39 percent shooting from the field and made just 4-of-13 shots from beyond-the-arc. Meanwhile, Loyola-Chicago filled the bucket with nearly 50 percent shooting after 20 minutes of play. Tennessee made just four of its last 18 shots to end the first half.

The Volunteers fell behind 10 points with four minutes remaining in the contest but cut the deficit down to just two points after a 3-pointer from guard Lamonte Turner. Tennessee finished the monumental comeback with a clutch and-one from Williams to put the Vols up one point.

However, Custer and the Ramblers continued their Cinderella story with a game-winning jumper with 3.6 second remaining in the game. Custer and senior forward Aundre Jackson led Loyola-Chicago with a combined 26 points and six rebounds in the win. The Volunteers had five players with over 10 points in the loss, including a team-high 14 points from Schofield.

“We worked really hard and we brought some excitement around the basketball program again,” Schofield said. “It doesn’t define who we are… We still have some guys that are returning.”

Overall, the Ramblers hit 50 percent of their shots and outrebounded Tennessee by a 27-24 margin on Saturday. The Missouri Valley champions will advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1985, which is the last time they made the NCAA Tournament.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Edited by Lexie Little