Rising sophomore Justin Powell will be on the Vols’ roster next season after spending his freshman year at Auburn.
With over 1,000 names in the college basketball transfer portal, Tennessee has made sure to lock down one of its favorite names quickly.
Powell, a talented 6’6″ guard, announced his decision to commit to Rick Barnes and the Tennessee Volunteers Saturday morning. His post came via his own social media account.
rocky top🧡🤍 pic.twitter.com/DajU3q6tJC
— Justin Powell (@jtpowell241) April 3, 2021
Powell spent his freshman year under Bruce Pearl at Auburn but was only limited to 10 games. On Jan. 2, Powell suffered a “serious” concussion during a game against Texas A&M, and would ultimately miss the remainder of the season for the Tigers.
Prior to his injury, Powell was a prolific recruit and started to show a glimpse of what he had in store. He averaged 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game in the short time he played.
The Vols will head into next season with a revamped roster, and Powell is just one of the first pieces that Tennessee will try to sign through the transfer portal. Tennessee will not only have to fill key production on the court but also just acquire bodies for the roster. As of now, Tennessee has lost two starters with a likely third and potential fourth, as well as two bench players.
In order, that would be Yves Pons, Jaden Springer, Keon Johnson, John Fulkerson, Devante Gaines, and Drew Pember.
Barnes will have a number of options via the portal to replace those guys, but Powell is a great start with a high upside. Here is a look at what he brings to the table by the numbers. But first…
How Much Will Tennessee Need to Replace?
The hope for Barnes and co. is that Powell can immediately fill a need in the shooting department. The Vols struggled with consistency on the offensive end of the court all season, which eventually was their downfall in the NCAA Tournament.
Not to mention, with Springer having already declared for the NBA Draft and Johnson likely behind him, the Vols are losing their top two scorers.
In the 2020-21 season, Tennessee averaged 71.9 points per game, which ranked No. 175 in the country.
Right off the bat, Tennessee will need to replace about 45 percent of their points per game, and that’s not including the value of Fulkerson. Pons, Johnson, and Springer averaging 32.5 points per game.
Tennessee knew quickly into the offseason that they would need to replace their standout one-and-done guards, and found both shooting and size in their first pickup.
Coming out of high school, Powell was a three-star recruit on 247Sports and Rivals, but was much more prominent on the radar of ESPN. Their recruiting department had Powell listed as a four-star and the top-ranked player in the state of Kentucky. He was also listed as an ESPN Top-100 player at No. 85.
Powell’s Short Auburn Tenure Derailed by Injury
In his 10 appearances, Powell recorded four double-digit games for the Tigers. He scored 17 in the season opener against St. Joe’s. A few games later, Powell dropped 26 against South Alabama and Memphis in back-to-back games and then closed the three-game run with 15 against Texas Southern.
In the best-case scenario for Tennessee, Powell can be a shooting threat, consistently, like he was in that three-game stretch for Auburn.
In those three games in December, Powell shot an astounding 22-of-33 from the field for an average of 69.6 percent. He also shot 12-of-19 from behind the three-point line for an average of 56.5 percent. Free throws weren’t an issue either, as he sunk all but three of his 14 attempts over the span of games.
In the other seven games, there were a couple of bad outings surrounded by plenty of average games, which is expected from a freshman, especially in the pandemic-stricken season.
Powell Can Tap Into His Potential with the 2021 Tennessee Roster
There are two areas in particular where Powell has shown the most potential from his recruitment to his early college career: shooting and ball handling.
I was always high on Powell's handles and ball security and, even though he had 4 TO's, I'm still really impressed with his ability to handle backcourt pressure. Memphis was hounding our ball handlers all night.
Smooth cross to dust his man into a nice mid range floater. pic.twitter.com/xyAms6Vakr
— Drew (@orangeanddrew) December 14, 2020
Powell is the type of player that will drive another coach berserk when they see them shift their way around the court to put themselves in position for an open three. At 6’6″, which is taller than Springer and Johnson for perspective, Powell will be able to use his size to his advantage in multiple spots on the court.
Teaming Powell up with Kennedy Chandler seems like a no-brainer, and had to be a factor in his decision to come to Tennessee. Chandler is the second-ranked point guard in the nation and headlines the Tennessee recruiting class.
Chandler is the type of point guard that can make Powell’s three-game stretch shooting over 56 percent from three look routine at Tennessee.
A Well-Rounded Game Provides Well-Rounded Opportunities
Furthermore, Powell just has the build of a complete basketball player, shown by his early time spent at Auburn. And the word complete is used on purpose, because of how noticeable the opposite can be for players in college basketball.
Powell does have ball-handling skills, and while they won’t be necessarily relied upon during the season, today’s game of basketball is position-less. Powell being able to work the key with the ball is nothing but beneficial.
The Prospect, KY guard only averaged 2.6 turnovers per contest, which is encouraging in comparison to his 4.6 assists per game. Distributing the ball effectively without turning it over seems to be something that’ll find you success in the Barnes system.
While yes, the sample size ultimately is small and the level of competition ramped up after Powell played his final game, he still showed basic fundamentals of the game that can help Tennessee immediately.
No player on the Vols squad averaged double-digit points, half a dozen rebounds per game, and more than four assists per game this season. The closest player to that mark for the Vols was Springer, who averaged 12.5/2.9/3.5 in those respective categories. And that was a season that is sending Springer to the NBA.
All in all, Tennessee hit a double to the right-field gap with their pickup of Powell. It’s enough to create some energy and excitement, but the runner is only on second base, and still has a little way to go until they reach home. But with Chandler and Jahmai Mashack behind him in the batting order, and Tennessee still exhausting all their resources in the transfer portal, that double may soon turn into a run quicker than anyone expected.