Less than three weeks into the 2021 off-season for the Tennessee Volunteers, the basketball roster has already gone through a number of changes for next season’s lineup.
In total, there have been more than 10 roster moves, or at least anticipated moves, to and from the team from last season. Rick Barnes and his staff have already lost two players after they declared early for the 2021 NBA draft. He has also lost four players to the transfer portal, as well as one graduate from the team.
It won’t just be players Barnes will be replacing this off-season, as two of his assistant coaches are now head coaches in Division-1 college basketball.
However, while some doors have closed, others have opened. The Vols will be adding at least four players to the team, and have already replaced one of their assistants on the staff.
The Vols got the ball rolling quickly into the 2021 off-season, so in case you may have blinked, here is a recap of the Tennessee basketball roster changes this offseason.
Fr. G Jaden Springer (NBA Draft)-
Springer was the first of Tennessee’s two freshmen to declare for the draft, a move that was assumed might happen since his high school days.
In a season that ultimately fell short of lofty expectations, Springer certainly was one of the bright spots on the team throughout the year. In fact, he probably was the best overall Tennessee during the span of the year.
The Charlotte, NC native played in 25 games this season for Tennessee. He would finish the year averaging 12.5 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game, and 2.9 assists per game. Springer was named the SEC freshman of the week twice and was honored on the 2021 SEC All-Freshman team.
Fr. G Keon Johnson (NBA Draft)-
Not to be outdone, Johnson was one of the most electric players that Tennessee has seen in years, showing many similarities to the athleticism of Jordan Bone.
Johnson was also named to the 2021 SEC All-Freshman team. He was given the freshman of the week honors on Feb. 8, after scoring a game-high 27 points against Kentucky. The freshman standout played in all 27 games this year for Tennessee, and led the team in both field goals made (111) and attempted (247).
Johnson is widely viewed as one of the top prospects in the NBA draft. ESPN has him listed at No. 6 in their Top-100 rankings. He was also projected to be drafted No. 6 in the draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to an ESPN mock draft from Friday.
Sr. F Yves Pons (Graduate)-
One of the most prolific, multi-talented, and diverse players to ever play basketball for Tennessee, Yves Pons time at Rocky Top has finally come to an end.
The 6’6” shot-blocking machine from France has provided some of the biggest moments in the last four years for Tennessee basketball. Pons was selected for the SEC All-Defensive Team in 2020 and 2021 and won the SEC defensive player of the year award in 2020. He was also selected to the 2021 SEC Tournament All-Tournament team.
Pons will have his legacy left in the history books, though. He finishes with the eighth-most blocks in Tennessee history (137) in one of the most memorable Tennessee basketball careers ever.
Sr. F E.J. Anosike (Transfer Portal)
After transferring from Sacred Heart before the 2020-2021 season, EJ Anosike announced on Friday morning his intention to transfer away from Tennessee after just one season with the Vols.
Anosike appeared in 22 games for Tennessee during the season and averaged 1.7 points per game.
The brother of former Lady Vol Nicky Anosike had his most productive play-time of the season during non-conference play. Anosike totaled 28 points over the course of the Vols’ first six games.
Soph. F Drew Pember (Transferred to UNC Asheville)-
Pember entered the transfer portal in March after spending two years on the Tennessee roster.
As a Knoxville native, Pember graduated from Bearden High School before joining the Vols. He appeared in 10 games in the 2020-2021 season, and 22 games during his freshman season.
Pember recently announced he will be transferring to UNC Asheville.
Soph. G Devonte Gaines (Transferred to ETSU)-
Just like Pember, Gaines also entered the transfer portal in March, after spending two years at Tennessee. Both players were from the same Tennessee recruiting class.
Gaines was awarded a spot on the 2020 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll and was the type of player that Barnes would use with specific precision during his two years. He appeared in all but 10 games during his two years at Tennessee and scored a career-high nine points against UNC Asheville in 2019.
Gaines has recently announced that he will be transferring to ETSU.
Fr. F Corey Walker (Transfer Portal)-
After suffering an injury, Walker did not play for Tennessee during his freshman season.
According to the Tennessee Athletics website, Walker “was hindered by contact tracing during the preseason and suffered a broken toe just before the start of the season in November.”
Walker announced he would be transferring away from Tennessee on Friday.
Assistant Coach Kim English-
In a move anticipated by many, one of the most up-and-coming assistants in the nation was officially scooped up and named a head coach.
English joined Barnes’ staff before the 2019 season and spent two years at both Colorado and Tulsa prior to his time in Knoxville.
English was credited for the signing of five-star Kennedy Chandler, the third highest-ranking Tennessee commit of all time.
On Mar. 23, English was named the head coach at George Mason University.
Assistant Coach Desmond Oliver-
Although not as anticipated as English, his hiring was more than justified and long overdue.
On Apr. 5, Oliver was hired as the next head coach at ETSU after Jason Shay resigned just weeks before.
A longtime figure in the college basketball world, Oliver has put together lifetimes worth of experience and will finally have his first opportunity to lead a college program for the first time.
(Expected) Team Arrivals
5* G Kennedy Chandler-
When looking at all the different recruiting numbers for Chandler, luckily, you won’t need to have to count very high.
Chandler is the top-ranked player in the state of Kansas, the second-ranked point guard in the nation, and the third-highest Tennessee commit of all time.
Chandler could wind up being the most important piece of the 2021 Tennessee basketball team, as the freshman will be relied upon with his elite talent as a true point guard. The rising freshman was selected to participate in the 2021 McDonald’s All-American Game and has torn up roads all over the country playing elite travel ball.
4* G Jahmai Mashack-
From California, Mashack immediately put himself on the recruiting scene by standing out as one of the top defensive high school players in the country.
A long guard, Mashack has incredible athleticism that will be used prominently in a Barnes-run system.
However, Mashack wasn’t able to play during his senior year at high school due to COVID restrictions. That doesn’t mean he didn’t put himself to work, as he frequently worked out with former NBA player Darren Collison over the year at his facility to prepare for the season.
Auburn Transfer: Soph. G Justin Powell-
As previously talked about in a FanrunRadio.com article, Powell was the first apple to fall from the transfer tree for Tennessee, and likely may not be the only one.
Powell only played in 10 games during his freshman campaign at Auburn but showed a glimpse of the kind of offensive potential he could bring to a team. Powell averaged 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game during his run last season with the Tigers.
Assuming everything gets ironed out between the NCAA and SEC with the transfer proposal on the table, Powell will provide an immediate offensive spark for the Vols. The 6’6” guard can cross over a bigger defender at the top of the key or can drive and back down a small defender. A mismatch dream.
3* G Quentin Diboundje-
If you haven’t heard of Diboundje yet, you may not be alone.
The 6’6” guard from Montpellier, France committed to Tennessee on Wednesday, but does not hold any ranking from 247 Sports and is listed as a three-star on Rivals. Being an international player during a global pandemic can certainly limit your availability, especially in the United States.
Diboundje has recently been playing for Montverde Academy in Florida.
According to Trey Wallace, “the graduate student spent time playing for France’s LNB Pro-A league, where averaged 11.7 points per game and 5 rebounds.”
Assistant Coach Rod Clark-
Having to replace two assistant coaches on the staff this off-season, Barnes got to work quickly and has already named one of his replacement coaches.
Rod Clark, a 28-year-old assistant coach formerly with Austin Peay, is joining the Vols staff and should be able to use his strength in recruiting and player relationships to help bolster the Vols roster for many years.
Clark has been recognized as both a talented recruiter, but also a brilliant young mind of the game. Having spent much time working with AAU and Nike travel teams, including coaching Kennedy Chandler, Clark has an understanding of where the college game is going based on the players he knows in high school.
Stay tuned to Fox Sports Knoxville for more continued updates on the Tennessee basketball offseason.