Two of Tennessee’s freshmen basketball players sat in front of the media for the first time since arriving in Knoxville. Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer both spoke on Thursday about adjusting to the college life and aspirations for this team.
6-foot-4 combo guard Springer knows the talent he has around him will only bring out the best in his game.
“I feel like I’ve been around these guys everyday, so I know how good they are. I know I can go out there and play with each one of them. I feel like we all know each other pretty well by this point.”
The good thing about this group coming in together is the bond they built off the court as well. Springer and Johnson are roommates, so building that cohesion shouldn’t be hard to do.
“Me and Keon, we’re roommates so we’re with each other almost everyday. Being able to just hang around him, getting to know him more than I did before, that’s something pretty big. We compete on the court and we can chill with each other off the court. Like you said, play Madden or whatever. It’s a good relationship to have.”
Springer came from IMG Academy, so he’s had the opportunity to play against some of the best talent around the country before even stepping foot in Knoxville. Springer needed to adjust to college speed.
“Pretty much it can go both ways. From high school to college, it’s definitely a big difference with the speed and the pace of the game, stuff like that. Then also just learning. When you come to college you have to learn new stuff, learn new offenses. You’re really starting to build your IQ for the game. So that definitely is a big help.”
This team has the potential to be a national title contender, and Springer knows what it will take to get there.
“I wouldn’t say championship or bust, but I feel like with the talent we have and the team we have, we could definitely take it all the way if we play up to what we’re supposed to.”
Johnson arrived in Knoxville with an open mind on what he needed to do to help his game.
“The biggest adjustment for me has been my time management. Being able to balance my time with both ball and school, while being able to get extra shots up in the gym, whether it’s late at night or before practice.”
Johnson has already had that moment with Rick Barnes. He knew a chewing was coming his way.
“It was actually our first summer practice. Coach Barnes went after everyone that day and he finally came around to me, I was just like, ‘Alright, it’s my turn now.'”
The Tennessee basketball team was picked to finish first in the SEC by the media on Thursday. Knowing this coaching staff and players, I expect them to fully embrace the expectations.