Tennessee basketball has been relatively successful in recent seasons on the court.
Maybe more surprising, Rick Barnes and the Vols have been just as good in recruiting.
Tennessee landed three big-name recruits during the 2020 recruiting period to help build off their recent success.
Two 5-star recruits in Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson led the Top-5 class. 4-star Corey Walker, 3-star Malachi Wideman, and Sacred Heart transfer E.J. Anosike were also additions.
Despite the highly-talented class, Barnes and his staff are looking to land yet another top class in program history. Tennessee managed to finished fourth in the national recruiting rankings, and second in the SEC behind Kentucky, who landed six commits and three 5-stars.
While the Vols don’t have a commit yet for the 2021 class, they are still in the running for at least three of the top 15 players in the class.
Tennessee basketball will have at least three spots open up for next year’s class.
Anosike will be a senior, as well as forwards John Fulkerson and Yves Pons. Depending on how well certain players perform next season (Josiah James, Keon Johnson, and Jaden Springer), a few more roster spots might open up if they decide to test the NBA waters.
That’s also not including any possible transfers as well.
The first player on the Vols board is Paolo Banchero. Banchero is a 5-star PF from Seattle, Washington, who is ranked as the fourth-best player in the 2021 class.
It will be a tall task for the Vols to land Banchero in this year’s class, but it’s not impossible.
He’s received a total of 17 offers, which include Vanderbilt, Arizona, Kansas, and Washington so far but has only visited five schools, including Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, North Carolina, and the Vols. Banchero visited Knoxville on October 25th, just weeks after visiting Kentucky and Duke.
Banchero is very talented and is perhaps the best frontcourt player in the 2021 recruiting cycle. NBA Draft Room compares him to the likes of VFL Tobias Harris and David West, and states that he is “a talented scorer from inside and out.”
The next player high on the Volunteers recruiting board is Jabari Smith out of Tyrone, Georgia. Smith comes in at 6-10, 210 lbs, at the power forward position.
After averaging 25 points and ten rebounds a game for Sandy Creek this past season, he’s ranked at the No. 5 overall spot in the 2021 rankings. He’s received nine offers so far, including a majority of them from the SEC.
In the SEC alone, he’s received offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU, and Tennessee. There was talk that he’d reclassify into the 2020 class but shut down those rumors in early March.
Smith posted a blog as a part of SI All-American, where they highlight players during their recruiting process and go into details about their everyday lives.
Smith talked positively about the Vols during that blog post, saying, “I took an official to Tennessee a little over a week ago, and it was a great visit. I just got to know the coaches better and watched them play, and I loved the atmosphere there. The fans go hard for the team, so that was cool to see.” As you can see, he’s had some very positive things to say about the Vols and Barnes.
He had a tremendous upside and has a chance to make an immediate impact wherever he might land.
The last player very high on the Vols list is an in-state player in Kennedy Chandler. Chandler is a 6-1 point guard from Briarcrest Christian in Memphis.
He comes in ranked as the No. 15 player in the 2021 class and second behind Moussa Cisse out of Lausanne. Chandler is fresh off his second straight Division II-AA Mr. Basketball award in the state of Tennessee. He won the award again after averaging over 22 points and 4.3 assists.
It’s been said that Chandler is the No. 1 priority in the class for the Vols, as he is super athletic and quick. He’s received a crazy 27 offers so far, including Tennessee, Michigan, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, UNC, and several other well-established programs.
On Thursday, Duke will host five-star junior Kennedy Chandler for his virtual meeting with the staff, he told @Stockrisers. Held ones with Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina as well.
— Jake (@jakeweingarten) April 18, 2020
Dealing with COVID-19 has not only impacted our everyday lives, but it has also played a massive part in recruiting. Instead of players going on visits to the schools, and coaches going on in-home visits, programs have had to adjust to virtual meetings over the phone.
Tennessee conducted one recently with Chandler, as stated in the tweet above. During the season, both Banchero and Chandler visited Knoxville at the same time, when Tennessee hosted them on October 25th.
Positives from the 2021 Recruiting Cycle
I’ll start off with the positives, as we all need a little positivity in our lives right now. Kim English was hired during the last offseason whenever Rob Lanier took the head coaching job at Georgia State.
During this past year, English has played a considerable part in the recruiting process of many of the players in both the 2020 and 2021 classes. In late March, English was a leading candidate for the head coaching spot at Southeast Missouri State but decided to stay on Rocky Top.
Kim English staying at Tennessee is obviously huge for the Vols.
His importance in the 2021 recruiting class can't be overstated. The Vols are working hard on five-stars Kennedy Chandler, Paolo Banchero and Jabari Smith. https://t.co/d6Y3rJpEzj
— Mike Wilson (@ByMikeWilson) March 23, 2020
English has played an enormous part in the 2021 recruiting class, trying to land guys like Chandler, Smith, and Banchero, and will continue to play a huge role in the years to come.
Negatives from the 2021 Recruiting Cycle
Now to the negative news. Jalen Green’s decision to enter the G-League instead of playing college basketball will likely play a significant impact on future highly prolific basketball recruits.
Green, the No. 1 prospect in the 2020 class, shocked everyone last week when he decided to enter into the G-League. The G-League itself created a team for Green, where he will be likely joined by veteran players and possibly even a few more prospects that will do what Green did. This team will likely play games against other G-League teams and even other national teams.
By going to the G League, Jalen Green receives $500K, a full college scholarship, skill/life training, and will face tougher competition than college offers with coaches focused on development. Sure seems like an easy choice for elite HS recruits instead of dealing with the NCAA.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) April 16, 2020
Because players still aren’t allowed to go straight from high school to the NBA, the G-League and Green saw a perfect opportunity to exploit that rule and earn money for himself.
Green set up a new standard and will likely have players follow in his footsteps in the near future.
This could affect the Tennessee basketball program and several other programs around the country. It might also have an impact on Tennessee’s 2021 recruiting cycle.
All three players that are high on the Vols board, Banchero, Smith, and Chandler all have a high possibility of making the same decision that Green made. This decision truly has a significant impact on the future of college basketball, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out and how the NCAA will respond.
Barnes has a chance to plant Tennessee basketball as one of the best programs in recruiting for years to come.