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The 2020-21 Squad Will Be The Best In Tennessee Basketball History

 

Like many Vol fans, I am still riding high from Yves Pons’ decision to stay on Rocky Top for his senior season.

Pons staying for his senior season is absolutely massive for Rick Barnes and the Vols. Quite honestly, this is the biggest return Tennessee has had in basketball in a long time, if not ever.

With Pons returning, it instantly makes Tennessee a top-10 team and arguably, favorites for the SEC Championship. From top to bottom, this is the most talented team Tennessee has ever had. Yes, even more talented than the 2018-19 team that consisted of Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.

Pons last season became the first player in program history to be named SEC Defensive Player of the Year and third ever to be named on the All-SEC Defensive Team. The France native led the SEC in blocks, averaging 2.4 BPG and tied the school record for most blocks in a season with 73. With Pons returning, he will arguably be the best defensive player in the country.

Another senior that is returning for the Vols is big bad John Fulkerson. Fulky was named to the Coaches’ All-SEC Second Team after leading the Vols in scoring (13.7 PPG), field-goal percentage (61%), offensive rebounding (2.1 ORPG), total rebounding (5.9 RPG) and steals (1.1 SPG).

In fact, Fulkerson’d .612 field goal percentage is was the fourth best ever in a season, trailing Bernard King, Reggie Johnson, and Dale Ellis. That is some great company to be mentioned in.

Sophomore guards Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi will be also be playing vital parts on this team as well. James ended his freshman season ranked second on the team and 19th in the SEC with 5.5 RPG. James raised his offense during SEC play, averaging 8.2 PPG and a team-best .426 3-point percentage.

Vescovi joined the team in the second half of the season and made an instant impact for the Big Orange. Starting in all 19 games following his arrival, Vescovi averaged 10.7 points, 3.7 assists, and 3.3 rebounds in 30 minutes per game. Vescovi’s 3.7 APG in SEC play also ranked fifth in the conference.

Despite having some talent returning next season, Barnes has quite a few new faces coming in that will make instant impacts. Deacon Barnes managed to bring in two five-star guards this season in Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer.

Springer is a versatile guard who was ranked as a top-20 prospect nationally in the 2020 class. Springer is the ninth Tennessee signee to earn McDonald’s All-American acclaim. The Florida native averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game his senior season. Many experts are expecting Springer to be a lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Johnson is the other five-star guard that is going to be playing for the Big Orange this season. Johnson was rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in the state of Tennessee. Johnson was rated as a top-20 prospect nationally. The Shelbyville native in his junior year, averaged 24.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.0 steals, and 2.4 blocks per game. A guard that is considered explosive, Johnson will certainly make an instant impact for the BasketVols.

Barnes also managed to bring in a couple transfers in the process as well. One player who many Vol fans are excited about is redshirt junior guard Victor Bailey, Jr. Bailey is one of the most underrated players on this team. James in July said that Bailey is: “the best kept secret in all of college basketball.” Bailey is a transfer from Oregon who sat out the 2019-20 season. The former Duck finished his last season for Oregon as the fifth-leading scorer (7.4 PPG) and most accurate 3-point (.398) and free-throw shooter (.911). The Dallas native is regarded as a sharpshooter who is deadly from the 3-point line.

Tennessee also was able to get an experienced big man in the 2020 class as well.

E.J. Anosike, the brother of former Lady Vol Nicky Anosike, will spend his senior season with the Big Orange. Anosike previously played for Sacred Heart where he averaged 15.7 points, and 11.6 rebounds a game in the 2019-20 season. The PF totaled 27 double-doubles in his three seasons for SHU. The senior also made the All-NEC first team last season. Anosike will give the Vols the much-needed depth that they were missing last season in the forward position.

With the return of two All-SEC players, talented guards under James and Vescovi, and the addition of two five-star guards coming, there is no denying that this Tennessee team is loaded. This team has the talent and depth to compete for a Final Four spot and a national championship. This will be, without a doubt, the best basketball team in program history.

Get ready Vol fans, the 2020-21 basketball season will be one that we will never forget.

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