2020-21 brings an exciting time for Tennessee Basketball, the Vols have bolstered their roster and will sport one of the best backcourts in America. Tennessee loses only one starter from the 2019-20 squad in Jordan Bowden. While the loss of Bowden is significant, the Vols have welcomed in elite prospects to accommodate for that loss.
Elite prospects, as in the No. 14 and No. 15 players overall according to 247Sports, and justification for the Vols’ class finishing at No. 4 in the country. Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson are not only Top 20 players overall, but they are also the nation’s No. 3 and No. 4 shooting guards.
Elite shooting guards were exactly what Tennessee needed last year and their addition is more the reason the Vols’ backcourt will rival anybody’s. Tennessee truly has a daunting backcourt; a potent combination of talent and experience will be at their disposal.
Let’s dive deeper.
Key players returning/additions to Tennessee’s backcourt:
- Santiago Vescovi (4-star, year 2)
- Victor Bailey Jr. (4-star, year 2)
- Josiah James (5-star, year 2)
- Keon Johnson (5-star)
- Jaden Springer (5-star)
If your backcourt consists of a five-player rotation and all of which are strictly four and five-star athletes, your backcourt is elite. Throw in the fact that three of them are second-year players, and your backcourt will be envied.
All five could be starters in their own right.
At first glance, most know and understand what Vescovi and James bring to the table for the Vols. Heading into their second year with the program, the impact of them have on the floor should only be exacerbated. Ultimately, the focal points here are Bailey, Johnson, and Springer.
Bailey has been somewhat of a quiet addition to the Vols following his transfer from Oregon. After sitting out last year, he’s had the chance to master Rick Barnes’ system. That has also provided him the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of multiple positions. Furthermore, he’s heralded as a lights-out shooter and will be a weapon at the two spot for Tennessee.
That being said, Bailey will likely run the point at a considerable clip as well, in relief of Vescovi or in situational sets.
Springer and Johnson are very similar, yet so different at the same time. While their offensive games differ, both are elite defenders, and that alone makes the 2020-21 Vols scary.
Springer best provides elite ball-handling, pick and roll action, and scoring virtually at all levels. With his natural ability to shoot off the dribble, Springer genuinely has the potential to be the Vols best pure scorer.
On the other hand, Johnson is an elite slasher who can get to the rim at will. He’ll be extremely valuable to the Vols, whether it’s getting easy lay-ins or countless trips to the charity stripe.
All in all, both Springer and Johnson provide Tennessee the ability to create more drive-and-kick opportunities. With guys like Vescovi and Bailey around the perimeter for the Vols, a kick-out pass would nearly guarantee a wide-open shot. Combine a wide-open shot with a plethora of capable shooters and a high success rate is very likely.
If the Vols can do that at any clip, they will be a lethal double-edged sword for their opponents. Defenses will have to accommodate for Springer and Johnson’s ability to take it to the rack, and doing so will create multiple outlets.
If all of that isn’t enough, the elite quickness of Bailey, Springer, and Johnson will also allow the Vols to run give-and-go scenarios. The list of possibilities for the Vols are endless with the loaded backcourt they are bringing this season.
This is not even mentioning Tennessee’s two most significant returning players in Yves Pons (SEC Defensive Player of the Year) and John Fulkerson (2nd Team All-SEC).
The Vols’ two seniors are coupled with grad-transfer E.J. Anosike and Top-100 freshman Corey Walker Jr. to make for a truly head-turning frontcourt.
Simply put, it’s safe to say that the 2020-21 Vols will be a force to be reckoned with.