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Why Rick Barnes isn’t worried about completing the Tennessee basketball roster

Why Rick Barnes isn’t worried about completing the Tennessee basketball roster

KINGSPORT – Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes isn’t nervous about having three unfilled scholarships a week after the transfer portal closed to new players.

“(We’re) not really (nervous). I think the key is to be deliberate and know what you want to do when you’re trying to build a roster,” Barnes said Wednesday at the Big Orange Caravan’s final stop.

“I think the worst thing you can do is feel like you have to do something quickly without really thinking about it. But we are very happy where we are now. We’re going to be very selective with what we have. left.”

Tennessee has three roster spots filled with transfers. But there are still three scholarships left.

The portal is closed to new players, so UT knows its options. Now it has to land them.

“I think what we’re looking for now is the best player we can find,” Barnes said. “And you’re always looking to add some goals if you can. That’s something we look at, whether it’s in the front or in the back.

“But whatever we do, it has to be something we think we don’t have and something we know can benefit us.”

Can the Vols land Chaz Lanier from the portal?

Barnes cannot comment on players who have not signed with Tennessee.

But North Florida’s Chaz Lanier, a 6-foot-2 guard, is the obvious target for the Vols and any other school eager to get a top scorer out of the portal. Last season, Lanier averaged 19.7 points per game and shot 44.4% from three-point range.

Lanier is gauging his stock in the NBA Draft process and he will attend the G League Elite Camp in Chicago on Saturday.

If Lanier withdraws from the NBA Draft pool, Tennessee and Kentucky are the likely contenders to land him.

Lanier, who played in high school at Ensworth in Nashville, is an elite scorer whose draft stock would rise if he improves his defense.

That sounds a lot like Dalton Knecht. After transferring from Northern Colorado to Tennessee a year ago, he improved his defense and transformed into an SEC Player of the Year and projected top-10 draft pick. Barnes said Tennessee sells that formula to prospective transfers.

“Well, obviously I mean people are talking about it because a year ago, no one at the national level knew who Dalton Knecht really was,” Barnes said. “And so obviously when we talk to people, his name comes up.”

Here’s who the Vols lost and won in Portal

Tennessee has already been very active in the portal.

Forward Jonas Aidoo (Arkansas), forward Tobe Awaka (Arizona), guard Freddie Dilione (Penn State) and guard DJ Jefferson (Longwood) transferred from Tennessee after a run to the Elite 8.

The Vols added 6-8 guard Darlinstone Dubar (Hofstra), 6-10 forward Igor Milicic Jr. (Charlotte) and 6-11 forward Felix Okpara (Ohio State) from the portal.

Dubar averaged 17.8 points and shot 39.9% from three-point range. Milicic averaged 12.8 points and 8.5 rebounds and shot 37.6% on three-pointers. Okpara averaged 5.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 70 games over the past two seasons.

That gave the Vols two scorers and one imposing post player. They probably still need a backup point guard behind Zakai Zeigler, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Why Tennessee could leave a scholarship open

Barnes could leave at least one scholarship open well into the summer.

That approach allowed Tennessee to land Zeigler and Awaka in the summers of 2021 and 2022, respectively. And it got Santiago Vescovi mid-season in the 2019-20 season.

“Think about how many guys are still in the portal, and we’re combing it every day,” Barnes said. “… I always think there’s someone out there. And I’ve said all my career that there are enough players for everyone. You just have to find the players that suit you, and we still think there are some guys those who will do so suits us.”

Zeigler and Jahmai Mashack return to the backcourt. Sophomore Cameron Carr and senior Jordan Gainey should be in the mix there as well. Rising sophomores JP Estrella and Cade Phillips return to the post. Incoming guard Bishop Boswell is the lone signee in the class of 2024.

Adam Sparks is the Tennessee football reporter. E-mail [email protected]. X, formerly known as Twitter@AdamSparks. Support strong local journalism by subscribing

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