Monthly Archives: October 2014

Names to Know: Tennessee hoops to see some of nation’s best


With the start of college basketball right around the corner — Tennessee starts exhibition play against Pikeville on Monday  — it’s time to get a feel for the current landscape. Polls and All-American teams are popping up — the AP’s picks will be out Oct. 31 — and preseason mags are being devoured. On top of it all SBNation recently released its collection of top 100 players. UT fans should become familiar with some of the names on this list.

November 14

No. 43: VCU’s Treveon Graham

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound senior forward averaged 15.8 points and 7 rebounds for the Rams last season. projects him as the No. 50 pick in the draft. The former two-star recruit is 604 points away from the program’s all-time scoring record.

December 6

No. 45: Kansas State’s Marcus Foster

The 6-3, 210 sophomore guard averaged 15.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Wildcats last season. After he started every game as a freshman, he landed on the Big 12 preseason all-conference team.

January 13 and January 27

No. 75: Arkansas’ Bobby Portis

The 6-11, 242 sophomore forward averaged 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists last season. projects him as the No. 12 pick in the draft. Among his first-year accomplishments: second-team All-SEC, SEC all-freshman team, three-time SEC freshman of the week. Now he’s a first-teamer on the SEC preseason team. Portis had a quiet night against the Vols last season: 4 points (2-of-7), 4 rebounds, an assist and a steal.

January 20 and March 7

No. 82: South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell

The 6-5, 215 sophomore guard averaged 13.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.2 steals last season. projects him as the No. 21 pick in the draft. Thornwell joined Portis on the league’s all-freshman team last season and also earned freshman of the week honors three times. He scored 15 points (5-of-18) in South Carolina’s first loss to the Vols. UT held him to 7 points (3-of-9) in its second win.

January 31

No. 70: Auburn’s Antoine Mason

The 6-1, 216 graduate transfer guard averaged 25.6 points — second in the nation behind Creighton’s Doug McDermott — at Niagra last season. He led the nation in free throws made (260) and attempted (357).

No. 99: Auburn’s KT Harrell

The 6-4, 212 senior guard averaged 18.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season. He finished sixth in the SEC in scoring while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from 3-point range. He twice scored 15 points (5-of-15 and 6-of-15) in losses to UT last season.

February 14 and March 4

No. 27: LSU’s Jordan Mickey

The 6-8, 235 sophomore forward averaged 12.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks last season. projects him as the No. 29 pick in the draft. Last season he joined Portis and Thornwell on the league’s all-freshmen team, earned second-team all-conference honors and made the league’s all-defensive team. His nine double-doubles ranked third in the SEC, behind Kentucky’s Julius Randle and UT’s Jarnell Stokes. He totaled 14 points (7-of-10), 5 blocks, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in a loss to UT last season.

February 17

No. 7: Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns

The 6-11, 250 freshman forward was the 2014 Gatorade national player of the year. He’s one of the nine McDonald’s All-Americans on the Wildcat roster. projects him as the No. 3 pick in the draft. He averaged 11 points and 6.5 rebounds through six games during UK’s Big Blue Bahamas Tour.

No. 17: Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein

The 7-0, 240 junior forward averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks last season. projects hims the No. 14 pick in the draft. He made last season’s SEC all-defensive team and earned a second-team spot on the preseason all-conference team. Cauley-Stein missed five shots and scored zero points against UT in the Wildcats’ win last season.

No. 21: Kentucky’s Aaron Harrison

The 6-6, 212 sophomore guard averaged 13.7 points, 3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals last season. projects him as the No. 40 pick in the draft. Last season he was named to the 2014 Midwest Region NCAA all-tournament team and the SEC all-tournament team. Now he’s a first-team member of the league’s preseason team. He totaled 14 points (3-of-7), 4 rebounds and an assist in UK’s victory over the Vols.

No. 40: Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison

The 6-6, 210 sophomore guard averaged 10.9 points, 4 assists and 3.2 rebounds last season. projects him as the No. 31 pick in the draft. He’s a second-team member of the league’s preseason team. While his twin became the NCAA tournament sniper, it was Andrew who did the most damage against the Vols. He went off for a career-high 26 points (7-of-13) to help beat UT.

No. 66: Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson

The 7-0, 255 sophomore center averaged 5.2 points, and 3.9 rebounds last season. projects him as the No. 36 pick in the draft. He had 4 points (2-of-3) and 4 rebounds against the Vols.

No. 72: Kentucky’s Alex Poythress

The 6-8, 238 junior guard averaged 5.9 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. projects him as the No. 34 pick in the draft. He’s second-team member of the league’s preseason team. He had 4 points (1-of-4), 3 rebounds and 2 assists against the Vols.

February 21

No. 79: Ole Miss’ Jarvis Summers

The 6-3, 186 senior guard averaged 17.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds last season. He earned second-team all-conference honors last season and enters his final year as a preseason SEC first-teamer. He will be featured even more now that volume shooter Marshall Henderson is gone. Summers hung 16 points (6-of-11) and 5 assists on the Vols in a loss last season.

February 28

No. 20: Florida’s Chris Walker

The 6-10, 220 sophomore forward averaged 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds last season. projects him as the No. 26 pick in the draft. A rules violation got him suspended for the Gators’ first two regular season games this season. If Walker can stay out of his own way, the McDonald’s All-American could be one of the best players in the league. Walker, thanks to NCAA issues, didn’t see the Vols in the first meeting between the two teams last season. He had 3 rebounds in 5 minutes in the second game, and 1 rebound in 5 minutes in the third.

No. 74: Florida’s Kasey Hill

The 6-1, 182 sophomore guard averaged 5.5 points, 3.1 assists and 2 rebounds last season. As a freshman the McDonald’s All-American ranked fourth in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio and 10th in assists. He will have a bigger role now that former SEC POY Scottie Wilbekin is gone. Hill totaled 2 points (1-of-6), 3 assists and 3 rebounds in the Gators’ first win against the Vols last season. He had 4 points (2-of-6) in the second, and 5 points (2-of-4) in the third.

No. 86: Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith

The 6-8, 218 junior forward averaged 8.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season. The SEC’s sixth man of the year should be a starter now. He totaled 9 points (4-of-9) and 8 rebounds against the Vols in the Gators’ first victory against UT last season. He had four points (1-of-6) and five rebounds in the second. He was held to zero points (0-2) and 2 rebounds in the final meeting.

No. 93: Florida’s Michael Frazier II

The 6-4, 194 junior guard averaged 12.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists last season. He made the All-SEC tournament team along with the All-NCAA tournament South regional team. He enters this season a first-team member of the conference’s preseason team. Frazier is one of the deadliest 3-point shooters in the nation. He made 118 last season, including 11 in a game against South Carolina. He totaled 17 points (5-of-8) and 4 rebounds in the Gators’ first win over the Vols. He went for 11 points, 2 rebounds and 2 steals in the second. In game three he had 7 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals.

* If UT beats Santa Clara in the Orlando Classic, it will almost certainly play Kansas next. The Jayhawks are loaded with No. 16 Wayne Selden, No. 29 Cliff Alexander, No. 31 Perry Ellis, No. 35 Kelly Oubre. Other SBNation Top-100 players in the Orlando Classic field include No. 81 Matt Carlino (Marquette) and No. 26 Branden Dawson (Michigan State).

247Sports photo

Vols basketball target Chris Clarke to announce Thursday


Tennessee 2015 basketball target Chris Clarke will announce his college commitment on Thursday afternoon, according to a message the 6-foot-5, 170-pound guard posted to his Twitter account Tuesday night.

Clarke, a 4-star prospect from Virginia Beach, will pick between the Vols, Connecticut, Virginia Tech and Creighton, according to recruiting writer Corey Evans.

Clarke took official visits to all four schools. His final visit was an official to UT in early October. He told the News Sentinel that UT coach Donnie Tyndall and his staff visited him more than anyone else.

“It shows a lot,” he said at the time. “It shows they really care, that they genuinely think I will be able to be a part of their team.”

Scouting service 247Sports considers Clarke the No. 1 2015 player in Virginia, the No. 9 2015 shooting guard and the No. 41 2015 prospect overall.

UT already has two commits — Shembari Phillips and Admiral Schofield — for its 2015 class.

Vols basketball recruiting update (10/24/14)


  • 2016 small forward Mario Kegler and 2016 center Abdulhakim Ado will unofficially visit UT this weekend. Joining them on an official visit will be 2015 UT commit Shembari Phillips. As of Friday morning there were still some potential visitors up in the air. I’ll try to confirm them if they arrive.
  • Don’t expect to hear much from 2015 UT target Chris Clarke until he takes the ACT on Saturday. There’s no guarantee there will be news then, either. Curt Clarke, Chris’ father, told the News Sentinel on Friday afternoon that all recruiting talk is on hold until his son takes the exam. The Clarke family still hopes to announce a commitment before the early signing period begins Nov. 12. Clarke enjoyed his recent trip to UT, especially the new TV studio on campus. His dad said he wants to major in journalism or communications.
  • UT has offered a scholarship to 2015 4-star point guard Marcus LoVett of Morgan Park High School in Chicago. The 6-foot, 170-pound point guard is being pursued by some heavy hitters, including Kansas (he visited the Jayhawks earlier this month) and Illinois. He’s fun to watch. Check him out.

Vols basketball practice update (10/20/2014)


Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall, freshman forward Tariq Owens and sophomore guard Robert Hubbs met the media today before practice at Pratt Pavilion.

Some highlights …

  • With UT’s first exhibition game against NAIA opponent Pikeville on on Nov. 3 fast approaching, Tyndall was asked for a comprehensive review of his team.
    “Our guys are working hard,” he said. “I’ve said that since this summer. Their energy level is fine. Their competitive nature is pretty solid.  Their coachable. But we have so far to go in probably about three areas. Playing with more physicality, No. 1. Playing through fatigue, No. 2. And then just learning to play fast while still valuing the basketball. Our turnovers right now are just atrocious. We want to play with pace, with tempo, get up and down the floor. But on the flip side we are just giving away the ball too much.”
  • Tyndall said the installation of his defense, a system that presses after dead balls and falls back into matchup zone, is “about 60 to 70 percent” where it needs to be before games start.
    “We are picking up our presses and being able to match up in the press, different things we do fairly well,” he said. “The matchup zone has gotten progressively better. There are a couple of nuances with it that, when we go man-to-man, recognizing certain situations when we need to be man-to-man, that we haven’t picked up real well yet. It’s repetition and film work. We are certainly progressing there.”
  • Once again Tyndall addressed the pressure that sits on Hubbs’ shoulders, and how he has encouraged the former five-star to ignore it.
    “The biggest thing is Robert just has to relax and be a basketball player,” Tyndall said. “So many times in this crazy business we are in, young people get influenced or drug down by expectations, whether it’s from the fans, friends or a girlfriend, whoever. We are going to continue to talk to him about being who he is, taking baby steps toward progressively getting better. And I think he’s doing that.”
    Tyndall said at the team’s media day last week that he had a one-on-one meeting with Hubbs to discuss this exact topic. It helped, according to Hubbs.
    “I have to stay focused,” he said. “I can’t worry about what outsiders say. I just have to play my game.”
    Hubbs says he is full healthy following last season’s shoulder surgery and the right wrist he tweaked early in practices this year. He declared himself the favorite to win both the 3-point and dunk contests at Friday’s Big Orange Madness event. He expects Detrick Mostella and Devon Baulkman to give him the most competition in the dunk contest and 3-point contest, respectively.
  • Tyndall, along with Armani Moore and Josh Richardson, will head to Charlotte for SEC hoops media day on Wednesday. The preseason SEC predictions will be debuted the same day. Tyndall knows the Vols might be near the bottom.
  • “We’ve talked about it,” he said. ‘Not repeatedly, or over the top. But we certainly want these guys to be aware of what the outside world things of us. It is what it is. We can talk about it, have a chip on our shoulder and all those things that sound fantastic, but at the end of the day, if we don’t go out and practice the right way, compete and perform the right way when we play, all the talk is for not.”
    He was asked for his personal expectations.
    “My expectations are to win every game, be 31-0,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve always coached. That’s why the teams and the programs I’ve been in charged of have probably overachieved every single year. That being said, realistically, we are one of the least experienced teams in our league, one of the least experienced in America. And we are picked toward the bottom of the league for a reason. But I never want to put a ceiling on any team.”
  • Sophomore forward Dominic Woodson continues to shed the pounds, but seems to have encountered a bit of snag.
    “He’s lost a bunch of weight,” Tyndall said. “So I’m proud of what he’s done. He’s lost about 21, 22 pounds. But the biggest thing is, maybe it’s even more mental than it is physical. He will not push himself through fatigue. He was pretty good in stretches, in spurts during our scrimmage. He did some nice things. But as soon as he gets tired he will not push himself to move … He gives up four, five, six points before you can call him timeout and get him out of the game. These aren’t things we don’t talk about endlessly with Dom. He gets it. But now he has to get it to the floor.”
  • Owens has gained 16 much-needed pounds since he stepped on campus. He’s now up to 184. Ideally, he would like to reach 230, but he’s shooting for 190-195 this season. The 6-foot-10 Owens has led the team in blocked shots in scrimmages. He averages about three per practice.  “My defense is ahead of my offense,” he said. “This year I feel like me on the defensive end will help the team more than on the offensive end.”

Vols awaiting verdict on Braxton Bonds’ eligibility appeal


The Tennessee men’s basketball team is still hoping the only true point guard on its roster might be eligible this season.

“We’ve filed the appeal,” UT coach Donnie Tyndall said Thursday when asked about Braxton Bonds’ status at Vols media day.

The coach estimated he should hear back from the NCAA about the request for a waiver in two-to-four weeks.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound walk-on from Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville is considered ineligible by the NCAA because he enrolled and attended a week of classes at Liberty this summer. He cited homesicknesses as the reason he left. Liberty would likely need to approve of him playing at UT this season for the waiver to be granted.

I’ll have more on Bonds, the nephew of Barry Bonds, next week, but it should be noted that he could help UT this season, if cleared. The Vols are planning on starting Kevin Punter at the point, a position the natural two guard has never played before. Tyndall made it clear Thursday that Josh Richardson will split time at the position as well. An eligible Bonds would immediately compete with Ian Chiles for minutes, and help Punter and Richardson spend more time at their natural wing positions.

“If he is eligible, which I don’t know that he will be, he is going to play on our team,” Tyndall said. “He is a tough, hard-nosed kid. He has a great feel for the game. He is competitive. It doesn’t matter if it’s Kevin Punter or Josh Richardson, he goes right at them.”

Quotables: The best quotes from Vols basketball media day


“He has done a great job, in particular, with Dom [Dominic] Woodson and getting some weight off of him. Now if he could just help get some weight off me he would probably get a raise.” — Donnie Tyndall on strength and conditioning coach Todd Moyer

“A lot of times, when you tell young people the truth, it can hurt their feelings. I’m not worried about hurting these guys’ feelings. I tell them, look, we are going to be friends for 50 years when you’re done. I’m not trying to be your friend right now. I’m trying to help you be the best student athlete you can be.” — Donnie Tyndall on his coaching style

“It’s like crushing somebody’s dreams.” — Tariq Owens on blocking shots

“It’s just different. You feel like you are breathing different air. He said it’s so much better feeling. We just want to feel it, man.” — Jabari McGhee on how Josh Richardson described the NCAA tournament

“We don’t joke on him much about being Barry Bonds nephew. We may crack a couple on him.” – Jabari McGhee on Braxton Bonds

“Would your uncle tell you if he takes steroids?” — Braxton Bonds on his uncle, Barry Bonds

“Right now it’s exactly where it needs to be. We are with each other 24/7, willingly. We like being around each other. After we leave here, we are probably all going to go to the movies and have a meal or something.” — Jabari McGhee on team chemistry

“The main game I watched was when they played Michigan, on that charge. I don’t know. It really was not a charge. They gave them the game, for real. But it’s cool. You can’t go back into the past and fix it.” — Detrick Mostella on Jarnell Stokes’ controversial charge call in UT’s Sweet 16 loss to Michigan last season

“Me watching them and not knowing I was going to be here, that is crazy to me.” — Devon Baulkman on watching the Vols in the NCAA tournament last season

For Tyndall’s offense, 51 and 6 are important numbers

Tennessee men’s basketball coach Donnie Tyndall made a radio appearance on the News Sentinel Sports Page during the “Meet Your Seats” event at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday morning. You can listen to that full interview here. A couple numbers Tyndall mentioned jumped out to me, and provided some insight into the Vols offense this season.


“In the course of the game we want to get 51 paint touches,” Tyndall said. “It’s a huge emphasis on the offensive end, to drive the ball to the paint or to throw the ball to the post to get it into the paint.”


“Offensively, we chart every bad shot,” Tyndall said. “Our goal each game is to take six contested shots, or less, throughout that game. I give the stat every day to our team. In practice so far we are four-for-20 on contested shots in two days (of practice). First of all that’s too many contested shots. Obviously the percentage is going to be about  12 to 18 percent. We track it every year. Bad shots get you beat.”

Vols could seek waiver for walk-on point guard Braxton Bonds


The Tennessee men’s basketball team is exploring its options for a waiver from the NCAA that would allow walk-on freshman point guard Braxton Bonds to play this season, a UT spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Bonds accepted a non-scholarship role with the Vols in late July, after he requested and received a release from a scholarship at Liberty University. Bonds never played in a game for Liberty. He only attended summer classes for a week. But because he enrolled and started school there, he will have to serve a year in residence at UT before he is eligible to play in games. Unless, of course, UT convinces the NCAA to make an exception.

It is hard to predict how much help Bonds might offer this season. Scouting service 247Sports considered him a three-star prospect out of Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville. According to his scouting profile he received offers from LSU, Miami, Middle Tennessee State and Radford.

If nothing else, Bonds — if eligible — might offer some depth to a team that has no true point guard. UT coach Donnie Tyndall said last week that junior college transfer guard Kevin Punter, a natural two guard, will run the point this season. Tyndall said shooting guard Josh Richardson would back Punter up if the season started today. Also in the mix is IUPUI graduate transfer guard Ian Chiles.

For now, it appears Bonds, who is allowed to practice, will have to sit in games. A waiver could alter that plan.

Vols basketball target Chris Clarke hopes to make decision soon


Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall and his assistants have made their point clear during their four trips to see Chris Clarke in the past month.

The 6-foot-5, 170-pound four-star guard from Virginia Beach, Va. is a priority in UT’s 2015 class.

“I’m a guy they really need, a great addition to their team. Tennessee loves me.” Clarke said Thursday, recalling UT’s pitch.

UT’s four in-home visits with Clarke outnumbered that of any school.

“It shows a lot,” he said “It shows they really care, that they genuinely think I will be able to be a part of their team.”

This time, Clarke is the one traveling. Accompanied by his parents and brother, he begins an official visit Friday morning.

Clarke said he is looking forward to playing pickup with the team and seeing how the roster looks when he sits down with Tyndall. He’s also excited about his tickets to Saturday’s football game.

“It should be crazy,” he said. “I’ve never really been to a football game this big.”

If Clarke has a favorite among UT and the three other schools he has already visited — Virginia Tech, Creighton and Connecticut — he isn’t tipping his hand just yet.

He plans on changing that soon. His trip to UT is the last one scheduled.

“I’m going to try to go as fast as possible after this visit,” he said of a timetable for a commitment.

Scouting service 247Sports considers Clarke to be the No. 41 overall prospect in his class, the No. 9 shooting guard.

247Sports photo

Chris Clarke, Skal Labissiere highlight Tennessee basketball’s big weekend


This weekend isn’t just important for the Tennessee football team.

Among the 104,255 spectators at Neyland Stadium for Saturday’s rivalry game between the Vols and Gators, will be two top tier 2015 basketball recruits: shooting guard Chris Clarke and power forward Skal Labissiere. Clarke is scheduled to arrive Thursday night for a visit that begins Friday morning. Labissiere will arrive late Friday evening.

Clarke, who has included UT on his list of seven finalists (Iowa State, Virginia Tech, Creighton, Florida, UConn and Minnesota), has been pursued diligently by UT coach Donnie Tyndall. The 6-foot-5, 170-pound guard from Virginia Beach is a high-motor player, the kind this UT staff loves. Scouting service 247Sports considers the four-star prospect the No. 9 shooting guard in his class.

Tyndall and assistant Adam Howard visited Clarke the first week of the live recruiting period. All four coaches — Tyndall, Howard, Al Pinkins and Chris Shumate — visited again the following week. The week after, Tyndall and Howard went again. And the following week the four made yet another trip. Yes, the UT staff visited Clarke four times.

More important is that Clarke has returned the interest. Despite his list of seven, he scheduled just four official visits. The Vols get the last one. Clarke has already toured Connecticut, Creighton and Virginia Tech. If things go according to plan Tyndall will get to make the final in-person pitch, and it will come when the campus is buzzing with football energy.

When Labissiere (6-10, 200) kept UT on his list of six finalists, it made some ripples. According to 247Sports the five-star prospect is the top player in the state, the No. 2 center in the country and the No. 13 overall prospect in his class. Most recruiting analysts predict the Haiti native who has relocated to Memphis will sign with Josh Pastner and the Tigers, one of his finalists. North Carolina, Georgetown, Kentucky and Baylor are the other teams on his list. That UT persuaded Labissiere to come to Knoxville says something. Some of the best college programs didn’t get that far.

There’s a good chance the visitor list could grow. 2016 small forward Braxton Blackwell might come from Nashville. The four-star was expected to visit as of Tuesday afternoon, but his trip had not yet been finalized. Blackwell, along with center Abdulhakim Ado, sits atop UT’s 2016 recruiting wish list. Update: Blackwell finalized his travel plans and will be on campus this weekend.

Martin on Radar: UT plans on shifting point guard duties between Ian Chiles and Kevin Punter this season. Neither are true point guards, and Chiles will be gone after the season due to his grad transfer status. That means the Vols are in the market for a point guard, and they could tap into the junior college market now that targets like Jawun Evans and Bryant Crawford have committed elsewhere or left UT off their lists. Jerron Martin is a name to know. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound point guard out of Maryland spent last season at Ole Miss before he left the Rebels overstuffed roster and transferred to South Plains Junior College in Texas. Martin played a total of seven minutes in two games as a Rebel. Martin has a relationship with Pinkins, who left Ole Miss to join Tyndall’s staff. Tyndall traveled to visit Martin earlier this month.