Monthly Archives: April 2015

Update on Tennessee target Ebuka Izundu’s recruitment


Tennessee basketball recruiting target Ebuka Izundu enjoyed his official visit with the Vols last weekend, but the four-star power forward plans to take three more official visits before deciding where he will play, according to his high school coach.

Victory Christian Center School (Charlotte, N.C.) coach Aureice McCain told the News Sentinel on Wednesday that Izundu will visit Miami this weekend and Arkansas next weekend before taking his final official visit to Texas Tech. Izundu has already taken official visits to Cincinnati and Tennessee.

McCain said Izundu plans to pick between the five schools he visited. The target date for his announcement is May 15.

“It went well,” McCain said of Izundu’s visit with the Vols. “Ebuka said he really liked the school, but he’s still keeping his options open.”

“He said it was a nice campus. Good coaching staff. He was impressed with the facilities. He felt like that academic staff and stuff were good. He likes it, but he’s excited about seeing the other schools as well.”

McCain said the commitment of junior-college power forward Ray Kasongo to UT on Tuesday wouldn’t necessarily hurt the Vols’ chances of landing Izundu.

“That guy coming in, he’s a junior college kid, so he only has two years,” McCain said. “Ebuka has four, but still he wants to produce and be able to come in and contribute from the beginning.”

UT assistant coach Desmond Oliver, a former Charlotte assistant coach, is the lead on the recruitment of Izundu, a former Charlotte signee.

Scouting service 247Sports ranks the 6-foot-10, 210-pound Izundu the No. 70 player in the 2015 class and the No. 18 power forward.

Emptying the notebook on Tennessee’s two new commits


What a day. Tennessee basketball doubled the size of its 2015 signing class Tuesday, thanks to the commitments of point guard Lamonte’ Turner and power forward Ray Kasongo. I crammed as much as I could into tomorrow’s News Sentinel story, but here is some more info that either didn’t make the cut or had to be trimmed down.

  • Don’t forget the proper punctuation on the end of Lamonte’. You’ll see it as “Lamonte” online (and in the previous stories I’ve written about him), but he says that’s incorrect.
  • Lamonte’ Turner said he is a cousin of Ralston Turner. Remember Ralston? He’s the former NC State guard who hung 33 points on the Vols during the Wolfpack’s win in Raleigh last season. “He actually text me today after I committed,” Lamonte’ Turner said. “He said ‘Congratualtions, man. Ask your teammates. I killed them.'”
    He really did.
  • There was some confusion surrounding Turner’s commitment. Reports that he would commit to Alabama conflicted with reports that he did not have an official offer from the Crimson Tide. A well-placed Alabama source told Cecil Hurt of he Tuscaloosa News that committing to Alabama wasn’t even an option for Turner. Cecil is nails on the Alabama beat and I don’t doubt his reporting. But Turner refuted the notion that he didn’t have an Alabama offer.
    “I do have an Alabama offer,” he said. “I’m guessing they were saying that because they felt they weren’t going to get me.”
    Who knows what really happened there. Add some more fuel to the Tennessee-Alabama rivalry.
  • The commitment of Turner could help the re-recruitment of Romello White. White, a four-star power forward in the 2016 class, de-committed from the Vols after the Donnie Tyndall-to- Rick Barnes coaching change. Turner said he’s trying to get his teammate at IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) back on board.
    “I really think it’s a possibility,” Turner said, “With some work we can get him.”

kasongo jump


  • Kasongo, who averaged six points and 4.9 rebounds at College of Southern Idaho last season, considers himself a stretch four. He says he can shoot the three despite missing the one attempt he took last season.
    “I didn’t display it as much,” he admitted. “I’m a really good shot blocker. I like to beat guys off the dribble. I have a really good post game. I’m a physical player. I run up and down the court.”
    I’ll wait to see the 3-point prowess, but I’ll buy the shot-blocking. He averaged. 2.2 blocks last season.
  • Jerry Meyer, director of basketball scouting with 247Sports, weighed in on both additions. He said both are good gets for UT, based on the remaining options.
    “He’s a quick player, very good in open space,” Meyer said of Turner. “Where he needs to get better is building strength and becoming stronger with the ball. He’s loose, wiry and good in space. He has a game built around quickness.”
    Meyer said Kasongo is an athletic big man who, thanks to having a junior-college season under his belt, will be able to offer immediate help in the post.
    “His athleticism is the main thing,” Meyer said. “He’s strong. He can defend the five man. I would assume he’s going to spend a lot of time battling inside, defending the big men Tennessee plays against. His defense and athleticism is ahead of his offense. Day one, you are going to get a guy who is physical enough. He’s ready to play and not scared. He’s going to defend and battle on the boards. Whatever you get offensively is icing on the cake.”
  • Barnes and his staff can’t comment on the commitments until they are signed and through compliance, but the Tennessee basketball Twitter account gave a nod to the two-commitment day tonight.

Recruiting Update: Tennessee still searching for a point guard


Josh Richardson is training for the NBA draft. The player who will replace him as Tennessee’s point guard is still to-be-determined. Here’s an update on some of the options that have been linked to UT coach Rick Barnes and his staff.

  • UT assistant coach Desmond Oliver visited IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this week to meet with Lamonte Turner. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard plans to reclassify to the 2015 class, moving up his college enrollment by a year. Scouting service 247Sports ranked the three-star prospect as the No. 91 player in the 2016 class and the No. 17 point guard. Former UT coach Donnie Tyndall’s staff offered Turner a scholarship in June. He visited unofficially in October.

  • Villanova graduate transfer point guard Dylan Ennis has removed the Vols from consideration. He told ESPN he will pick between Baylor, Oregon and Illinois.
  • Southern Florida graduate transfer point guard Anthony Collins visited Baylor last week and started a visit to Texas A&M on Thursday, according to UT is reportedly on Collins’ list of potential landing spots. I’ve reached out to him about his recruitment, but have not heard back.

Canadian forward Kyle Alexander has offer, will visit Vols

kyle alexander

Add Kyle Alexander’s name to the list of prospects the Tennessee basketball team will host this weekend.

The 6-10 1/2, 200-pound Canadian power forward out of Orangeville Prep in Ontario confirmed he and his parents will board a flight Thursday for this weekend’s official visit with the Vols. He’ll come with a scholarship offer in hand. Alexander said UT offered him “about two weeks” before Vols coach Rick Barnes and associate head coach Rob Lanier visited him at his school on Monday. Lanier had scouted Alexander when he and Barnes were coaching at Texas.

“They told me they have had success bringing in other Canadians they found potential in,” Alexander said during a phone interview Wednesday. “They brought that potential out. My dad really respects that.”

I’ll have more on Alexander this week. Similar to Ebuka Izundu, another prospect Tennessee has arranged an official visit with, Alexander is a relative newcomer to the sport. Despite a father (Joseph Alexander) who played for Niagara and a sister (Kayla Alexander) who plays in the WNBA, he didn’t become serious about the sport until he was 16. Now he holds offers from Tennessee, Rice, Dayton, New Mexico, Auburn, Western Kentucky and Arkansas. Not bad for someone who isn’t ranked on American recruiting services.

Alexander said he has no timetable for when he would like to make a decision. His official visit to UT will be his third of five available. His first two went to St. Bonaventure and Rice.

Other expected UT visitors for the weekend include UNC Asheville transfer guard Andrew Rowsey and Southern Idaho junior college prospect Ray Kasongo. 2015 signee Shembari Phillips is also scheduled to be on campus. It’s a good time for visits, as the football team’s Orange and White game will take place at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. Izundu is expected to arrive Sunday to start his official visit.


Ebuka Izundu schedules official visit with Tennessee basketball


A sought-after unsigned power-forward in the 2015 class has scheduled an official visit with the Tennessee men’s basketball team.

Ebuka Izundu plans to arrive in Knoxville on Sunday and depart Tuesday, Victory Christian (Charlotte, N.C.) basketball coach Aureice McCain told the News Sentinel in a phone interview on Tuesday night.

McCain said the 6-foot-9, 210-pound Izundu has picked up about 20 scholarship offers since he received his release from his letter of intent at Charlotte. To illustrated his point, McCain said coaches from three well-known schools stopped by Victory Christian on Tuesday. Izundu is the No. 4 player in North Carolina and the No. 58 power forward in the 2015 class, according to 247 Sports. The scouting service ranks him as a four-star prospect. He’s a three-star in the 247Sports composite.

The coaching change at Charlotte that led to Izundu receiving his release might help the Vols. UT assistant coach Desmond Oliver, a Charlotte assistant under former 49ers coach Alan Major, was one of the first coaches to scout Izundu.

“Coach Oliver was the first coach to see him when a lot of coaches wouldn’t return my phone calls and emails,” McCain said.

But McCain stressed Izundu’s recruitment is wide open, pointing out that those who jumped to conclusions based on Oliver’s Charlotte connection are reaching too far. He also made it clear Izundu has not received an offer from Kentucky, despite chatter that the Wildcats are interested. McCain said the upcoming visit to Tennessee is the only one Izundu has scheduled right now.

I’ll have more on Izundu tomorrow. His story is interesting. He’s originally from Lagos, Nigeria and hasn’t been playing basketball all that long. But his upside has caught the attention of a ton of teams, and the Vols are going to get a shot to make a good impression.





Rick Barnes Rewind: 5 answers from Tennessee’s new hoops coach


Just when, exactly, did Tennessee become a potential landing spot for Barnes?

Barnes said during his introductory press conference Tuesday that he knew things were in motion toward him becoming a Vol when he told reporters in Austin last Sunday that he would coach again sooner than they thought. He flew to Knoxville with Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart the same day. But Tennessee was on his brain even before Barnes and Hart first spoke by phone about the job last Saturday, the day after Hart fired former Vols coach Donnie Tyndall. Barnes told WVLT that his friend Dave Odom mentioned Tennessee as a possibility “weeks before” he was hired. Odom, a former college basketball coach, now works as a senior consultant for Collegiate Sports Associates, the search firm Tennessee used to hire Barnes.

“A friend of mine, Dave Odom, had been talking to me weeks before, just because he wanted to know how I was doing and this and that,” Barnes told WVLT. “He actually at one point in time said, hey, maybe if something else is out there, maybe you should think about it. But when it did develop, and he and I had talked, and once the situation was revolved at Texas, a couple hours later — probably really about four hours later — I had my first conversation with Dave Hart. It moved very quickly from there.”

Will Barnes recruit any of his former Texas commitments or signees? 

Nope. Not according to Barnes’ interview with Sports Radio WNML. And he will honor the letters of signed by Tennessee’s two 2015 signees. The players already on the roster are already his, he said.

“They are my players,” Barnes told Sports Radio WNML. “Right now. They are my players. I am Tennessee. I’m the Tennessee basketball coach. Anyone that is in the Tennessee basketball program, whether we recruited them or not, they are our players. Andd I’m going to treat them the way I would expect my son to be treated if he was in this situation. They are my players. I’m going to make the right decisions and do everything I can. Whatever is going to happen over the next couple of weeks, I don’t know that. But I’m going to be upfront, honest and there is no hidden agenda here.”

If no one transfers and 2015 signees Admiral Schofield and Shembari Phillips stick with UT, Barnes will have two scholarships available. He said he will be “open to whatever we think is available and what we think can help us” when asked if he will target junior college prospects or graduate transfers to fill the holes. He added he won’t use scholarships just to use them.

What’s the secret to coaching basketball at a football school?

“Well, I also coached at Providence College, who didn’t have football,” Barnes said during his introductory press conference at Pratt Pavilion. “And I can promise you, you want football. There’s nothing like a weekend when you’re allowed to bring your fans and you see kids that are growing up with a tradition … There are somethings you can never ever fake. That’s loyalty. Fan support. And I do know this, there’s none better than the University of Tennessee. When you have a football game, forget before you even go into the stadium. Forget that. It’s everything around it. I’ve never understood where people talk about a football school because I’ve said to everyone, from the time I’ve had to deal with that question, that I don’t know any university in the country who has a bigger basketball arena than their football stadium. I don’t. I understand the importance of football. What we want to do, we want to build on that enthusiasm. I wast to build on what Butch is doing. With him last night, it was impressive. You could feel, again, how grateful he is that he’s here … Football is a major asset to helping us build the basketball program. It’s a major asset to every sport on this campus. I promise you. It’s a sport we all pull for. Its a sport that drives. It’s never ever bothered me. You’ve gotta have it.”

Why, at age 60, was he interested in jumping right back into another job?

“Well, one, I’m a young man,” Barnes said at the press conference. “This is an incredible opportunity. And I will say this. It had to be what it was. It had to be … I mean, I had friends say to me you might want to step back and not be so quick to decide. This was before anybody even knew what was going on. There was never hesitancy on my part once I had made contact and Tennessee, and we started talking. One, I love to coaching. I love working with young people. I’ve been so blessed with players. Players have taught me. I can go down the line to my very first team as a head coach at George Mason. The relationship you develop with those players, the wins and losses, yeah, they’re there, but they could fade away. Those relationships you develop never fade away. And not just with players, but the people you meet along the way. And that’s something I’m not ready to give up. I am driven. I have had one goal in my life and that would be a chance to play in a national championship. This is a university that provides you with everything you need to do that. And I realize how hard that is to do. But it’s something you have to, again, that’s the standard we set. When Dave and I got to talking, there was no doubt from my view that I wanted to be here.”

What did Barnes tell his new Tennessee players?

“We are all fortunate, blessed to have this opportunity,” Barnes said during his press conference. “Where they are sitting right now (the players were to his right) … There are thousands of young men that would like to have this opportunity. I would say the same thing for myself. There are thousands of other coaches that would like to be standing here. So, one thing we won’t do is ever, ever take for granted or have a sense of entitlement .. Believe me, we know the league we play in and we understand the climate of college basketball. Everybody wants it. We’ve been given this opportunity. Now, we have to make the most of it. What we have to do is hold each other accountable. We’ve got to coach each other. We want to have every component that goes into being a great team. And it starts with trust. It starts with loyalty. It starts with the fact we know that all we have to do is look around us every single day. There is greatness. There is greatness. There are examples everywhere. The standard has been set. That’s not a hard thing to figure out. The standard has been set, and it’s a standard we have to work and fight for every day to live up to.”