With Antonio Barton (who transferred in from Memphis) and Jordan McRae out of eligibility after the 2013-14 season, the Tennessee Volunteers had room for more talent on the perimeter.
The key word in that statement is “had,” because on Thursday 2014 point guard Larry Austin Jr. became the third verbal commitment in that class for head coach Cuonzo Martin. Austin, who attends Lanphier High in Springfield, Ill., joins shooting guard Jordan Cornish and power forward Phil Cofer in Tennessee’s 2014 recruiting class.
A 6-1 point guard who played this spring/summer with the St. Louis Eagles (alongside Texas commit Jordan Barnett), Austin is regarded as one of the top defensive point guards in his class. Tennessee, which will look to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011, beat out Illinois and Kansas State (Austin held offers from other high-major schools as well) for Austin’s pledge.
According to [Lanphier head coach Blake] Turner, Tennessee has been recruiting Austin “for quite some time.” Assistant coach Jon Harris began the recruitment, while Martin, who hails from East St. Louis, became heavily involved recently, helping close the door.
“Coach Martin has been a very strong recruiter as a head coach,” Turner said. “Out of all the schools that recruited Larry, I can honestly say that he’s been one of the top head coaches. It carries a little more weight when the head coach calls.”
In 2014 Austin and Cornish will join a backcourt that will have just two upperclassmen, Armani Moore (2.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg) and Quinton Chievous (2.5, 2.4). Tennessee adds two talented freshmen to the mix this season in shooting guard Robert Hubbs and point guard Darius Thompson, with even more likely being required of those two when Barton and McRae graduate.
The one question for Tennessee down the road is what they do in the front court. Jeronne Maymon, healthy after missing all of last season due to a knee injury, is a redshirt senior and there’s also the question of whether or not Jarnell Stokes would once again put off turning pro after deciding to return to Knoxville for his junior campaign.
The Vols have the highly-regarded Cofer coming in, but there isn’t a great amount of depth in the paint when looking past the 2013-14 campaign. With one scholarship left to be filled, chances are that Tennessee isn’t done on the recruiting trail for that very reason.
But with the three verbal commitments they already have, there’s no doubt that Tennessee is in a good position moving forward.
image from 247Sports.com