Tennessee Volunteers

Ex-NCAA scoring leader Daniel ready to return for new team

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee guard James Daniel III finally has the chance to deliver a follow-up performance to his 2015-16 NCAA scoring title, an opportunity that essentially eluded him last season.

After an ankle injury caused Daniel to play just two games last season at Howard, the 6-foot graduate transfer brings experience and offense to Tennessee’s backcourt.

“I wanted to go on the biggest stage for my last year and try to pursue my hopes and dreams since I’ve been a little kid, which was to get to the NBA,” Daniel said.

Daniel likely won’t be shooting or scoring as much as he did at Howard, where he averaged 27.1 points per game to lead all Division I players in 2015-16. He’s more interested in getting to the NCAA Tournament, something he hasn’t done and Tennessee hasn’t accomplished since 2014.

“At this point in my career I’m ready to win,” Daniel said. “That’s pretty much what I have to do. I feel like if we win, my personal goals will be met.”

Daniel believed that NCAA berth would come last season as Howard was favored to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Those plans quickly went awry.

Daniel was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain that caused him to miss the first 14 games of the season. After returning and playing just two games, Daniel learned he had a chipped bone in his ankle. With Daniel out for the rest of the season, Howard finished 10-24.

That injury allowed Daniel to redshirt the 2016-17 season, giving him one more year of eligibility. He decided to spend that season in a bigger conference and considered Michigan, Ohio State and DePaul before selecting Tennessee.

Daniel remembered watching Tennessee games when he was younger and appreciating prolific guard Chris Lofton, who starred for the Volunteers from 2004-08. When Daniel visited Tennessee, he bonded with the team and sensed a family atmosphere.

“They’re competitive,” Daniel said. “They all want to win. That was the most intriguing part.”

Although Daniel’s ankle leaves his status uncertain for Tennessee’s three exhibition games next month in France and Spain, he’s expected to be ready in plenty of time for the start of the season.

Tennessee is counting on the additions of Daniel and Vincennes University transfer Chris Darrington to solidify a backcourt that struggled with inexperience last year.

“With Chris Darrington and James Daniel, we felt like we could get guys who liked to score and were not afraid to go make plays,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “I think that’s going to help these younger guys because they were put in situations they’d never been put in before.”

Barnes cited the maturity Daniel brings as Tennessee’s lone senior. Daniel will turn 24 on Jan. 29, about a month after Tennessee begins Southeastern Conference play. Nobody else on Tennessee’s roster is older than 20, though juniors Kyle Alexander and Brad Woodson will have their 21st birthdays before the season starts.

“He’s older than all of us, so I think I can learn some things from him,” Darrington said.

Daniel’s teammates will learn plenty about his knack for drawing fouls. Not only did Daniel lead all Division I players in scoring during that 2015-16 season, he also topped the nation in free-throw attempts with 331.

They’ll also learn about his work ethic. Daniel’s father, James Daniel Jr., remembers how his son used to take about 200 jump shots every morning before his classes started at Phoebus High School in Hampton, Virginia.

“He’s just been a workaholic,” James Daniel Jr. said. “Well, we’d call it a workaholic, but he’d probably say it was something that he loved doing.”

All that practice helped Daniel overcome his lack of height at Howard to become an NCAA scoring leader. Now he’s ready to compete at a higher level.

He got an idea of what to expect from Quinton Chievous, who made the move in reverse by leading MEAC program Hampton to the NCAA Tournament after starting out at Tennessee. Daniel said Chievous told him he “should do really well here.”

Daniel agrees.

“I don’t think they would have brought me here if they didn’t think I could compete at this level,” Daniel said.

No. 13 Kentucky dismantles Tennessee

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Before the ball went through the basket, more often than not, it swung around, quickly, decisively and effectively.

Kentucky moved the ball deftly and decimated Tennessee completely, 83-58, on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.

The Wildcats were dominant from the outset, using their ball movement to completely slice up the Volunteer defense en route to quality look after quality look. Kentucky has owned a dynamic offense all season, but ball movement hasn’t always been a hallmark of what has made it hum. Against Tennessee, it was often a thing of beauty.

Not only was the passing aesthetically, but it was devastatingly effective in covering up the well-known weakness of Kentucky’s offense: Its 3-point shooting.

The Wildcats  went 11 of 25 from distance for a mark of 44 percent, nine points higher than their season average. Thirty-six percent of their shots came from long range, which is a tick higher than typical for them.

Not only did Kentucky’s passing allow the Wildcats to get good looks at the arc, it created those looks for the players that need them most. Their two most proficient 3-point shooters, Malik Monk and Derek Willis, both hoisted seven 3s and made four apiece.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Kentucky’s ability to generate looks off the pass in the halfcourt is that the Wildcats were able to do it in different ways. De’Aron Fox collapsed the defense and kicked it out. Bam Adebayo diagnosed double-teams and found the open man. In both cases, the ball didn’t immediately go up, but instead zipped around around to keep the Tennessee defense scrambling until it broke down completely.

The level of concern in Lexington never reached serious heights, but after losing three of four games – starting with a loss to the Volunteers and finishing with a 22-point loss to Florida – things certainly were a little uneasy. Kentucky, though, has followed it up with three-straight victories, and this one against Tennessee was the most definitive one yet.

Not only did Kentucky dice up the Vols’ defense, they were able to bottle up Tennessee’s offense. The Vols shot 34.6 percent overall and 18.8 percent from 3-point range. They had seven assists on 18 made field goals and had 13 turnovers. The only thing that kept the offense afloat was the 19 of 24 mark from the free-throw line.

With Kentucky finding its footing and Florida still surging, having won seven-straight, it’s all setting up for there to be a battle for the SEC in Lexington on Feb. 25, when the Gators visit Rupp Arena.

The SEC at large may be taking some lumps for its play, but the race at the top of the league is as intriguing as any in the country with that game having the potential to be a blockbuster should both teams be able to get there without another loss.

Tennessee won’t have Hubbs for game with No. 18 Butler

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee guard Robert Hubbs won’t play Saturday at No. 18 Butler as he recovers from arthroscopic surgery to his right knee.

School officials had indicated Hubbs was doubtful for the Butler game after he underwent the procedure on Dec. 1. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes updated Hubbs’ situation Thursday by saying the 6-foot-4 junior “is making good progress, but he’s not going to be ready for this one.”

Barnes didn’t know when Hubbs might return to action. Hubbs is averaging 15.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for Tennessee (4-3).

The trip to Butler (7-1) ends a 13-day break from games for Tennessee, which represents the program’s longest layoff during a season since December 1967.

Tennessee counting on Barnes to provide stability

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Change remains the only constant at Tennessee.

Tennessee is on its third coach in as many seasons after NCAA issues caused the Volunteers to fire Donnie Tyndall after only one year. Replacing Tyndall is Rick Barnes, who got dismissed at Texas despite leading the Longhorns to NCAA Tournament appearances in 16 of his 17 years on the job.

Barnes has earned NCAA bids 19 of the last 20 years overall and says that remains the goal at Tennessee, even though he’s facing a tough challenge in his debut season.

“I do think that we’ve got to give credit to the previous coaches because we walked into a (good) situation,” Barnes said. “I think we’ve got a group of guys that are going to compete. That’s something that you don’t take for granted. The one thing I do think is that they will compete. Our job now is to teach them to play the way we want them to play.”

Barnes inherits a roster that lacks size and ball handlers. The Vols must replace Josh Richardson, who earned first-team all-Southeastern Conference honors while leading Tennessee to a 16-16 record last year. SEC media have picked Tennessee to finish 12th in the 14-team conference.

The Vols are hoping Barnes can provide the stability that’s been missing from this program the last couple of years.

Last season, Tyndall hadn’t even coached a game at Tennessee when it was revealed that the NCAA was investigating his tenure at Southern Mississippi. Tyndall was fired because Tennessee correctly determined the NCAA would say he’d committed major violations at Southern Mississippi

While many Vols insisted Tyndall’s NCAA issues didn’t bother them during the season – senior forward Derek Reese said he’d actually forgotten about the Southern Mississippi investigation until Tennessee fired Tyndall in March – sophomore guard Detrick Mostella said it “most definitely” was a distraction.

“We didn’t try to let it get to us, but I know some of the players let it get to them,” Mostella said. “It was a big distraction for our team. … It feels much better (now) not having a distraction.”

Although Texas is investigating allegations of academic misconduct in its men’s basketball program, Texas officials have said the university “has no information that suggests” Barnes knew of or was involved in any academic improprieties.

Here are some other things to watch with Tennessee.

WHO’S THE POINT GUARD?: Tennessee doesn’t have a pure point guard available to play because the NCAA ruled freshman Lamonte Turner ineligible for this season. Seniors Kevin Punter and Armani Moore will get the first shots to play the point. Punter’s a natural shooting guard. Moore can play just about any position.

LACK OF SIZE: The Vols have only three players taller than 6-foot-5. Kyle Alexander is 6-9, Ray Kasongo is 6-8 and Reese is 6-7. Alexander’s a freshman. Kasongo, a sophomore, is a Division I newcomer. Tennessee’s lack of size could cause problems.

DIFFERENT DEFENSE: Tennessee’s coaching change has resulted in a switch in defensive strategies. Barnes primarily utilizes a man-to-man defense, while Tyndall favored a matchup zone.

POINTS FROM PUNTER: The Vols will need plenty of scoring from Punter, who averaged 10.3 points per game last season. Barnes has raved about Punter all season and has referred to him as a coach’s dream.

MOORE’S VERSATILITY: Moore has filled just about every possible role for Tennessee the last few years. He was recruited as a point guard but found a home last season as an undersized power forward. Now the Vols will need this stat-sheet stuffer to handle the ball more in his senior season.

GIF: Rick Barnes gives Detrick Mostella a ‘birthday treat’

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Monday was the 20th birthday of Tennessee sophomore guard Detrick Mostella, and it was also media day for the basketball team. Head coach Rick Barnes made sure to give Mostella a present of sorts: a pie to the face. Happy Birthday, Detrick.

The underrated aspect of this has to be the teammate who turned Mostella to his right, thus giving the head coach a clean shot. According to his bio Barnes’ birthday is July 17, and given what took place Monday he may want to have his head on a swivel when the time comes.

h/t GoVols247

Tennessee lands three-star wing Jalen Johnson

Associated Press
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Sunday evening Tennessee landed its second verbal commitment in the Class of 2016, as 6-foot-6 shooting guard/small forward Jalen Johnson announced that he’ll play his college basketball for Rick Barnes. Johnson, who also was considering Providence, joins guard Jordan Bone in Tennessee’s 2016 recruiting class to date.

“I am excited to announce that I have committed to play basketball at the University of Tennessee,” Johnson said via Twitter.

Johnson attends Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, North Carolina, and he played for the Team Wall grassroots program on the adidas Gauntlet circuit this summer. Among his teammates at Wesleyan Christian last season were five-star big man Harry Giles (who’s now at Oak Hill Academy) and four-star shooting guard (and Rutgers commit) Kwe Parker.

Johnson played well during the adidas Gauntlet Finale in Atlanta in mid-July, averaging 14.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Johnson plays a position where Tennessee needs bodies for the future. All four of Tennessee’s scholarship seniors play either the shooting guard or small forward position, which opens up the competition for minutes in 2016-17. Along with current freshman Jabari McGhee (redshirt freshman) and Admiral Schofield, Johnson will look to earn playing time as a freshman.