Just hours after adding point guard Lamonte Turner to the 2015 class, Rick Barnes picked up the second commitment of his Tennessee tenure in the form of 6-10, 235 pound JUCO power forward Ray Kasongo. Rated as a consensus 3-star prospect, Kasongo emerged as one of the top JUCO prospects in the nation during the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas in March – he added offers from LSU, Kansas State, Seton Hall, UNLV, Ole Miss and Mississippi State during the tournament.
Kasongo was in town over the weekend for an official visit and clearly came away impressed with what Barnes and Tennessee had to offer. He originally planned to visit LSU in May before making his final decision, but instead chose to publicly commit to the Vols Tuesday afternoon.
Originally from Toronto, Canada, Kasongo initially signed with Oregon as a member of the 2014 recruiting class. He didn’t qualify academically and spent last season playing at Southern Idaho. In 34 games last season he averaged 15.7 minutes, six points, 4.9 rebounds and shot 59.2% from the field. His free throw stroke could use some work – Kasongo shot just 41.3% from the line (31-75).
Former Louisville forward Brandon Bender, who is heavily involved in AAU basketball in Kentucky, had a hand in Kasongo moving from Canada to Kentucky and has served as a mentor for Kasongo.
“If he winds up in the SEC, he’ll be most athletic guy in the conference right away,” Bender told NOLA.com. “He’s a world-class athlete. He has a 42-inch vertical but he’s also a physical player and can go get rebounds, block shots and finish around the rim.”
Kasongo, who has three years of eligibility remaining, immediately gives Tennessee some much needed post help. He’s likely to be the tallest and heaviest player on the roster for the Vols next season.
ESPN wrote this about Kasongo in their 2014 evaluation of him: “Ray is a big bodied post player who is a good athlete. He runs well for a big man. Offensively he is skilled in the post and displays an excellent jump hook. His face-up game is still developing and he can knock down mid range jumpers but needs time and space. He’s a good position rebounder in his area and a good positional defender. Ray is also a good on-ball shot blocker.”
Tennessee has not made the additions of Kasongo or Turner official, which indicates they probably haven’t officially signed at this point. The spring signing period ends May 20th. Kasongo and Turner join Shembari Phillips and Admiral Schofield in Tennessee’s 2015 class. As the roster currently stands, the Vols have one scholarship available.