New has been a common theme for Tennessee freshman Shembari Phillips, who made an impressive Rocky Top League debut on Monday night at Knoxville Catholic High School, hitting several 3s, getting in the lane with ease and dishing some key assists on his way to a team-high 26 points.
He’s playing in a summer league that’s new to him in a new city for a new coach – one who is new enough that Phillips didn’t even sign with him when he inked with former coach Donnie Tyndall back in the early signing period in November. And after sticking with his commitment to the Vols through the coaching search, Phillips is also getting some work at a new position this summer – point guard.
“I played a little point tonight, got my guys open a little bit, got everybody the ball, got everybody touches and everybody made a play for themselves, and that’s all I want to do is make a play for my teammates,” Phillips said. “I played point guard over the summer for my AAU team, and I think I did a pretty good job.”
It’s some timely experience for Phillips and the Vols, which now find themselves with zero true returning point guards on the roster after the departures of Josh Richardson (graduation) and Braxton Bonds (transfer). Incoming freshman Lamonte Turner is the only point guard on the roster at this point, and even he was considered to be a bit of a combo guard coming out of high school.
So it won’t be surprising if Barnes continues to develop some other players, like Phillips, as alternative plans for depth at arguably the most important position on the court. Phillips, who is primarily a shooting guard/wing, admitted that there’s somewhat of a learning curve.
“I have to get better at ball handling, my court vision is getting a little better, getting my shot a little better – getting the technique down a little better,” he said. “I think I get my teammates the ball pretty well. I think one thing I do need to work on is maybe my shot selection at the point. The point’s main job is to get everybody involved, see the floor pretty well, and I think that’s something I can work on.”