Tennessee needed a win on Saturday when they hosted No. 17 Kentucky. And they needed to make a big impression on one of the top players in the 2018 class.
And luckily for the Vols, it appears they were able to do both of those things this weekend.
The Vols mounted a comeback and were able to pull off a 76-65 victory over the Wildcats on Saturday all while hosting five-star combo guard Anfernee Simons. And the game, along with everything else on his visit, seemed to make a big impact on the No. 9 player in the country (according to the 247Sports Composite rankings).
“The Tennessee visit went well, and they told me I can be a difference-maker,” Simons said in an interview with Adam Zagoria on Monday.
Simons would be the highest-rated player Rick Barnes has ever recruited to Tennessee, and he would be the highest-rated player the Vols have landed in basketball since Tobias Harris if Tennessee is able to secure his commitment. Harris was the No. 6 player in the country in the 2010 class and had an immediate impact with the Vols as a true freshman, averaging 15.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 34 games.
Harris was good enough to bounce to the NBA after just one year with Tennessee. And Simons has that same potential.
“I can make a real big impact right away and get them to a higher level because they’re on the verge of becoming big-time,” Simons said of the Vols to Zagoria.
Right now, the Vols are No. 24 in the AP Poll and are firmly in the NCAA Tournament picture according to every major “bracketology” service out there. Tennessee will likely return the vast majority of their roster from this season to the 2018-19 season, and Simons would be yet another talented addition to what looks to be a very promising roster next season.
That is, if he chooses the Vols. Or even chooses to go to college at all.
Simons is 19 and is a year removed from his high school graduating class. That makes him eligible for the NBA Draft if he wants to go that route instead. Right now, the latest ESPN mock draft has him slated to be picked with the No. 19 overall pick.
But Simons says he would only go that route “if the opportunity is there,” and he plans on taking a few more visits to schools over the next month. Simons says he will have a decision made “probably in the spring” about which school he’ll attend or if he’ll take his chances in the NBA.