The Vols still have one scholarship available in their 2018 recruiting class after Richmond grad transfer guard Khwan Fore announced he would be joining Tennessee’s roster for his final year of eligibility for this upcoming season. The Vols could opt to keep that scholarship for their 2019 class, or they could try and snag a recruit in the 2018 class to come and play immediately for this next season.
And now it looks like one of the Vols’ top 2019 targets could end up reclassifying and be a part of the 2018 class instead.
D.J. Burns, a four-star center out of Rock Hill, South Carolina, has been one of Tennessee’s top targets in the 2019 class. And according to Chris Richards, Burns’ AAU coach at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, Burns is looking to reclassify to the 2018 class.
Richards spoke with The State in South Carolina and said Burns’ move to the 2018 class is “a possibility.”
“I think that’s something that he and his family are still talking about,” Richards stated. “I know there’s a couple things he’s got to do to absolutely make it (into the 2018 class) 100 percent. But I think it might be a possibility.”
Burns has been a standout in high school thus far. He’s amassed 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds in high school, and he currently holds almost two dozen scholarship offers. He’s rated as the No. 79 overall player and No. 18 center in the 2019 class according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
The 6-foot-9, 248 pound center has been pursued heavily by both Tennessee and South Carolina over the last few months, and the Gamecocks and Vols are likely the top two in his recruitment right now. And both would take his services for the upcoming season without hesitation.
But is Burns ready to play as a true freshman? Richards thinks he definitely could.
“Skill-wise, I think he’s absolutely ready,” Richards said. “I think offensively, he’s absolutely ready. Of course, he needs to do some work on his body and really get his body in shape so he can defend a little better and rebound a little better against the next level.
“But skill-wise, I absolutely think he’s ready.”
What is it that separates Burns from other players at his position in both high school and college? Richards believes it’s Burns’ old school approach to his play.
“D.J. has a different type of skill set, different type of footwork than most post players have now,” Richards added. “But the advantage that that gives is when you need an easy bucket close to the basket, you have someone you can throw it into the post to, and he can create a shot or maybe a foul situation. You can control the flow of the game a little bit.”
It’s not just Burns’ post moves and presence that makes him stand out, though. Richards thinks Burns is somewhat of a total package.
“The thing about D.J. is he passes so well,” Richards explained. “I don’t necessarily consider him a back-to-the-basket player. He’s as good facing up as he is with his back to the basket. The difference is he’s not a stretch-four or a stretch post player. He’s a guy who’s looking to get it to the basket.
“If he needs to hit a jump shot, he can. But he’s really best with the ball in his hands and really creating for other people.”
Burns’ highlight film backs up what Richards says about his post game. His film shows off his extensive offensive game. The latest film available is of his sophomore year during the 2016-17 season, but even then it was apparent that he has high level offensive talent. He doesn’t just use his size to bully his way to the basket; Burns knows several post moves and even has a solid jump shot. He’s a force on defense as well, altering and blocking shots on several occasions.
Tennessee only has four scholarship players on their entire roster listed at 6-foot-8 or taller. The tallest of those, Kyle Alexander, also played the most last season. He started all but one of Tennessee’s 35 games this past season, and that was the Vols’ last game against Loyola in the NCAA Tournament. He missed that game due to injury. Alexander set career-highs in minutes per game (20.3), points per game (5.6), rebounds per game (5.6), blocks per game (1.7), field goal percentage (68.1 percent), and free throw percentage (71.2 percent) during his junior year last season.
But every other big man on Tennessee’s roster hardly played this last year.
John Fulkerson (6-foot-9) played only 9.3 minutes per game, Derrick Walker (6-foot-8) played just 8.8 minutes per contest, and Zach Kent (6-foot-10) only appeared in two contests to start the year before redshirting.
Expect the Vols to continue to pursue Burns very strongly regardless of what class he ends up in. Tennessee is looking to add at least one big forward for the future, and Burns is one of their top options.