Tennessee’s top current recruiting target had a big announcement to make on Sunday, and he’ll have an even bigger one later this week.
Four-star point guard Jalen Cone took to Twitter on Sunday afternoon to announce his decision to reclassify from the 2020 recruiting cycle into the 2019 cycle. That decision means he’ll be eligible to sign with a team in the coming months and can play immediately in the 2019-20 college basketball season. He also announced a top six that consisted of the Vols, Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Wake Forest, NC State, and Boston College. He will make his college announcement on Thursday at 3:45 Eastern.
— Game of Inches HS (@GameofInchesHS) May 5, 2019
Cone is a 5-foot-10 point guard who plays for Walkertown High School in Walkertown, North Carolina. He’s been on Tennessee’s radar for a while, and the Vols are making him a big priority here in the final stretch run of the 2019 cycle. Cone was supposed to take a visit to UT on May 10th and stay through Mother’s Day weekend, but with his announcement date being on May 9th, that visit either may not happen or could get pushed up to during the week.
According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Cone is the No. 81 overall player and No. 11 point guard in the 2020 class, though those rankings could change with his reclassification.
Cone’s decision to reclassify doesn’t come lightly, and Tennessee’s coaching staff was actually the first one to bring up the idea to him.
“Really, it all started after Tennessee offered that (reclassification to) 2019 and I put it out there,” Cone said in an interview with Patrick Ferlise of the Winston-Salem Journal. “Then, a lot of schools had a lot of guys who were leaving early and entering the (NBA Draft) or transferring, so there was a need for point guards.
“Then a lot of schools started knocking on my door.”
The athletic point guard visited Tennessee back in October, and he was supposed to make it in for the Vols’ match-up with Kentucky in Knoxville this season, but a deep playoff run for his high school team prevented him from making it in. The Vols officially offered Cone on March 30th, and Tennessee’s coaches have visited with him multiple times and kept in contact with him throughout the last month-plus.
Cone measures in just under 6-feet tall, but what he lacks in elite size, he more than makes up for with his play on the court.
The dynamic point guard is a scoring machine, and he has regularly topped the 30 and 40-point threshold as a sophomore and junior in high school. He has a very good pull-up jumper and has a nice, compact stroke on his shots that gives him a quick release. Cone has very good ball-handling skills and is very tough to guard thanks to that and his speed. He’s not just an offensive force, though; Cone has some pretty good defensive skills and awareness. He can also leap out of the gym. Cone can sky for blocks and can dunk the ball even at his smaller stature. He’s extremely athletic and has a very deep range on his three-point shooting as well.
Here are some highlights from a game this past season where he dropped 50 points on a team:
And here’s another look at his athleticism from his junior year:
In 27 games as a junior this season, Cone averaged 25.7 points and 6.6 assists per game while shooting 73 percent from the field according to MaxPreps. He also recorded a triple-double this season.
The Vols signed five-star guard Josiah James in their 2019 class, and he’ll join UT this upcoming season. James is more than capable of playing point guard and will get plenty of playing time there, but he’s versatile enough to play other positions as well. Tennessee also signed three-star power forward Drew Pember and three-star small forward Davonte Gaines in the fall signing period.
Currently, Tennessee has one open scholarship spot for Cone — or anyone else in the 2019 class or transfer market — on their roster. Forward Derrick Walker has entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal, and all signs point to him following through and transferring to another school. Point guard Jordan Bone and forward Grant Williams are both going through the NBA Draft process, and both seem likely to stay in the draft pool at this point. Their decisions will alter UT’s scholarship allotment for next season as well.
On the roster right now, the only player with experience as a point guard is rising senior Lamonte Turner. But Turner is more effective off the ball than as the primary ball handler, though he was plenty efficient at distributing this past season. Turner set career-highs in assists per game (3.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.50) during his junior season.
The spring signing period for the 2019 class began on April 17th and runs through May 15th. Cone can sign at any point over the summer, however, as long as he’s part of the signing class in time to enroll in classes in the fall. Last year, four-star power forward DJ Burns announced his decision to reclassify from the 2019 class to the 2018 class on May 6th then announced his decision to sign with the Vols on June 1st.