Vols are Finalists for California Center in 2020 Class

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    (Photo via Bleacher Report Hoops)

    At the end of July, Tennessee extended a scholarship offer to Bradley Ezewiro in men’s basketball. Now nearly a month later, the Vols are among his list of finalists.

    Ezewiro, a 6-foot-8, 255-pound post player out of Torrance, California, tweeted out a graphic revealing his six finalists on Friday, and Tennessee was included along with LSU, USC, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Arizona State.

    According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Ezewiro is just the No. 219 overall prospect and No. 32 center in the 2020 class. But his play over the summer has led to a lot more hype around his recruitment.

    Ezewiro played second fiddle to five-star Ziaire Williams with the Oakland Soldiers during the first part of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit in the spring. Williams, who is rated as the No. 6 overall prospect in the 2020 class according to 247Sports, averaged 21.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in 27.4 minutes a game in 13 games in April and May for the Soldiers. But he didn’t play when the Soldiers took the court during the Peach Invitational in the EYBL in July.

    That’s when Ezewiro really shined.

    “I think I played pretty good. I played good in Atlanta in front of college coaches,” Ezewiro told me in an interview earlier this month. “I think what really set me apart was the Peach Invitational. Ziaire Williams couldn’t make it, so I took it upon myself to lead the team in scoring and lead the team in rebounds.

    “I think that’s what really showed coaches who I was and solidified my name in the EYBL.”

    In April and May, Ezewiro was averaging 8.6 points and 3.6 rebounds a game in 16.5 minutes a game in 13 contests according to D1Circuit.com. But in the five games of the Peach Invitational, Ezewiro’s minutes increased, and his production jumped as well.

    Ezewiro’s minutes rose to 24.6 a game in Williams’ absence in the five Peach Invitational games, and Ezewiro averaged 13.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.0 block per game in his increased role. He posted two double-doubles in that five game stretch.

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    That’s when the offers really started pouring in.

    From late June to the end of July, Ezewiro picked up eight Division I offers. Tennessee was one of the teams to offer him, as did TCU, Nevada, Virginia Tech, Oregon State, and LSU among others. Since Tennessee’s offer, he’s also added offers from USC and Arizona State, two of the other schools in his list of finalists.

    When Tennessee first offered Ezewiro, he was immediately intrigued because he liked how Rick Barnes and his staff use their post players. In fact, Ezewiro thinks the Vols are just a post player away from being a major contender in the next few years. Specifically, UT just needs him in order to reach that next level.

    “You know how they play out of their big men, like how they played out of Grant Williams last year and played out of Admiral Schofield?” Ezewiro said. “They played to a lot of their bigs, and since they already have Corey Walker (committed) there, they already have some really good wings, and they already got a really good freshman point guard in Josiah James, so if they get me as a big, we could really be, like, the best team in the NCAA by far.”

    Ezewiro said back in early August that his plan is to announce his college commitment in October. His commitment will likely be to one of the six schools in his list of finalists, and five of those six schools will get official visits from him this fall.

    The Vols currently have two players committed to them in their 2020 class. Five-star guard and No. 1 in-state prospect Keon Johnson and borderline five-star small forward Corey Walker are Tennessee’s two commits in this cycle.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.