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Notes from the Rocky Top Tip-Off

Photo credit: Anne Newman/RTI

Rick Barnes’ new-look Tennessee men’s basketball team hits the court in Thompson-Boling Arena for its first regular season game on Nov. 7 when the Vols will take on UNC Asheville. But on the eve of the Volunteers’ football team taking the field against No. 3 Georgia, the Baller Vols hit the court in front of a nice Thompson-Boling crowd as part of the Rocky Top Tip-Off.

The event consisted of an autograph signing with both the Lady Vols and the men’s team before both basketball teams held an individual scrimmage.

Kellie Harper’s first-year Lady Vols team took the court first. Harper rotated five girls in-and-out hockey style as they scrimmaged against student managers. The first five Lady Vols on the floor for Harper consisted of Jazmine Massengill, Zaay Green, Rennia Davis, Jaiden McCoy, and Kasiyahna Kushkituah. Harper’s first five substitutes were Jessie Rennie, Jordan Horston, Rae Burrell, Kamara Harris, and Tamari Key. Freshman Emily Saunders rotated in as well.

Senior forward Lou Brown, who missed all of last season due to a torn ACL, did not participate as she continues to work back from the injury.

There wasn’t much to take away in this setting, but here are a couple of tidbits from the Lady Vols 10-minute scrimmage in front of the fans.

  • It took the offense a couple of minutes to get going and get the ball through the net. Davis scored the first points of the scrimmage. Ultimately the score ended up being 28-13 in the Lady Vols’ favor.
  • Harper was fiery. It was a simple scrimmage for the fans, but the Lady Vols new head coach was treating it as if it were an NCAA Tournament game.
  • Massengill had a nice block from behind in the paint.
  • Massengill also made a really nice pass in transition to Green for an easy bucket.
  • Burrell had two really nice drives to the basket that resulted in points.
  • The Lady Vols even trotted out the full court press. It worked a couple of times, but Harper was also frustrated at times with how slowly her younger players set up the press.
  • Horston, the highly-touted freshman, impressed with her length and athleticism. She got to the rim with ease and created chaos on defense, but you could still tell she’s a freshman. Horston had a really nice floater in the paint.

The Lady Vols’ first regular season game will be against East Tennessee State in Johnson City on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. ET. Their first home game will be against Central Arkansas on Nov. 7 after hosting Carson-Newman on Oct. 29 in their lone exhibition game.

As for the men’s team, rather than scrimmage a couple of student managers, they scrimmaged each other.

The orange team consisted of Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden, Jalen Johnson, Yves Pons, and John Fulkerson. The white team was made up of Brad Woodson, Victor Bailey Jr., Drew Pember, Olivier Nkamhoua, and Uros Plavsic. Zach Kent, Brock Jancek, and Jacob Fleschman worked in with the white team.

Freshman Josiah-Jordan James did not participate as he deals with a hip injury. Fellow freshman Davonte Gaines, who is dealing with a thumb injury, was held out as well. Neither injuries are considered series.

The three most important attendees for the Tennessee basketball program at the Rocky Top Tip-off were five-star shooting guard Jaden Springer, five-star shooting guard Keon Johnson, and four-star small forward Corey Walker Jr. in the 2020 class. Johnson and Walker are already committed to the Vols, while Springer is in Knoxville for the final official visit he will take.

As far as the scrimmage, here are a couple notes from the 20 minutes the Vols were on the court.

  • Nkamhoua was very impressive. On multiple occasions, he was able to get to the basket with ease,  which resulted in easy baskets. The freshman is athletic, long, and should factor heavily into the rotation this season.
  • ‘Aggressive Jordan Bowden’ was in attendance, which is great news for the Vols, because they’ll go as far as Bowden and Turner will take them. On multiple occasions, Bowden curled at the top of the key and drained baskets with ease. He was also aggressive in getting to the basket for easy layups.
  • Turner didn’t drain a ton of shots from distance, but he did a nice job of getting to the rim and creating for his teammates. He also had a steal. It’s pretty evident that he’s the alpha male of the team.
  • Pons was all over the place. Defensively, he was active, and on the offensive end, he was very involved. Pons had a couple of nice looks inside the paint and showed great touch. More importantly, he was 2-for-4 from the 3-point line.
  • Johnson and Fleschman also made 3’s, while Fulkerson was active on both ends of the floor.
  • Plavsic is going to be a good one for the Vols. The Arizona State transfer, who is still waiting to hear whether he’ll be immediately eligible this season, is very athletic for someone who stands 7-feet tall. Plavsic shows great touch around the rim, and his length presents problems on the defensive end. He’s also very vocal.

Tennessee will hold an exhibition against Eastern New Mexico on Oct. 30 before officially beginning the season at home against UNC Asheville on Nov. 5.

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