Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden are in the process of adjusting to life without Admiral Schofield, Jordan Bone, Kyle Alexander, and Grant Williams as their teammates.
For Turner and Bowden, no loss is bigger than that of Bone, who bolted for the NBA following his standout junior season. Bone’s departure adds weight to the shoulders of the senior duo. Turner and Bowden are better suited playing off the ball, but with Josiah-Jordan James developing a feel for college basketball, they’ve been called upon to handle the point guard duties — especially Turner.
“We’re counting on Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden to do a lot for us, and they’re turning the ball over way too much, and the shot selection is not what we want it to be,” Rick Barnes said following Tennessee’s season-opening win over UNC Asheville on Tuesday night. “It’s up to Jordan and Lamonte to realize that we have new pieces we have to put together and fit into what we’re doing, and it’s up to them to do that.”
Turner and Bowden combined for 45 points last Wednesday in UT’s exhibition win over Eastern New Mexico. On the flip side, they turned it over a combined 10 times.
Fast forward to Tennessee’s 78-63 win over UNC Asheville, and turnovers were once again an issue. Turner scored a team-high 17 points to go along with a team-high six assists, but he also had six turnovers and was 2-of-8 from the 3-point line.
“Lamonte (Turner) continues to take the lowest-percentage shots in basketball,” Barnes said. “You can’t shoot a three stepping on the line, and he asked me, ‘what do you want me to do,’ and I said, ‘pass the ball.’
“He did one time and “Ticket” (Davonte Gaines) scores. Lamonte has been as good a leader as we’ve had since we’ve been here, but he has to get settled in and realize that it’s up to him and Bowden to get these other guys included so that they will know and start feeling where they fit in. They can’t be sitting around watching those two play and turn the ball over because they’re trying to do too much.”
Bowden was also careless with the basketball against the Bulldogs. He was 5-of-10 for 10 points, but he turned it over four times. Those slip-ups contributed to 17 turnovers for the Vols, and that came just six days after they turned it over 18 times against Eastern New Mexico.
“I thought during the scrimmage (against Davidson) and the exhibition, we did have the jitters, and I just told everybody that if they would get lost in their teammates, that’d settle down,” Barnes said. “Just look at your teammates and say, ‘I’m going to take care of you,’ as opposed to thinking, ‘I have to go score.’ Last game, there was no doubt that everybody felt like they had to score, and you expect a little bit of that.”
Ultimately, Tennessee won the game by 15 points, and the Vols led for over 36 minutes of game time. John Fulkerson was a rebound away from a double-double, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds. Yves Pons chipped in a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and grabbed seven boards. Jalen Johnson also scored a career-high eight points on 2-of-4 shooting from the 3-point line, pulling down a career-high six rebounds in the process.
Freshman Josiah-Jordan James made his debut in orange, scoring two points in 24 minutes of action. James also had six rebounds, two assists, and a block. But like Turner and Bowden, he was a bit sloppy with the basketball, committing three turnovers.
James’ early season struggles shooting the basketball and turning the basketball over can be attributed to him missing almost all of training camp with a nagging hip injury. Due to missed time, James is working the kinks out as he becomes used to playing with the veterans.
Barnes is hoping and relying on Turner and Bowden to help James make the transition as quickly as possible.
“I love Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden,” Barnes said. “I love those guys. I have really, really high expectations for them. Do I think they are going to play perfect? I don’t. Do I expect them to do better than they have done to this point in taking care of the ball? Absolutely.”
“The chemistry on this team and in the locker room is as good as any we have had since we have been here, and it is because of those two guys.”