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Barnes: “Highly Unlikely” Santiago Vescovi Plays this Season

Four-star point guard Santiago Vescovi visited Tennessee’s campus Nov. 20, and two days later he committed to the Vols. Vescovi then signed with Tennessee as part of their 2020 recruiting class, joining the No. 4 class in the country according to 247Sports.

Vescovi took the SAT in early December in an effort to try and enroll at Tennessee during the upcoming spring semester. According to Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes on Friday afternoon, the plan was executed, and the Uruguay native will join the Vols on Dec. 28.

“He got everything in place academically,” Barnes said after UT’s practice on Friday. “We’re excited about him being here. But whether or not he plays this year, I would say it’s highly unlikely. But he will be here on the 28th.”

As the No. 74 overall player in the class according to 247, Vescovi has been playing basketball at the NBA Global Academy in Australia. In addition to Tennessee, the 6-foot-2 point guard held offers from Temple, Butler, Miami, Rutgers, and Washington State among other programs.

Tennessee redshirt senior point guard Lamonte Turner has struggled for much of this season due to a nagging shoulder injury. Despite the senior guard’s struggles, Barnes is erring on the side of caution with his soon-to-be freshman point guard.

“It’s hard enough to learn it when you’ve been around it a while,” Barnes said of Vescovi learning the Vols’ system. “He’s young. But he’s coming in, and we’re excited. Our team is excited, and we’re looking forward to him getting here.”

Assuming Vescovi doesn’t play this season, he’ll be one of three current Vols on the roster being held out for next season. Transfers Victor Bailey Jr. and Uros Plavsic are also sitting out this season due to transfer rules after transferring from Oregon and Arizona State, respectively. There’s still a chance Plavsic could play this season, however.

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Plavsic was ruled ineligible by the NCAA on Nov. 2 after Tennessee’s first appeal was denied. The Vols have since appealed a second time since the ruling, but they are still waiting on an answer.

And because the NCAA shuts down for two weeks this time of year, they won’t have an answer any time soon.

“We’re going to continue to fight because we think he (Plavsic) deserves a chance to play,” Barnes said. “From our point of view, we’ve dealt with it long enough.”

While Bailey Jr., Plavsic, and Vescovi not playing this season would be disappointing in the short-run, it’ll benefit Tennessee in the long-run.

“We’re excited about that because we lose two guards that have played for us for a long time,” Barnes said of next season. “The fact that those guys are in the program, knowing the system, it’s going to help the younger guys, the high schools guys coming in, with that transition.”

Vescovi was one of four players to sign with the Vols in the 2020 class, giving UT the No. 4 overall recruiting class in the cycle. Tennessee also signed five-star guard Jaden Springer (No. 17 overall), five-star guard Keon Johnson (No. 22 overall), and four-star forward Corey Walker Jr. (No. 37 overall).

No. 21 Tennessee (7-3) lost in its last outing, a 78-66 road contest against Cincinnati on Wednesday night. The Vols will be back in action against Jacksonville State (4-7) on Saturday afternoon in Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.

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