Santiago Vescovi didn’t learn he was going to start for the Vols in his first career game until Friday night in the film room.
Earlier that afternoon, Vescovi found out that he had been cleared by the NCAA to play immediately after arriving in Knoxville as an early enrollee last Saturday. Two days after arriving, on Monday, the point guard from Uruguay practiced for the first time.
Still, the four-star point guard signee was going to be looked upon to have an immediate impact
“I think it was a really good week,” Vescovi said following Tennessee’s loss to LSU on Saturday afternoon.”It was pretty tough trying to get back into what the team is, getting back into the rhythm of the basketball they play here. But it was fun spending time with the guys, with coaches. It was pretty tough training as well.”
In his first career start in his first career game, it didn’t take long for Vescovi to have an impact. Less than three minutes in, he drained a three to tie the game. The next trip back down the floor, he drained another triple to give the Vols an early 10-7 lead
“I just felt proud.” Vescovi said of his first made three. “The crowd helps us all the time. If you hit a three and the crowd cheers for you, you’re going to feel much better.”
With the crowd behind him, Vescovi went on to shoot 6-for-9 from the three-point line and totaled 18 points, tying Yves Pons for the team-high. He also had six rebounds and dished out four assists.
Vescovi was able to have success scoring the basketball and getting his teammates involved thanks to one of Tennessee’s student managers sending him film of the Vols’ offense
“I watched (video) before getting here, like many times,” Vescovi explained. “Just trying to know what we’re running. I think it really helped me once I got here. Running the offense. As I said, all the teammates were helping me and the coaches, trying to coach me on what to do.”
While Vescovi was able to put the ball in the basket, he struggled to take care of the basketball. He turned it over a game-high nine times, and that helped LSU score 19 points off of turnovers. Vescovi struggled on the defensive end as well, largely because he was tired at times.
“I know I need to get down those turnovers,” Vescovi said. “I don’t have a very good feeling about the game because it was a tough loss. I don’t really care about how I played. I just care about whether we won or we lost.
“I think the thing I struggled the most with was the athleticism of (LSU). I was expecting to have more athleticism and more long people, but not what happened tonight. I think that’s what I learned most.”
Vescovi’s next chance to cut down on his turnovers will be Tuesday night when the Vols travel to Missouri to take on the Tigers and former Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin. It’s not the first time he’ll have to learn on the fly, however, as he joined his team at the NBA Global Academy midway through the season last summer.
“I got to a whole new team, where I didn’t know anyone,” Vescovi said. “I know all that is happening to me right now, in college or what happened with me before in the NBA Academy, it’s going to help me grow.
“Every situation, I can learn something from it. It helps me in the future, when it gets to another situation similar, I know how to deal with it.”