Barnes Discusses Possibility of Beckwith & Wideman Playing Basketball

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    Tennessee football made two additions to its program on Wednesday afternoon.

    In a successful National Signing Day for the Vols, four-star athlete Dee Beckwith and four-star wide receiver Malachi Wideman chose to don the orange and white. Beckwith picked Tennessee over Florida, while Wideman flipped from Florida State, picking UT over Ole Miss and Oregon along with the Seminoles.

    Beckwith and Wideman aren’t your typical football signees, however. Both are tremendous basketball players with multiple scholarship offers from college basketball programs, which raises the question: Will they also play basketball while at Tennessee?

    “We’re all excited that they chose to be Tennessee Volunteers,” Tennessee head basketball coach Rick Barnes said on Thursday afternoon. “They have signed a football scholarship, and that will be their first priority.

    “With that said, I think we’ve become pretty good at adding guys in the middle of the year. So we know how to deal with that. But their first look, they know it’s football.”

    Beckwith ranks as the No. 392 overall football player in the country according to 247Sports’ 2020 composite rankings. The Florence, Alabama native is listed as an athlete, but he will begin his Tennessee career at wide receiver. Beckwith held basketball offers from Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina, UAB, and Samford among others.

    Wideman is ranked as both a top-200 football and basketball prospect on 247Sports. He ranks as the 116th-best football player and the 163rd-best basketball player. Wideman is ranked as the No. 22 overall wide receiver, and the No. 32 overall shooting guard.

    “I think our (football) program is on its way, where I do think that we’ll be playing in bowl games later (in the year),” Barnes said. “The fact is, we like both of them. I’m just excited they’re here.

    “As they get here, they get settled in, it will be their call. Jeremy (Pruitt) and I have talked about it, and we both know it will be their call, what they think once they go through it, live it and see if they can do it.”

    If Beckwith and Wideman were to play both sports, it won’t be the first times Barnes has coached a two-sport athlete before. At Clemson during his first season as coach, he coached Patrick Sapp, who was a quarterback for the Tigers before moving to linebacker. Barnes recruited two-sport athletes at Texas as well

    “Both of these guys play basketball, and we’re going to give them the opportunity to do that here,” Tennessee head football Jeremy Pruitt said on Wednesday. “That was something in the recruiting process that was important to both of these young men.”

    In fact, when Wideman specifically came on his official visit to UT’s campus, Pruitt arranged a meeting between the talented athlete and Rick Barnes.

    “When (Wideman) came on his official visit, we got him over there with Rick (Barnes) and his staff, and we do that with a lot of sports,” Pruitt explained. “When you recruit guys that are doing multiple sports, you have to do that.

    “They are on football scholarships, so it starts there, but you lay out a plan that you feel like they can have success. Whether it’s on the football field, the track or the baseball diamond, or the basketball court, but at the same time being able to handle being a student at the same time.”

    As a basketball player, Wideman averaged 15.3 points and 6.7 rebounds as a junior in high school. In the 2019 Nike Elite Youth Basketball League and the Peach Invitational, Wideman averaged 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.6 steals a game in 19.4 minutes a game in 13 games according to In a recent victory over the Lemon Bay Manta Rays, Wideman totaled 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three blocks, and three steals. Wideman also won the City of Palms Classic dunk contest in December.

    Ben McKee
    Ben McKee is a graduate from the University of Tennessee and has a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media. He grew up an Army brat and lived in Alabama for a bit, but he bleeds orange. He covers Tennessee football, basketball, baseball, and the Lady Vols for RTI, and he's also a co-host on the RTI Live Show and RTI Podcast. You can also hear Ben on the morning sports radio show "The Swain Event." He's the producer and co-host along with former Vol wide receiver Jayson Swain.