Tennessee’s men’s basketball program signed a pair of five-star prospects in the 2020 recruiting cycle, and those two will join five-star Josiah-Jordan James on the Vols’ roster for the 2020-21 season. That gives Tennessee a trio of five-stars on the same team next season, and that is arguably the most naturally talented roster UT’s men’s hoops team has had in modern recruiting history.
But recruiting and coaching five-stars isn’t anything new to Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes.
While James was his first five-star at Tennessee in the 2019 class, Barnes signed and coached over a dozen five-stars during his time at Texas. Many of those high profile athletes went on to have strong careers with the Longhorns, and several have gone on to the NBA.
So what’s Barnes’ history like with five-stars? What should Vol fans expect from Tennessee’s incoming five-stars this season and from James in his second year? Let’s take a look at how five-stars have fared under Barnes previously in his coaching career.
Recruiting data goes back to the 2002 class when Rivals first began ranking players and classes. All players listed below were ranked as a five-star by either 247Sports or Rivals in their given recruiting cycle.
Brad Buckman – 4 seasons, 8.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 47.2% FG, 34.1% 3FG
2-time All-Big 12
The first five-star that Barnes coached in the modern recruiting era was Brad Buckman, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Austin, Texas. Buckman played for the Longhorns for four seasons and earned All-Big 12 honors twice. His best season was his junior year when he averaged 12.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 31 games. He appeared in 129 games and made 115 starts, and he stretched the floor by attempting 132 three-pointers and making 45 in his Longhorn career. He also totaled 168 blocks in his four seasons.
LaMarcus Aldridge – 2 seasons, 13.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.3 SPG, 58.6% FG
2006 All-Big 12, 2006 Big 12 DPOY
No. 2 overall pick 2006 draft
Barnes’ first major success with a five-star prospect came with LaMarcus Aldridge. The 6-foot-11 forward/center spent two seasons at Texas before declaring for the 2006 NBA Draft, where he was selected No. 2 overall. He was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore and was an All-Big 12 selection that season as well. He totaled 73 blocks in 37 games in the 2005-06 season while averaging 15 points and 9.2 rebounds. Aldridge is still in the NBA, playing his 14th overall season and his fifth with the San Antonio Spurs.
Daniel Gibson – 2 seasons, 13.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 41.1% FG, 38.7% 3FG
2-time All-Big 12, 2005 ROY
No. 42 overall pick 2006 draft
Along with LaMarcus Aldridge, Barnes also brought in Daniel Gibson in the 2004 class, and the five-star guard immediately splashed onto the scene. He was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and provided Texas with scoring, assists, and a strong presence out on the perimeter. He wasn’t a slouch on defense, either. Gibson was selected in the second round by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2006 NBA Draft, playing in the league for seven seasons.
Mike Williams – 2 seasons, 2.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 45.9% FG, (Cincinnati) 9.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 51.2% FG
The other five-star in the Longhorns’ 2004 class was Mike Williams. The 6-foot-7 forward never realized his potential at Texas, and he didn’t end his career with the Longhorns. He spent two seasons with Texas before using his final year of eligibility at Cincinnati in the 2008-09 season. Williams transferred to play with the Bearcats after two years in Texas, and he had more success in Cincinnati, averaging 9.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 29 games.
Calvin Miles – (went pro out of high school)
Barnes never got to coach Calvin Miles, better known as CJ Miles. He committed to Texas and stated that he would play for the Longhorns if he wasn’t taken in the first round of the 2005 NBA Draft. Miles ended up being selected No. 34 overall in the second round by the Utah Jazz, but instead of going to Texas, he elected to go pro out of high school. Miles is still hanging around the NBA now, last playing for the Washington Wizards this season. He’s appeared in 848 games with six different teams.
Kevin Durant – 25.8 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.9 SPG, 1.3 APG, 47.3% FG, 40.4% 3FG
Big 12 POY, consensus All-American, consensus College Player of the Year
No. 2 overall pick 2007 draft
Of course, Rick Barnes’ most well-known five-star in his coaching career is Kevin Durant. Durant was a star as soon as he took the court for Texas, earning consensus First Team All-American honors and was the consensus Player of the Year for the 2006-07 season. Durant was one of the greatest one-and-done players in modern history, and he was taken No. 2 overall in the 2007 draft by the Seattle Supersonics (later known as the Oklahoma City Thunder). He’s a two-time NBA Finals MVP and was the 2014 NBA MVP. He’s been voted to the NBA All-Star team 10 times in his career and was the Rookie of the Year in 2008. His No. 35 has been retired by Texas.
Damion James – 4 seasons, 13.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 47.9% FG, 36.4% 3FG
2nd Team All-American, 3-time All-Big 12
No. 24 overall pick 2010 draft
Thanks to Kevin Durant, five-star Damion James gets overshadowed when looking back at the Longhorns’ 2008 class. James didn’t make nearly the same impact as Durant, but he was a four-year starter who started 140 of the 142 games he played for Texas. He was a Second Team All-American in his senior season, which helped launch him into the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-7 forward nearly scored 2,000 points in his college career and made over 100 three-pointers in college. He also totaled 163 blocks and 900 rebounds. He bounced around the NBA for four seasons before finding traction overseas.
Avery Bradley – 11.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 43.2% FG, 37.5% 3FG
Big 12 All-Freshman
No. 19 overall pick 2010 draft
Avery Bradley was another strong one-and-done player for Rick Barnes at Texas. The combo guard enjoyed a successful freshman campaign with the Longhorns and was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman team. He declared for the 2010 NBA Draft and was taken with the 19th overall pick by the Boston Celtics. Bradley is still in the NBA and has started 493 of the 571 games he’s played, playing for five different teams.
Jordan Hamilton – 2 seasons, 14.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 43.0% FG, 37.7% 3FG
1st Team All-Big 12, consensus 2nd Team All-American
No. 26 overall pick 2011 draft
Another lengthy forward who had success under Barnes, Jordan Hamilton spent two seasons with Texas and was also a first-round draft pick. He was a key bench player as a freshman then started all 36 games he played as a sophomore, earning First Team All-Big 12 honors. He was taken with the 26th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and spent six seasons in the NBA — mostly in the D-League — before moving to the overseas game where he still plays today.
Cory Joseph – 10.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 42.2% FG, 41.3% 3FG
Big 12 All-Freshman
No. 29 overall pick 2011 draft
Barnes signed two five-stars out of Canada in the 2010 class, and both were one-and-done players. Cory Joseph had a solid freshman campaign with the Longhorns and went 29th overall to the San Antonio Spurs in 2011. The combo guard is still in the league and has had success as a key bench player for four different teams.
Tristan Thompson – 13.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.3 APG, 54.6% FG
Big 12 Freshman of the Year
No. 4 overall pick 2011 draft
Along with Durant and Aldridge, Tristan Thompson is one of Barnes’ most well-known five-star players at Texas. The 6-foot-9 Canadian forward was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in the 2010-11 season and was selected No. 4 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011 draft. He helped the Cavs win the 2016 NBA title and is still playing for Cleveland now.
Myck Kabongo – 2 seasons, 10.8 PPG, 5.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 40.0% FG, 31.1% 3FG
Big 12 All-Freshman
Five-star point guard Myck Kabongo is arguable Rick Barnes’ most controversial high profile recruit in his coaching career. Kabongo had a strong freshman campaign and was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman squad after averaging 9.6 points, 5.2 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in 34 games. But he came under investigation prior to his sophomore season after allegedly having inappropriate contact with an agent. Initially, Kabongo was suspended for the entire 2012-13 season, but that suspension was later reduced to 23 games, and he made his 2012-13 debut in February. He played 11 games and averaged 14.6 points, 5.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals a game. He declared for the 2013 NBA Draft but went undrafted. He spent some time in the D-League before going overseas.
Cameron Ridley – 4 seasons, 8.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 54.6% FG
When Cameron Ridley came to Texas, he was a five-star out of North Carolina who was a McDonald’s All-American. But he never quite reached expectations with the Longhorns. He played in 115 games in four seasons and appeared to be on the path to his best year as a Longhorn in his senior season before fracturing his foot and missing the remainder of the season after playing 13 games and averaging 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks. The 6-foot-9 forward was solid on defense and on the glass, totaling 220 blocks and 720 rebounds in his Texas career. He played for the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Summer League before playing in Japan for a couple seasons.
Myles Turner – 10.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 45.5% FG, 27.4% 3FG
Big 12 Freshman of the Year, 3rd Team All-Big 12
No. 11 overall pick 2015 draft
The last five-star Rick Barnes brought in and coached at Texas was a big one. Myles Turner was another highly-rated in-state prospect that signed with the Longhorns, and he didn’t disappoint in his one season in Austin. He was named the Big 12 Freshman of the year after totaling 89 blocks and averaging 10.1 points and 6.5 rebounds while only starting seven of the 31 games he played. He was selected No. 11 overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 2015 NBA Draft, and he’s continued to show off his defensive prowess, leading the entire league in blocks in the 2018-19 season with 2.7 per game. He’s in the midst of his fifth season with the Pacers and has averaged 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks a game in 335 NBA games.
Josiah-Jordan James – 7.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 37.0% FG, 36.7% 3FG
The first five-star who signed with Rick Barnes at Tennessee was Josiah-Jordan James. The combo guard from South Carolina had an up-and-down first year with the Vols thanks in large part to nagging injuries and hesitancy on offense. James suffered an injury in the offseason that kept him out of basically all of UT’s preseason practices, and he was rusty to begin the year. Just when it looked like he was finding his groove, his hip/groin injury flared back up, and he missed four games at the beginning of February. He finally started to play up to his potential again as the regular season wound down, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the season to a screeching halt before James could try and prove himself in the postseason. James was a stellar defender, however, and his defense alone was enough to keep him in the starting lineup when healthy. He’ll be returning for his sophomore year with the Vols next season.
You omitted Robert Hubbs. Hubbs elevated his game under Barnes.