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Vols Return, New Era of UT Hoops Begins

(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

Last week, Tennessee’s football team welcomed back players for summer workouts after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start of summer workouts. On Monday of this week, Tennessee’s men’s basketball team arrived on campus as well.

Tennessee posted photos and videos on Monday of players returning to campus to begin voluntary and small group workouts. All of Tennessee’s returning and new players are back with the exceptions of Uros Plavsic and Santiago Vescovi, two of UT’s international players. Plavsic is expected to arrive in Knoxville this week while Vescovi is still waiting in Uruguay while a flight plan is figured out.

Other than those two, Tennessee’s men’s basketball team is back. And a new era of Vol hoops looks set to begin.

Along with John Fulkerson, Josiah-Jordan James, Drew Pember, Davonte Gaines, and other returning players from last season, Tennessee welcomed in a group of newcomers on Monday as well. Five-star guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson, four-star forward Corey Walker Jr., and Sacred Heart grad transfer forward EJ Anosike all arrived to UT as well.

The four newest Vols welcome in what will be a new era of Tennessee basketball moving forward.

Springer and Johnson join Josiah-Jordan James as five-stars on Tennessee’s roster, and Walker will be the seventh player on the roster rated as a four-star or higher by at least one recruiting service prior to joining Tennessee. Plus, Anosike gives the Vols a big boost at a position of need down in the post.

Assuming Yves Pons withdraws his name from consideration for the 2020 NBA Draft, Tennessee will boast a star-studded and fairly experienced roster for the 2020-21 season.

Tennessee returns four of their five full-time starters from last season — assuming Pons returns — and Jalen Johnson is the only bench player who doesn’t come back from last year’s roster. All in all, Tennessee returns over two-thirds of their minutes played from last season all while welcoming in arguably the most talented signing class in program history in the modern recruiting era.

And this could just be the beginning.

The Vols have signed three five-stars over the last two recruiting cycles, and Rick Barnes and his staff look poised to sign another handful of five-stars in the 2021 class, too. Josiah-Jordan James, Jaden Springer, and Keon Johnson have helped the Vols grab national attention on the recruiting trail. Because of that — and UT’s success on the court — Tennessee looks to be entering a whole new era of men’s hoops.

Many analysts are already picking the Vols to finish right near the top of the SEC in the 2020-21 season, and it’s easy to see why. But UT still has to take it one step at a time, and that begins now.

Players went through COVID-19 screenings once they arrived on campus, as well as getting detailed physicals. Regular testing will also occur. Players will work out in small groups while still following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks.

The season is still several months away from starting, but the nitty-gritty work that helps teams succeed on the court has now begun. And Tennessee is ushering in a new era of hoops in the process.

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