Less than a month ago, Tennessee men’s basketball head coach Rick Barnes extended an offer to elite four-star guard Jahmai Mashack in the 2021 recruiting cycle. It didn’t take long for Mashack to be intrigued by the Vols, and Tennessee returned that interest.
That relationship budded quickly, and it led to Mashack taking a virtual visit to Tennessee last week via a Zoom call.
The 6-foot-5, 190-pound guard at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California sat down with RTI to discuss his visit and where the Vols stand in his recruitment. According to Mashack, the virtual visit included talking with all of UT’s coaches and learning more about Tennessee’s basketball program.
And Mashack came away impressed.
“The virtual visit was awesome,” Mashack stated. “We went over everything about their program and culture. All the coaches were on the visit and my family too.”
During the visit, Mashack and Tennessee’s coaches discussed how he would fit in with the Vols if he chose UT and how Rick Barnes and his staff have had success developing players throughout their coaching tenures.
“Coach Barnes went over what they see for me there at Tennessee and how they’ve been successful with other players,” Mashack explained. “They also talked about how I would develop there and how much my game, mindset, and character fit their program.”
Mashack is currently rated as the No. 66 overall player and No. 14 shooting guard in the 2021 class according to 247Sports. Tennessee is one of the latest schools to offer him, but he’s also added offers from programs like Texas, Louisville, Oklahoma, and Arizona this year. Right now, Mashack is attempting to take virtual visits with Arkansas (who offered Mashack over the weekend), Oklahoma, and Cal in the near future as well.
So, where do the Vols stand among the teams pursuing the talented, defensive-minded guard?
“I definitely have Tennessee in my top category,” Mashack said. “Although it’s a long way from California, I do have family a couple of hours away. They have been awesome with laying out a complete plan for me.”
Despite being one of the newest teams to get involved in his recruitment, Mashack has been impressed by what Tennessee has told him and the plan they’ve constructed for him should he come to UT. Mashack is regarded as one of the best defenders in the 2021 class regardless of position, but Tennessee’s approach in his recruitment hasn’t been one-dimensional.
In fact, Barnes and his staff have done more than attempt to reach Mashack at just a basketball level during the last month.
“They are like a family, and our values definitely match up. Faith and family is huge for me,” Mashack said. “Also, from the very beginning they had a complete plan for how I will fit their system. They know I’ve had to play out of position a lot but knew a lot about my game and natural position. They did a ton of research on me and film breakdowns before even reaching out.
“I can tell they take their offers seriously. They aren’t just recruiting me just for my defense either.”
In a previous interview with RTI, Mashack stated that he isn’t taking any of the attention he’s getting from programs for granted because he knows what it’s like to be sitting on the sidelines and not be able to prove himself. Mashack missed the AAU circuit last summer after sustaining an injury, and his recruitment hit a standstill as he recovered.
But Mashack was able to play during his junior season at Etiwanda, and his play led to more and more interest after a strong start to his playing career prior to the injury.
Mashack wasn’t able to participate in the AAU circuit again this summer, but this time it wasn’t due to injury; the COVID-19 pandemic caused all travel ball over the summer to be canceled. But that hasn’t kept Mashack from keeping in shape and staying on top of his game, and he was just over in Las Vegas participating in a tournament that put him up against some highly-rated players across the country.
The current pandemic has altered a lot of plans for the 2021 recruiting cycle, including timeframes for commitments for a lot of recruits. Several high-profile prospects have already announced commitments to schools, more than usual by this point in a recruiting cycle.
As of right now, 15 of the top 35 prospects in the 247Sports Composite rankings have already committed to schools, and nearly half of the top-100 prospects in the composite rankings have announced commitments at this point. Mashack himself is ranked No. 98 in the composite.
Mashack says that seeing a lot of elite prospects go ahead and claim their spots has put a little pressure on him to make an announcement of his own sooner rather than later, but he’s also not going to move out of his comfort zone since he’s in a different spot than a lot of rising seniors right now.
“It does, but I’m going at my own pace. I don’t want to string it along just to be holding out,” Mashack said of any additional pressure to commit. “Since I missed my whole Junior summer, it put me a little behind as far as recruiting. So, I haven’t been going through this as long as some of the other top 100 guys. Then the pandemic hit, and I haven’t been able to take visits.
“Trying to decide on all of this over the phone and computer makes it really hard.”
Tennessee figures to be right in the thick of things for Mashack up till he feels it’s time to make a decision. The Vols are pursuing a number of elite prospects in the 2021 cycle, and Mashack is right up on UT’s board along with five-stars Kennedy Chandler, Paolo Banchero, and Jabari Smith among others.