Victor Bailey Jr. got his first look at Tennessee during the 2019 Sweet 16.
The 6-foot-4 guard was walking onto the court with No. 12-seed Oregon for the nightcap against eventual national champion Virginia at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. The Vols were walking off the court after a heartbreaking loss to Purdue.
“I remember being at the Sweet 16 and watching Tennessee walk past us in the tunnel and seeing how big and strong those guys looked,” Bailey Jr. told reporters on Friday afternoon.
He eventually made the decision to transfer from Oregon to Tennessee after the 2018-19 season. The combo guard had to sit out the 2019-20 season, but he is expected to play a key role this year.
His eyes were opened when he saw Admiral Schofield, Grant Williams and co. in 2019. He was sold as soon as he got to Knoxville.
“To me it was the culture,” Bailey Jr. said. “The first day I got here and seeing how our guys were working every day, seeing how invested the coaches were in the players and the process. Sitting down with Garrett Medenwald and seeing how meticulous and serious he was in guys getting better. I was sold the first day I got here.”
Bailey Jr. had to watch from the bench last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He spent the time wisely, working to get better on and off the court.
“That year sitting out for me was good,” he said. “It was a struggle because it’s hard to watch my teammates play. I was able to sit down and watch tape and watch film of (Jordan) Bone and get to see Santi and those guys run the point and do it every day in practice. It helped a lot.”
Bailey Jr. played two seasons for Oregon. He averaged 6.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 16.6 minutes per game during his freshman campaign.
His sophomore year saw statistical improvement. He scored 7.4 points and pulled down 2.0 rebounds per game. Bailey Jr. played in 37 games, making eight starts. He ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in 3-point field goal percentage (.398).
“I have a couple of college games under my belt,” he said. “I know how it feels. I know there’s ups and downs and I know being one of the older guys I can help the younger guys out because they’re so talented. I think being one of the older guys is just going to help me a lot.”
Tennessee returns several key pieces in Yves Pons and John Fulkerson, among others. The Vols also bring in talented young players such as Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer.
“We have a saying here ‘iron sharpens iron,’” Bailey Jr. said. “So, guys are constantly trying to push each other to get better and at the end of the day that’s all we want to do. It’s easy to do that when you have guys that are so talented, because it forces you to be at your best every day.”
Bailey Jr. will play a key role in replacing veteran guards Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner. He is excited to continue competing with his teammates in practice and to get back on the court for game action in 2020.
“You either get better or you’re going to be watching and no one wants to be watching,” Bailey Jr. said. “Everybody is pushing everybody and everybody wants to get better, because that’s the culture and either you buy in or you won’t be a part of it.”