Tennessee Basketball Practice Observations: October 14

    by -

    Photo by Ryan Schumpert/ RTI

    Tennessee basketball took to Thompson-Boling Arena Thursday for a preseason practice as the 2021-22 season begins in 26 days against UT-Martin.

    Media were able to view the Vols’ full practice Thursday. Here are observations from the preseason practice.

    Tennessee’s first group running the secondary break included Santiago Vescovi, Victor Bailey Jr, Josiah Jordan James, Olivier Nkamhoua and John Fulkerson. 

    Still, Tennessee ran a ton of different combinations of lineups throughout the practice. 

    I said in our initial practice report that Kennedy Chandler’s talent was apparent but that it was clear he had more growing to do in his understanding of what Rick Barnes wants from him. Some of those comfortability issues persisted Thursday, but Chandler seems to have made great strides in his understanding within the last two weeks.

    Chandler earned very few outbursts from Barnes and took care of the ball better Thursday. The five-star freshman’s talent was on full display too. Chandler earned some tough baskets at the rim and made three-pointers over big men who were switched onto him.

    I’m intrigued by freshman Quentin Diboundje. The 6-foot-6 France native is athletic with long arms and has a pretty good looking shooting stroke. The wing seems to struggle when he has to get shots away quickly but is strong when he has plenty of time to shoot.

    Diboundje doesn’t look like someone who’s going to see extended playing time early in the season, but his potential is very high. 

    Auburn transfer Justin Powell wasn’t hitting three-pointers at the insane percentage he was two weeks ago when we watched practice, but the 6-foot-6 guard still impressed with his shooting.

    Powell impressed me with the diversity of shots he made Thursday. Spot up, off the dribble and on the turnaround in the midrange, the transfer did a little bit of everything.

    Santiago Vescovi had a strong shooting day inside Thompson-Boling Arena. Vescovi and Victor Bailey Jr. are two of the known commodities on this team but their development will be integral to Tennessee’s success.

    Now for the big men, Olivier Nkamhoua is certainly in for a bigger role this season and he does look more comfortable out there. He knows what to do with the ball when he gets it and seems to be thinking less out there. The Finland native’s touch around the rim could still use some work but he’s playing with more physicality this fall.

    Still, Nkamhoua has been a good practice player for Tennessee the past two years. I need to see Nkamhoua have success in games consistently before I completely buy into him taking a big step forward.

    The more I watch Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, the more I like him. He has really good touch around the rim and in the midrange. The freshman still needs to be more consistent and stronger with the ball around the rim, but the former five-star will definitely earn significant playing time from the jump this season.

    If I had to pick now, Huntley-Hatfield is the player I think will improve the most from game one to the end of the season.

    Freshman big man Jonas Aidoo didn’t participate in Thursday’s practice due to illness, a Tennessee spokesperson told RTI.

    John Fulkerson spent time working on his conditioning with strength coach Garrett Medenwald on the side at Thursday’s practice. Fulkerson missed much of this summer due to shoulder surgery. 

    A SEC basketball rules official talked to the Tennessee team after practice.

    Tennessee will hold a practice open to the public on Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols will practice at noon ET and the Lady Vols will practice at 2:30 p.m. ET. 

    Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.