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Tracking Tennessee Basketball’s Roster Movement As Calendar Turns To June

The new era of college athletics is here and that includes radically changing rosters season-to-season. No sport greater represents the modern roster movement than college basketball where the 13-scholarship players leads to major turnover year-after-year.

A season after having seven newcomers, Tennessee basketball had six open scholarships this offseason. Even with nearly half the roster changing, Tennessee’s roster movement is nothing compared to a number of schools including Arkansas. The Razorbacks are poised to return just one scholarship player from their Elite Eight run this March.

Let’s take a look at Tennessee basketball’s offseason roster movement as the calendar turns to June.

Outgoing Player

John Fulkerson — Graduation: John Fulkerson’s collegiate career after six season in the orange-and-white where the Kingsport native played in more games than any other player in Tennessee history. The power forward transitioned to a new role in his final season of college basketball, coming off the bench to average 7.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

While Fulkerson leaves the Tennessee program, the Vols don’t gain a scholarship from his departure. As a super-senior, the NCAA allowed Tennessee — and every other team — the extra scholarship for its fifth and sixth year players. As Fulkerson leaves so does his scholarship.

Kennedy Chandler — NBA Draft: Chandler became the third one-and-done of the Rick Barnes era, declaring for the NBA Draft after his freshman season in Knoxville. The Memphis native drove Tennessee’s offense, averaging 13.9 points and 4.7 rebounds a game.

The SEC Tournament MVP is projected to be a late first round draft pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Brandon Huntley-Hatfield — Transfer Portal: The former five-star recruit seemed to turn a corner in the final weeks of his freshman season, starting the final xx games after Olivier Nkamhoua’s season ending injury.

However, the Clarksville native entered the transfer portal a few weeks after the end of the season before landing at Louisville.

Justin Powell — Transfer Portal: Powell was the last Tennessee player to enter the transfer portal  and is the only one that hasn’t yet found a home. The shooting guard was one of the biggest disappointments of the 2021-22 season, averaging 3.7 points in 14 minutes a game after transferring from Auburn.

Powell’s minutes waned as the year went on and the shooting guard won’t have immediate eligibility after transferring for the second straight year.

Victor Bailey Jr. — Transfer Portal: Bailey Jr. departs from Tennessee after three years and two eligible seasons in Knoxville. Bailey’s role decreased from his junior to senior season where he averaged 2.6 points in 9.6 minutes a game. Credit to Bailey, the senior adapted his game when his shot wasn’t falling in the middle of the season and created a role for himself in postseason play.

The Texas native transferred to George Mason where he’ll be reunited with former Vols’ assistant coach Kim English.

Quentin Diboundje — Transfer Portal: Diboundje played in just seven games as a freshman, averaging 1.7 points per game. The France native follows former Tennessee associate head coach Mike Schwartz to East Carolina in hopes of earning more minutes.

Handje Tamba — Transfer Portal: The former Knoxville Catholic standout redshirted his freshman season at Tennessee before entering the transfer portal.

Tamba committed to Webber State Wednesday morning.

Incoming Players

Julian Phillips — Prep Prospect: The jewel of Tennessee’s offseason roster movement to date, Rick Barnes and his staff won over Phillips after originally missing out on him to LSU.

Phillips de-committed from LSU after Will Wade’s termination and Tennessee beat out Auburn for the nation’s No. 12 overall prospect.

B.J. Edwards — Prep Prospect: The first member of the Vols’ 2023 recruiting class, Edwards comes to Tennessee from local Knoxville Catholic. The 6-foot-3 guard played point guard in high school but also has the ability to slide over to shooting guard.

Edwards ranks as a four-star and the No. 105 player in the country according to the 247sports composite rankings.

D.J. Jefferson — Prep Prospect: The latest addition to Tennessee’s recruiting class, Jefferson committed to the Vols over Wake Forest and Washington State in late May. The left-handed wing originally signed with Tulsa. However, Frank Haith’s resignation and an impressive spring led Jefferson to Tennessee.

The Texas native ranks as the No. 117 player in the country according to the 247sports composite rankings.

Tyreke Key — Transfer: Key will take over Fulkerson’s role as the elder statesman within the Tennessee program. The Clay County native returns to the “Volunteer State” after five years at Indiana State.

The All-Missouri Valley guard averaged 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game during his senior season. Key elected to use his fifth — COVID — year of eligibility but missed the whole 2021-22 season due to injury.

Odds And Ins

  • While Phillips is the crown jewel of Tennessee’s recruiting class, the biggest win of the offseason came with who is returning to school. First Team All-SEC shooting guard Santiago Vescovi and versatile forward Josiah-Jordan James tested NBA waters before announcing they would return to Tennessee for their senior seasons.
  • New York big man Tobe Awaka committed to Tennessee as part of the 2023 class in May. However, Awaka has already spent four years in high school with plans to go to prep school this next year. Why is that important? It means Awaka has completed all his required course work to enroll in college next year if he decides to. Tennessee has made a habit of reclassifying big men in recent years.
  • With Awaka in the 2023 class, Tennessee has two available scholarships remaining. If Awaka reclassified they would just have one. Things are quiet on the roster movement front for now after Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter chose Texas over Tennessee and Purdue last weekend. Tennessee held an open scholarship into the July recruiting period last season where they offered Zakai Zeigler and later landed a commitment from the under-valued point guard.
  • What could Tennessee do with its final scholarship? Point guard seems like the obvious answer. The Vols have pursued a handful of transfer guards this offseason but have been unsuccessful in landing one to date. Zeigler can slide into Chandler’s starting spot with ease, but Tennessee doesn’t have an obvious back up. Edwards could fill that role, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on a true freshman.

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