BREAKING: Tennessee Lands Four-Star New England Center

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    Photo by Andrew Ferguson/ Tennessee Athletics

    Big time basketball talent doesn’t come to mind when someone thinks of Maine, nor have the Vols historically found talent in the Pine Tree State.

    However, Rick Barnes and his staff went into Maine and snagged a tall tree to add to the 2023 recruiting class. Four-star center J.P. Estrella committed to Tennessee over Iowa and Syracuse live on 247sports Youtube.

    The 6-foot-11, 210-pound center ranks as the No. 40 player in the country and the No. 1 player in Maine according to the 247sports composite rankings.

    Tennessee was one of the first teams to offer Estrella, beginning its pursuit of the New England center in mid December. The pursuit began before Estrella’s recruitment blew up with a strong spring and summer on the AAU circuit.

    “They’ve been there pretty much from day one,” Estrella said during his announcement. “They were my third offer. They’ve just been there for me throughout this whole thing. I talk to them, their staff, almost daily. Facetime calls, calls, texts. They do the same thing to my parents. They text them every day and call them every day. The relationship I’ve built with them is just something you couldn’t even ask for.”

    That paid off as Estrella ended up cancelling an official visit to Duke after the Blue Devils offered the late blooming center in July.

    More From RTI: Tennessee Commit Climbing Up Recruiting Rankings

    Estrella grew eight inches from his freshman year to now and has exploded up the recruiting rankings in recent months, all the way to the No. 7 center in the country.

    Tennessee hosted Estrella on an official visit in June— his second of four summer official visits. The South Portland, Maine native visited Marquette in early June ahead of his trip to Knoxville and visited Iowa in late July and Syracuse in early August.

    Surviving the late summer visits to two other top contenders, and beating out the much closer to home Syracuse, makes this an extremely impressive recruiting win for Barnes and his staff.

    Estrella boasts a soft touch around the rim and a strong defensive presence as a rim protector. The 6-foot-11 prospect has a solid shooting stroke as well from his past as a guard.

    “Their vision for me is to be that playmaking big (man),” Estrella said. “Shooting the ball really well, locking shots and being an offensive weapon in general. I feel like I’m a good passer from the post and the perimeter. I can handle the ball a little bit. Pretty much do a little bit of everything. Basically be that playmaking big for their program.”

    The blue-chip recruit becomes Tennessee’s third commit in the 2023 recruiting class, joining four-star power forward Cade Phillips and high four-star combo guard Freddie Dilione.

    Like Estrella, Tennessee was in one Dilione early and it paid major dividends in the Vols beating out Alabama and Virginia for his services.

    The three-man recruiting class is one of the SEC’s best and is a strong foundation as Tennessee will likely have to replace a handful of key contributors following the 2022-23 season.

    Ryan Schumpert is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. Ryan spent three years with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program before joining RTI. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.