Tennessee basketball early enrollee Freddie Dilione made his Volunteer debut on the practice court Thursday afternoon. The Vols plan on redshirting Dilione this season before the talented guard makes his debut in the 2023-24 season.
“He’s not going to play,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said earlier this month. “He won’t play this year. He’s coming in to get himself ready for next year.”
Dilione was first with his new team during Saturday’s Kentucky game and traveled with the team to Mississippi State Tuesday. However, Thursday’s practice at Pratt Pavilion is the first Dilione has gone through.
Getting himself ready starts with joining the scout team where he’ll provide an SEC caliber athlete and ball handler for Tennessee’s starters to practice against.
“I think with Freddie, he’ll join our scout team,” assistant coach Gregg Polinsky said Thursday. “More than that, him just understanding the level of intensity, what the responsibilities are to be a Tennessee Vol. I don’t mean that in a corny way, but I mean that in a proud way. I think Freddie is bright enough. He has done his part at every level. And I think for us, it’s just watching him through this maturation process over the next however many months. But we’re really excited to have him here. He’s a high-level talent.”
That talent was on display at Pratt Pavilion Thursday afternoon as the guard’s athleticism and offensive talent is clear.
Dilione was a high four-star recruit and the No. 41 player in the country according to the 247sports composite rankings. The Raleigh, North Carolina native ranks as the No. 1 player in the state and the No. 7 combo guard in the country.
Joining the team and going through months of practice before the preseason of his freshman season should be a major plus and allow the blue-chip recruit to make an instant impact on Tennessee’s campus.
“I think it’s huge, I do,” Barnes said. “You look, it’s been going on in football forever. The fact that he and his family decided they wanted to do it. I think it’s going to really help him a lot. Gives him a big head start on things.”
The Vols were able to bring Dilione in a semester early because they weren’t using their full allotment of scholarships in the fall semester. Tennessee had just 12 scholarship players and Dilione becomes the 13th.
Tennessee returns to the court Saturday where they’ll face LSU in Baton Rouge. Courtney Lyle and Dane Bradshaw are on the call for ESPN.