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‘He Is Growing Up Right In Front Of Us’: Awaka Shines For Tennessee Against Georgia

Photo By Avery Bane/Tennessee Athletics

Tobe Awaka caught the ball just above the left block, calmly waited for the traffic to clear, dribbled twice with his right hand moving to the middle of the court before drop stepping with his left leg and tossing a left-handed layup high off the offensive glass that dropped through the basket.

A routine post move and score that extended Tennessee’s lead over to Georgia to 28 points, but considering who it was coming from… woah.

“We are really proud of Tobe getting out there,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said postgame. “You guys have watched him. He is growing up right in front of us.”

Power forward Tobe Awaka was stellar in Tennessee’s 70-41, win over Georgia. The freshman made all three shot attempts from the field and all four free throws in a 10-point, four rebound performance in just 13 minutes.

The under the radar recruit was extremely raw when he arrived at Tennessee but his strength and rebounding prowess were clear. Awaka’s proved it this season, rebounding at one of the most efficient rates in the country.

More From RTI: Everything Rick Barnes Said Following Tennessee’s Victory Over Georgia

But Awaka’s raw offensive talents are starting to become more honed as he displays impressive touch around the rim. The patient post move and left-handed finish is the most glaring display of just how good Awaka can be before his Tennessee career is done.

“He is getting more patient with the ball,” Barnes said. “He still has got to play quicker. Tobe has really good hands. He is strong, as you guys know. He is a big 17-year-old kid right now that is growing up in front of us, is what he is. He takes it really serious. You watch it after practice. Everything he does, he does it with a purpose. He wants to be good. He is confident. He thinks that every rebound goes up, he should have it. He is willing to go try and go get it.

“It is going to be fun. It is fun coaching a guy like that. A lot like what we talk about with Z’s DNA, just a competitive player. It is in his, too. They come out of a great AAU program. Played for good high school coaches. Those guys, they are going to compete.”

Awaka points to his patience as what’s improved much for him offensively. While his footwork and repertoire of post moves were limited when he arrived in Knoxville, the New York native’s touch has always been solid.

“Being patient,” Awaka said of his offensive growth. “Taking my time reading the defense and just going up strong with the ball. Then obviously, outside of the game, practicing shots just getting more work in in the gym.”

While Awaka’s offensive game has limitations, his touch around the rim has always been impressive and combined with his elite rebounding instincts show how high his ceiling is.

“I’m really proud of where Jahmai (Mashack) has come and what Tobe (Awaka) has done in a short time,” Barnes said. “Both of them, we look at those guys as being somewhat of the future of what we do.”

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