Tennessee coach Rick Barnes thinks Josiah-Jordan James and Julian Phillips will return to the lineup against South Carolina Saturday night.
James has missed Tennessee’s last four games with an ankle sprain while Phillips has missed the last three with a hip flexor strain.
“I think so,” Barnes said. “How much, we don’t know. I think that will be a game-time decision. They both were in practice with us yesterday. They’ll be back out there.”
Both James and Phillips went through pregame warmups against Texas A&M Tuesday night, and ESPN’s announcers expressed surprise that James was not playing.
The senior forward has practiced limited over the last two weeks before upping his work load in Thursday’s practice.
“I haven’t talked Jo, as you would expect,” Barnes said. “He actually put a good load in yesterday. Probably more than we thought he would or expect him to. He wanted to do it. You know he is going to be a little bit sore. He is certainly not 100%.”
James has dealt with injuries all season, missing eight games earlier in the season with a knee injury before missing four straight with a sprained ankle. The senior forward is averaging 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season.
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Phillips hadn’t previously dealt with injuries this season before suffering the hip injury in practice the Friday before the Missouri game. The five-star freshman attempted to give it a go against the Tigers, scoring four points in 10 first half minutes before not returning.
“Julian, yesterday, didn’t do quite as much but was out there,” Barnes said. “I know our team admires them for them trying to push through.”
Phillips is averaging nine points and 4.8 rebounds per game in his debut college season.
James practice activity has been ahead of Phillips throughout the last two weeks so it’s no surprise he’s done more in recent days.
Barnes expressed admiration for the way both players have fought through injuries in recent weeks in his Friday media availability.
“They’ve got injuries,” Barnes said. “They want to help their team win. There is no doubt about that. We will see how it all goes today.”
Tennessee returns to the court Saturday night against South Carolina. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. ET at Thompson-Boling Arena. Kevin Fitzgerald and Dane Bradshaw are on the call for the SEC Network.