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Jordan Gainey Talks Commitment To Tennessee Basketball

Photo by Ellie Arnold/USC Upstate Athletics

USC Upstate transfer guard Jordan Gainey committed to Tennessee basketball Tuesday evening becoming the Vols’ first transfer commit for the 2023-24 season.

“Mainly just was a good fit for me offensively and defensively,” Gainey told RTI of why he chose Tennessee. “It was a great connection with me and Coach Barnes and Coach P(olinski). It was really good all around and I feel like it was more of a family. Tight knit program. That really led to my decision to pick Tennessee.”

The 6-foot-4, 175 pound guard comes to Knoxville after spending two seasons in Spartanburg starring for the Spartans. Gainey averaged 13.8 points per game his freshman season before leading USC Upstate with 15.2 points per game as a sophomore.

So what does the shooting guard bring to Tennessee basketball?

“A little bit of everything,” Gainey said. “Shooting, passing, defensively. That’s the biggest thing. Lots of energy I’d say. Hopefully bring some leadership as well.”

Gainey was known for his offense at USC Upstate but the rising junior understands the importance of defense at Tennessee and knows that he won’t find the court for a Rick Barnes’ coached team without playing well on that end of the court.

“It’s a huge thing because it affects winning at all levels of the game,” Gainey said. “You have to play defense and to play defense there (Tennessee) is a high task. You have to do that to get on the court. That’s one of the biggest things I’m focusing on. I feel like that’s the biggest thing for me to focus on in order to win games. If I want to impact the team I have to bring energy defensively.”

Gainey got an upfront look at that defense as a freshman when the Spartans played against the Vols in Knoxville. The freshman guard scored just two points in a 44 point loss to Tennessee. In five other games against big six opponents, Gainey averaged 11.6 points.

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Tennessee’s newest commit reminisced on his trip to Knoxville as a freshman and what stood out about playing the Vols.

“Definitely their defense. It was pretty crazy,” Gainey said with a chuckle. “I’m not going to lie, it was crazy playing against them. Offensively playing against Kennedy Chandler was insane. Uber quick, uber fast so it was pretty tough to stay in front of him. I think just the atmosphere in the arena. Probably one of the biggest arenas I’ve played in at the time— well it still probably is— but great atmosphere, orange everywhere and it was pretty cool to play in.”

Gainey’s shooting is what allowed him to transfer and play at a higher level of college basketball. The shooting guard didn’t take any visits after entering the transfer portal but did garner interest from Virginia, Boston College, SMU and others.

The Arizona native shot 49% from three-point range on 150 attempts as a freshman before dropping to 35% as a sophomore when he took on a bigger role in USC Upstate’s offense. Gainey comes to Tennessee as a 40% career three-point shooter and is growing in his ability to create offensively.

“I would say staying composed and then being able to create more off the dribble,” Gainey said of where he’s improved the most in his first two college seasons. “I still have to improve in that aspect but mostly this year I was able to more so create and find open shots because I more so had to this year than my freshman year.”

Jordan is the son of Tennessee associate coach Justin Gainey. While he credited his relationship with Rick Barnes and assistant coach Gregg Polinski — who took the active role in recruiting Jordan while Justin removed himself from the process — playing for his father was a compelling factor in Gainey choosing Tennessee.

“I’m excited,” Gainey said. “I’ve always wanted to be able to play for my dad growing up. In high school I didn’t really get the opportunity but now I do so I’m excited. It should be fun to be able to win games together and being back home with my family.”

Winning games is Gainey’s main focus after transferring to Tennessee. The shooting guard’s main goal isn’t individual accolades but team success.

“I just want to accomplish winning games,” Gainey said. “Win the SEC. Make a run in the tournament. Win the whole thing. I just want to come in here and have an impact on the team so that we can win games.”

Gainey plans on arriving in Knoxville in late May after he finishes up this semester at USC Upstate.

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