Tennessee forward Julian Phillips is staying in the NBA Draft, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony first reported Wednesday afternoon. The announcement comes on the final day collegiate players could withdraw from the NBA Draft while maintaining their college eligibility.
Phillips is Tennessee basketball’s fourth one-and-done prospect in the last three years joining Kennedy Chandler, Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer.
While it was uncertain whether Phillips would remain in the NBA Draft or not it was almost a lock that he wouldn’t return to Tennessee for his sophomore season. The Vols already had 13 players on scholarship, the division one limit, for the 2023-24 season and Phillips entered the transfer portal earlier this month largely for that reason.
A former five-star recruit, Phillips averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in his only season in Knoxville. Phillips started 25 games for Tennessee and played in 32 total missing just three games with a hip flexor strain in February.
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The 6-foot-8 wing projects as a second round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft with ESPN rating him as the No. 34 overall prospect in the draft class.
Even without Phillips, Tennessee basketball has impressive wing depth for next season. Josiah-Jordan James announced he is returning to Tennessee for his super senior season on Wednesday. That gives Rick Barnes and his staff the veteran James to go along with UMass transfer Chris Ledlum, Northern Colorado transfer Dalton Knecht, redshirt freshman D.J. Jefferson and freshman Cameron Carr.
James surprise return puts Tennessee over the scholarship limit for the 2023-24 season unless the super senior walks on in his final season.
The Vols’ strong offseason makes them one of the SEC’s top contenders entering next season. Even before James’ return, ESPN projected Tennessee as a top 10 team.