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Which Tennessee Basketball Players Landed On Preseason Watch Lists

Photo by Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

College basketball season is two weeks away as the Vols prepare to open their 2023-24 season against Tennessee Tech at Thompson-Boling Arena.

With the season right around the corner, it is officially watch list season. Over the next week, the preseason award watch lists will release with Tennessee bound to at least have a few players land on the list.

Expectations are high for the 2023-24 Vols after returning veteran contributors Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James and adding transfers Jordan Gainey and Dalton Knecht to the roster. Jahmai Mashack, Jonas Aidoo and Jahmai Mashack are also looking to make the jump from solid role players to high level contributors.

The conference’s media picked Tennessee to win the SEC in the preseason and the Vols landed in the preseason top 10 of both the AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll.

Here’s a look at which Vols landed on preseason watch lists.

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Zakai Zeigler

  • Award: Bob Cousy Award
  • Given to: The nation’s top point guard
  • Number of players on watch list: 20
  • Overview: Zeigler is in an interesting spot as he still isn’t completely back from the torn ACL he suffered in Tennessee’s win over Arkansas on the final day of February. Zeigler is doing more-and-more on the court and is getting closer to returning to the court at full health. Before his injury, Zeigler was growing as a true point guard. Despite his 5-foot-9, 171-pound frame, Zeigler was always a score first point guard before last season. The Long Island, New York native recorded four double-doubles in SEC play and another against Texas in January. In 16 SEC games played, Zeigler averaged 10.3 points and 6.9 assists. With what Tennessee expects to be a more talented offensive team, Zeigler is looking to get back to full health and continue his growth as a pass-first point guard.

Santiago Vescovi

  • Award: Jerry West Award
  • Given to: The nation’s top shooting guard
  • Number of players on watch list: 20
  • Award: Jersey Mike’s Naismith Trophy Watch List
  • Given to: The nation’s top player
  • Award: Wooden Award Preseason Watch List
  • Given to: The nation’s top player
  • Number of players on watch list: 50
  • Number of players on watch list: 50
  • Overview: Vescovi changed the outlook of Tennessee’s season when he announced he was returning for his super senior season in the spring. The shooting guard is coming off back-to-back seasons as a First Team All-SEC selection after turning into one of the conference’s best perimeter shooters. Vescovi shot a combined 39% from three over the last two seasons and averaged 12.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game last season. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard was Tennessee’s best offensive player a season ago and particularly carried the Vols’ offense when Zeigler suffered his season ending knee injury. The Montevideo, Uruguay native has turned himself into a strong defender over his four years in Knoxville and is now a true two-way guard.

Dalton Knecht

  • Award: Julius Irving Award
  • Given to: The nation’s top small forward
  • Number of players on watch list: 20
  • Overview: Knecht entered the transfer portal this offseason after two strong seasons at Northern Colorado. A 6-foot-6 wing, Knecht was one of the most sought after wings in the portal this offseason before committing to Tennessee over Oregon and others. Knecht is a dangerous perimeter shooter and averaged 20.2 points per game on 48% shooting from the field and 38% from three-point range a season ago. The senior is a talented scorer and has fantastic range on his jump shot. There’s no doubt the offensive talent is there but Knecht is still adjusting to life in the SEC on the defensive end. That will be important for the highly touted transfer in a defensive minded Tennessee program.

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