Tennessee forward Dalton Knecht has been one of the most talked-about names during the first week or two of the 2023-2024 college basketball season.
Knecht transferred to Tennessee this past offseason after leading the Big Sky Conference in scoring at Northern Colorado last season.
Tennessee needed to boost its offensive firepower this offseason and did so behind two big transfers in Jordan Gainey and Knecht.
The 6-foot-6 senior is averaging 19.7 points through the Vols’ first three games with 18 against Wofford, 24 against Wisconsin, and 17 against Tennessee Tech. If you add in Knecht’s scoring against Michigan State and Lenoir-Rhyne in the exhibitions, though, that number slightly bumps up to 20 points per game across his first five collegiate contests with the Volunteers.
Knecht presents an ability to score at different levels of the court, highlighted by his sharpshooting from the perimeter and his ability to attack the basket. ESPN’s Jeff Borzello recently spoke with a scout who detailed what makes Knecht a “pro” at the collegiate level.
“He’s a pro,” the scout told Borzello about Knecht. “He’s not going to be in as many ball-handling situations as he was at Northern Colorado. He’ll get more catch-and-shoot opportunities, he’ll play off other guys. He’s still finding opportunities — and the ball-handling and the athleticism comes into play in transition for him. He’s more efficient with better players around him.”
Knecht is shooting a career-high 54.1 percent from the floor through the first three games of the Vols’ season, which is naturally going to even out a bit over the course of the season. But what’s really impressive is that Knecht is taking good, quality shots on the court, partly due to what the scout mentioned when he spoke about playing more efficiently with better players around him.
Tennessee has three players averaging double digits this season (Knecht 19.7, Gainey 13.3, James 11.3) and has 10 players averaging seven or more minutes on the court per contest. The Vols’ boast new depth and scoring this season which presents a tough challenge to opponents on the defensive end. That’s when Knecht has been striking here in the first handful of contests.
“You’ve got a guy who can play off the ball and catch-and-shoot or be a ball-handler in pick-and-roll and rise up over you because of his size,” the collegiate scout continued on to say.
Tennessee’s new offensive prowess will give the Vols an advantage on the court this year as teams shift the way they guard the Vols compared to how they have in the past.
“Last year with Tennessee, you could go under everything, get them to bump back and shoot 3s and they would throw the ball inside,” the scout said to ESPN’s Borzello. “I don’t think [Jonas] Aidoo is that guy and so I think Rick went out and got guys like Knecht and [Jordan] Gainey, who could catch-and-shoot and spread the floor. We can’t have the same game plan [against them] this year as last year.”
Knecht and the Volunteers have a couple of big challenges at the 2023 Maui Invitational from Honolulu, Hawai’i this week. Tennessee will take on Syracuse at 2:30 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon. If the Vols win, Tennessee will then play the winner of Purdue-Gonzaga at 8:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday. If Tennessee loses, though, the Vols will play the loser of the aforementioned game on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Tennessee will play one of Kansas, Marquette, UCLA and Chaminade to close out the Maui Invitational on Wednesday.