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Rick Barnes, Tennessee Basketball Not Closing Door On Tobe Awaka Returning

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes called April the most hectic month of the year while meeting with the media on Thursday afternoon.

The first 18 days of the month have definitely been chaotic for Tennessee basketball as they’ve lost four players in the transfer portal and have added one transfer— Hofstra’s Darlinstone Dubar— to date.

Tennessee’s most notable transfer departures are big men Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka who were each key players in the Vols’ eight-man rotation last season. As Barnes and his staff look to put together their roster for the 2024-25 season, would they consider bringing back a player that entered the transfer portal earlier in the offseason.

“It’s based on how it happened,” Barnes said on Thursday. “And based on how I know things happen, you’re always flexible, open to it. But some cases, yes, some cases not.”

How would Barnes feel about Tobe Awaka returning? The rising junior entered the transfer portal looking for more playing time shortly before Jonas Aidoo entered the portal. With Aidoo leaving the Tennessee program, Awaka returning to Tennessee for his junior season would make some sense.

More From RTI: Everything Rick Barnes Said On Thursday About Transfer Portal And Roster Movement

“Yeah. We respected Tobe a lot and we still do,” Barnes said. “But oftentimes we’ve had guys tell us that after they had left they’ve made mistakes. And sometimes in a rush in the moment people can listen to people and realize that maybe they maybe should have waited and thought it all out a bit more. But Tobe obviously, you know, we all respect him and love him for what he did for us.”

Tennessee isn’t closing the door on Awaka returning and bringing him back would be a huge win. The 6-foot-8 power forward played his best basketball towards the end of the season and pairing him with J.P. Estrella would give the Vols a high level front court.

But while the Vols would take Awaka back, they’re not sitting on their hands and waiting for him to make a decision.

“If he feels he’s got to go through the process, he needs to do it,” Barnes said. “But with that said, we’re not waiting, because we’re going to move forward and build this roster as quickly as we can.”

Awaka played 13.1 minutes per game in his sophomore season, averaging 5.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. The Hyde Park, New York native turned in some of his best performances of the season in Tennessee’s NCAA Tournament wins over Texas and Creighton.

Tennessee currently has five scholarships to fill as it looks to complete its roster ahead of the 2024-25 season.

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