Here’s some thoughts about some thoughts pertaining to Tennessee men’s basketball:
Expect the unexpected: Watching Vols football manage its season amid the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the understanding for Vols hoops of being ready to adapt at a moment’s notice.
“If you’ve kept up with the football programs, when they’ve had to stop and go, it’s happened to us in our preseason practice, just like it did with them,” UT coach Rick Barnes said last week during a Zoom video conference.
“As I mentioned earlier, you learn that, that’s the way it is. That’s the new normal right now. You’ve got to be ready and be prepared to play with a group of guys that maybe you didn’t think you would earlier.”
Thoughts: Wonder if the difference in the two sports will make any difference as far as handling the pandemic. For example, a football helmet and face shield approximate a mask to some degree. There’s no equivalent in basketball.
It’s just a thought but I’m apparently not alone in such thinking. Barnes said that during two-shot free throw situations, the players might not line up along the foul line until the second shot. The option is being considering as a means of enhancing protection.
Fitting In: In assessing his team’s preseason progress, Barnes dropped in this observation regarding UT’s freshmen:
“There’s been no sense of entitlement, whatsoever. They’ve jumped right in and I think that’s a great compliment to our older guys.”
The coach went on to say, “There were some days when we’ve laughed about it – just running simple sprints, how they fell out and threw up. They laugh about it now, but that’s where they’ve made the most progression, in terms of understanding that the physical side is much tougher than they thought. The mental side is much more of a grind that they could ever imagine.”
Thoughts: Barnes’ observation – about the lack of entitlement, not the barfing - is noteworthy, considering these aren’t just any freshmen. Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer and Corey Walker Jr., comprise the most celebrated signing class of the Barnes’ era. If they’re introducing themselves as model teammates then that bodes well for their assimilation and development.
Then again, it’s hard to feel entitled when you’re barfing.
About the transfers: Because of contact tracing, Victor Bailey Jr., who sat out last season after transferring from Oregon, spent more time filling in at point guard during the preseason, thereby enhancing his repertoire.
Fellow transfer E.J. Anosike, who came from Sacred Heart, was mentioned in terms of upgrading UT’s rebounding.
Thoughts: Don’t overlook these two players in terms of the impact that might have.
I covered Anosike’s sister, Nicky, as a Lady Vol. She played a key role on two national championship teams as a versatile defender and a tireless rebounder. Her not-little brother has a similar skill set and work ethic.
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Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.