Dan Fleser: Fulkerson Returns And Vols Pick Up Top Recruits

Friday, April 16, 2021 - by Dan Fleser

Well, that was quick … and impressive.

On Monday, Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes had just filled the final opening in his coaching staff and the Vols’ roster still was in urgent need of a post-player upgrade.

Three days and two commitments later, UT suddenly has a signing class that’s ranked second nationally. And the two recruiting additions will address their most pressing needs. 

If that wasn’t enough whiplash for the week, veteran forward John Fulkerson announced on Friday that he’s returning for a sixth season of eligibility.

The two signees came in rapid-fire fashion. Jonas Aidoo, a 7-foot center, committed to the Vols on Wednesday and UT announced his signing a day later. The former Marquette commitment, who’s from Charlotte, N.C., is ranked No. 60 overall in the 2021 class by the 247Sports Composite and ranked seventh among centers.

“I love that he is hungry to develop – both as a player and a person,” Barnes said. “He has set an extremely high standard for himself. He’s a very versatile player with a high basketball IQ and he’s going to be fun to coach.”

Tennessee used former Vol forward Grant Williams, another Charlotte native who’s playing for the NBA’s Boston Celtics, in their recruiting pitch to Aidoo.

Also on Thursday, UT added Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, a five-star power forward who reclassified from the 2022 class and signed with the Vols for next season. The 6-9, 230-pound Huntley-Hatfield originally is from Clarksville, Tenn., but now attends Scotland (Pa.) Campus. He’s ranked No. 18 in the class and, like Aidoo, seventh at his position.

“He’s a highly skilled forward who is a terrific passer and has the ability to stretch the defense with his shooting,” Barnes said. “It’s clear he’s all about doing whatever it takes to help his team win. We’re all looking forward to putting in the work with him to help him reach his full potential.”

Huntley-Hatfield and Aidoo join point guard Kennedy Chandler, wing Jahmai Mashack and shooting guard Quentin Diboundje in the signing class. Guard Justin Powell, a transfer from Auburn, also is coming aboard.

New assistant Justin Gainey, whose hire was announced on Monday, likely was a factor in Aidoo’s signing. He was part of the Marquette coaching staff to which Aidoo initially committed.

Perhaps Kellie Harper will benefit in similar fashion from one of her coaching hires. The Lady Vols coach finds herself in the same situation that Barnes was in earlier this month.

Thursday played out more unevenly for the Lady Vols. There was reason for Harper to celebrate when forward Rennia Davis was selected ninth overall by Minnesota in the WNBA Draft. But there also was a call to action with the departure of assistant coaches Jennifer Sullivan and Lacey Goldwire.

Sullivan became the head coach at Florida Atlantic. Goldwire, meanwhile, left to pursue “other opportunities,” according to a university release.

The two assistants were the Lady Vols’ primary recruiters. Goldwire had the title of recruiting coordinator.

Harper is responding quickly and impressively, just like Barnes. A source confirmed a report by the website theballout.com on Friday that Samantha Williams will be leaving her position at Eastern Kentucky’s head coach to join the Lady Vols’ staff. Williams built an impressive record for helping sign elite recruits while serving as an assistant at Louisville and Duke.

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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 danfleser3@gmail.com.

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