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Rick Barnes on Jonas Aidoo's surprise departure from Tennessee: 'He had told everybody he was fine'

IMG_3593by:Grant Ramey04/18/24


Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes Talks Transfer Portal And Start Of Offseason

Rick Barnes on Thursday described April as maybe the most hectic month on the calendar for a college basketball coach. As soon as one Tennessee basketball season ends, the process of figuring out which players are leaving and which players are staying begins. 

All you can do is try your best to know what moves are going to be made. But that’s easier said than done. 

“We try to stay ahead of it as much as we can and don’t get surprised too much,” Barnes said, “but sometimes you do. And when that happens, you just got to realize that maybe you’ve got a chance to remake a roster and maybe do it a little bit different, maybe try to find a way to, obviously, try to make it better. 

“But it’s a different time right now in college of basketball, in terms of this month.”

Last week’s departure of Tennessee junior center Jonas Aidoo fell in the surprise category.

“Yeah,” Barnes said, “because he had told everybody he was fine.”

And that’s as much as Barnes expanded on Aidoo’s decision. 

Jonas Aidoo was the fourth Tennessee player to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal this offseason

He was the fourth Tennessee player to enter the portal, following redshirt freshmen Freddie Dilione V and DJ Jefferson and sophomore forward Tobe Awaka, who had announced his transfer plans the day before. 

Aidoo had a breakout junior season and was named Second Team All-SEC and made the SEC’s All-Defensive team. He averaged career-highs in scoring (11.4 points per game), rebounding (7.3), defensive rebounds (4.5), offensive rebounds (2.8), blocks (1.8), steals (0.7) and minutes (25.4). He was fourth in the SEC in rebounding and third in the league in blocked shots. 

Aidoo’s regular-season numbers didn’t translate in the postseason. In one game in the SEC Tournament and four in the NCAA Tournament, Aidoo totaled 35 points and 26 rebounds. 

He scored 15 points in the win over Saint Peter’s in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and had 11 against Texas in the second round. He had just four points against Creighton in the Sweet 16 and was scoreless in 10 minutes in the Elite Eight loss to Purdue, going a combined 2-for-12 from the field in the second weekend of the tournament. 

Barnes later on Thursday described the difficulty of trying to build a roster year in and year out when players can sometimes say one thing, then do something else.

“We have guys that literally tell us, hey, they love it, they’re here,” Barnes said. “Then they come in a day later and they’ve talked to someone else and they’re gone.” 

Rick Barnes: ‘Here’s all I know, that we’ve got a wonderful thing going here’

Aidoo’s departure made for six open scholarship spots on Tennessee’s 2024-25. The Vols on Thursday announced the addition of Hofstra wing Darlinstone Dubar

The Vols also hosted Belmont forward Cade Tyson on an official visit over the weekend, alongside Dubar, and had Charlotte forward Igor Milicic on campus for an official visit on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Barnes added Thursday that the door is open for Awaka to return to the Vols and take his name out of the NCAA Transfer Portal, but Tennessee’s coaches can’t wait around forever on his decision.

They have a roster to build for next season.

“Here’s all I know,” Barnes said, “that we’ve got a wonderful thing going here. This is a great opportunity for a lot of people. And I can tell you our phone rings off the hook because people want to be a part of this. I just got a text from one of my former players, said a guy that just put his name in (the transfer portal) said he wants to talk to you guys. 

“And so as much as you would like to get the continuity and the consistency and help guys grow and get where they want to go, if they choose to go elsewhere, all it does is it’s like graduation, it opens up the door for somebody else.”

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