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Rick Barnes: Freddie Dilione enrolling early gives him 'big' head start on 2023-24 season

IMG_3593by:Grant Ramey05/03/23


Had Freddie Dilione stayed put, he’d still be at home in North Carolina, still a couple weeks out from arriving at Tennessee and enrolling on campus in Knoxville to start his collegiate career.

Instead, the former four-star guard left high school a semester early and enrolled in January, joining the Vols in the middle of the season and spending the stretch run practicing and traveling with his new teammates.

It was a sizable head start for the 6-foot-5, 180-pound Dilione.

“It’s big,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said Monday during the Big Orange Caravan stop in Chattanooga. “I think anytime you can get a jump start like he did, within three weeks on campus he put on 15 pounds, starting to see his body change.” 

Dilione was a four-star prospect out of Word of God Christian Academy in Fayetteville, N.C. He’s was No. 44 overall prospect nationally in the 2023 class according to the On3 Industry Ranking. He was ranked No. 3 among shooting guards and No. 1 in the state of North Carolina.

Freddie Dilione: “I’m just a natural bucket-getter”

He’ll be relied on heavily next season in Tennessee’s new-look backcourt next season, alongside fifth-year senior Santiago Vescovi and junior Zakai Zeigler. Dilione can play both point guard and shooting guard, growing up off the ball before spending his final two prep seasons at point guard.

“Him getting (to Tennessee early) and getting a chance to work and actually being able to travel with us and see the environments that you go through will probably help him some,” Barnes said. “But nothing helps like being in a game and going through it. He’s certainly taken advantage of everything he could within our program, getting here early.”

The Vols looked in the NCAA Transfer Portal for an infusion on the offensive end, where they struggled to find consistency last season. The haul ended up including Northern Colorado wing Dalton Knecht, USC Upstate shooting guard Jordan Gainey and Harvard forward Chris Ledlum.

Dilione knows he can add plenty of his own offense to the rotation, too. 

“I’m just a natural bucket-getter,” Dilione told Volquest in March. “Scoring comes easy to me.”

Freddie Dilione: 4-Star SG, No. 44 On3 Industry Ranking, No. 3 SG, No. 1 NC

It will be a little more natural at the collegiate level after he made the move in January and saw the game up close.

“It helped me get so far ahead,” Dilione said. ‘G’ (Garrett Medenwald), the strength coach, got my body right. Coach Barnes got my mental right, just learning the game of basketball. I think I’ll just be so far ahead.”

He wants to stay ahead by doing whatever is asked of him next season, when the drops the redshirt label and finally gets his turn. His preference, he said in March, is whatever Barnes wants him to do.

“Wherever Coach (Barnes) puts me at,” Dilione said. “I can handle the ball, I can play off the ball, too. Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do.”

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