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Did Tennessee Basketball get better in the NCAA Transfer Portal? 'I think you have to feel that way'

IMG_3593by:Grant Ramey06/04/24

GrantRamey

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Rick Barnes lost his front court to the NCAA Transfer Portal, with former Tennessee junior center Jonas Aidoo leaving for Arkansas and power forward Tobe Awaka now at Arizona. Redshirt freshmen Freddie Dilione V and DJ Jefferson left for Penn State and Longwood, too, respectively.

The program’s three fifth-year seniors ran out of eligibility, with Dalton Knecht, Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi taking their production and experience to the next level. 

But last week at SEC Spring Meetings, when Barnes was asked if he thought his team got better with its roster overhaul over the last two months, he said that’s the only way to look at it.

“I think you have to feel that way,” Barnes said during an interview with 99.1 WNML-FM in Knoxville

After losing seven players in total, Barnes and his staff went into the NCAA Transfer Portal to add North Florida guard Chaz Lanier, Hofstra wing Darlinstone Dubar, Charlotte forward Igor Milicic Jr. and Ohio State center Felix Okpara.

Tennessee will also add freshman point guard Bishop Boswell to next season’s roster, the four-star prospect who committed to the Vols in September and signed in November. 

Chaz Lanier is Tennessee’s top-ranked transfer at No. 8 overall

Barnes didn’t want the credit for his new-look roster, though.

“I go back to our staff,” he said. “They knew how we wanted to (build it). And it’s really roster management, that’s what it is. What we didn’t want to do is just go get bodies and players. We had a specific plan that we wanted to put together to replace what we lost, obviously. 

“But you’d like to think you can get better and you try to, but whether or not we, we won’t know until a year from now.”

Dubar is ranked as the No. 60 transfer in the On3 Industry Ranking and No. 63 in the On3 rankings. Lanier was the highest ranked at No. 8 overall, ahead of Okpara at No. 44 and Milcic at No. 153.

Lanier, a Nashville native, averaged 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 33.4 minutes per game last season, shooting 51.0% from the field and 44.0% from the 3-point line. Dubar averaged a career-high 17.8 points per game in 33 games, shooting 53.9% from the floor and 39.9% from three.

Okpara, the 6-foot-11, 235-pound big man, averaged 6.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks at Ohio State last season and averaged 5.3 points and 5.0 rebounds over the last two years. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Milicic averaged 12.8 points and 8.5 rebounds as a junior this season at Charlotte, shooting 48.7% from the field and 37.6% from the 3-point line.

‘We know what kind of players we want to come in’

Lanier and Dubar are the two most efficient scorers returning in college basketball next season, according to Synergy Basketball

Lanier led all of college basketball last season in offensive efficiency, scoring 1.20 points per possession after averaging 19.5 points per game on 16.3 possessions per game. Dubar was the fourth-most efficient scorer last season, averaging 1.15 points per possession, scoring 17.5 points per game on 15.2 possessions per game. 

Barnes described portal scouting and recruiting as “a little bit different” because players have already competed against high-level collegiate competition, unlike high school recruits.

Barnes and his staff liked what they saw from their newest class of transfers.

“We’re excited,” Barnes said. “We do really think, and I give it to my coaches, they did (it), they worked really hard in terms of the intel, trying to make sure that we know what we want to do. We know what kind of players that we want to come in.”

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