Your move Rick Barnes skeptics. Tennessee basketball is not done yet completing the team it needs to have for 2021-2022, but the Vols filled one key void on Saturday by adding a sharpshooting transfer guard.
Justin Powell, who played just 10 games in an injury-shortened season as a freshman for Bruce Pearl’s Auburn Tigers this past year, has transferred to the Vols, initially reported by the basketball recruiting site Stock Risers. A 6’6″ 205-pound guard, Powell said in an interview with the site that he believes the Vols have “solid pieces” to make a national championship run.
In his limited action last year, averaged 11.7 points, nearly five assists and just over six rebounds a game while shooting 44.2 percent from three, hitting nearly two a game. He also tweeted out his decision to join Tennessee basketball for next year.
rocky top pic.twitter.com/DajU3q6tJC
— Justin Powell (@jtpowell241) April 3, 2021
With the addition of Powell, the Vols now have no weaknesses in their backcourt, and despite losing Jaden Springer and probably Keon Johnson, it should even be better this year. Five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler is the star of the group and can be plugged right in at the position.
However, Powell and Santiago Vescovi, two sharpshooters, can also play the point guard position. Barnes can move Josiah-Jordan James over to that role as well. Simply put, at all times, Barnes will be able to have two guys on the court who can run the point.
On top of that, the Vols still have Victor Bailey Jr., an elite scoring guard who can do everything Springer did. By the way, he also has point guard experience. Combine him with Vescovi’s and Powell’s ability to shoot the ball, and you’ve got a great collection of scorers.
Finally, Jahmai Mashack is a 6’5″ four-star forward, and Corey Walker Jr., who redshirted this past year, was a 6’8″ four-star forward in 2020. Both players could compete to fill that last wing spot, and that would allow Barnes to go two-deep with a ton of length at the first three spots.
Simply put, no matter what happens, Rocky Top is now loaded in the backcourt with no weaknesses. They are in great position now to make a run at a title, just as Powell pointed out in his interview.
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There’s one more thing the Vols need to do, though. At the four, the development of E.J. Anosike and Olivier Nkamhoua should help in a big way. Uros Plavsic will likely develop at the five. However, they need a second player there, and they need at least one player to be elite underneath the basket.
Possibilities include John Fulkerson maybe returning for another year, taking advantage of the NCAA eligibility ruling from this past year, or Barnes adding somebody from the transfer portal. Plenty of talent is in the portal.
North Carolina Tar Heels transfer Walker Kessler, who stands at 7’1″ 245 pounds, is still available. Adding him could have Rocky Top built like an NBA team. Wisconsin Badgers forward Nate Reuvers, who stands at 6’11”, and UMASS Minutemen forward Tre Mitchell, who stands at 6’9″, are also available.
If any of those players are in Knoxville next year, Tennessee basketball will have the most complete team in school history, and Barnes will have his most complete team as well. Powell’s addition makes them one step closer to doing that, and they already have the most complete backcourt in school history.
Initially a three-star recruit, Powell also joins Scotty Hopson, Chris Lofton and Allan Houston as elite shooters from Kentucky to head to UT. He hails from North Oldham High School in Goshen, Ky., and there was talk around Oldham County that he wasn’t even offered a spot by Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari, according to Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio.
Given the fact that Lofton wasn’t offered by Tubby Smith of Kentucky back in the day and Powell was lured away from Pearl, who obviously has his own connections, this could be a sweet feeling for Tennessee basketball in more ways than one. No matter what, he addresses a major issue.