A meticulous workhorse, Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes has always been one to rely on his depth.
Boasting one of the country’s deepest backcourts, the Vols have begun to find consistency in the trio of Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner.
With the latter recently returning from offseason shoulder surgery, Barnes and Co. have found their stride as they head into the thick of SEC play.
While no longer a starting backcourt duo, Bone and Bowden are in the midst of their best individual seasons. Both are averaging career-highs in points, while Bone is pacing the Vols’ offense with a career-best 6.3 assists per game.
Recording three games with 10 or more assists, the former Ensworth School star has quickly developed into one of the nation’s elite point guards, garnering praise from both his head coach and the national media alike.
“The biggest thing we wanted him to get better with was his grasp of understanding what we're trying to do as a team and understanding how important his position is,” Barnes said. “I think he has gotten better with that.”
Despite losing that starting role, Bowden has not let that deter his preparation moving forward.
“I never cared about coming off the bench or starting,” Bowden said. “Whatever I have to do to help the team win is what I’m going to do.”
Bowden currently ranks ninth in the country in free throw percentage, draining them at a lethal 92.7 percent rate.
The Knoxville native is also coming off of consecutive 20-point games, a feat he hasn’t accomplished since he averaged 26.6 points during his senior year at Carter High School.
“He’s always understood where his shots come within the offense,” Barnes said. “I think he’s doing a much better job getting ready for that...he’s always been a worker and we need him.”
For Turner, it’s been a long road back from surgery.
The junior guard initially returned to the lineup against Louisville, but remained inactive after a string of ineffective performances.
Knocking down three of four shots from distance at Missouri, the Alabama native seems to be finding his groove as the season trudges on. Playing a season-high 29 minutes, the reigning SEC Co-Sixth Man of the Year displayed a level of comfort not seen since last year’s NCAA Tournament.
With that being said, it was the standing ovation Turner received from the home crowd on Jan. 5 that’s stood above the rest.
“To see them react like that was awesome,” Turner said. “It gave me a family feeling like I was at home and I loved every second of it.”
When Turner isn’t on the floor, he’s busy cheering on his teammates, garnering buzz on social media for his sideline celebrations as the Vols took down Gonzaga.
As this veteran trio begins to find its rhythm, the chemistry and cohesion they show in practice has been on display for all to see.
Combining for 46 points on 27 shots in Columbia, the swarming effort on both sides was evident as Tennessee stormed back from an early nine-point deficit.
“You could tell they were really locked into each other with the way they were running with the ball,” Barnes said.
Currently riding a nine-game winning streak heading into the dog days of SEC play, the Vols are on pace for perhaps their most successful season to date.
The only difference is that last year, opposing scouting reports occasionally overlooked the firepower Tennessee boasted in Bone, Bowden and Turner.
They can’t afford to make that mistake this year, and their play of late is a big reason why.