Victor Bailey Jr. started his collegiate basketball career at the University of Oregon. Bailey played in 73 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons where he averaged seven points, two rebounds and just under one assists per game.
After his sophomore year, Bailey decided a change of scenery was needed.
Raised in Austin, Texas, Bailey was around the University of Texas as a kid and had a fascination with former Texas coach Rick Barnes and the Longhorns.
“I didn’t go to any camps, but I was always around campus,” Bailey said. “I saw Barnes a lot and always wanted to watch the games and see what was going on with Texas because my mom was a coach and I wanted to be a part of that culture, that Texas culture and obviously Barnes was part of that, so keeping in touch with them was big.”
When the time came to decide what was next in his career Bailey chose a coach and a culture he was very familiar with. Bailey transferred to the University of Tennessee and sat out the 2019 season. He used his time on the sidelines to soak up all the knowledge he could and ingratiate himself with his teammates.
On Friday Bailey talked with the media to reflect on his past year and discuss the upcoming season.
“That year sitting out for me was good, it was a struggle because it’s hard to watch my teammates play,” Bailey said. “I was able to sit down and watch tape and watch film of (Jordan) Bone and get to see Santi and those guys run the point and do it every day in practice. It helped me a lot.”
Barnes is notorious for the amount of responsibility and pressure he puts on his point guards but for Bailey, the year learning Barnes and his expectations should help him hit the ground running in 2020.
“Coach is definitely tough but he just wants to get the best out of you. I’ve heard Bone say it plenty of times, he’s tough but he just wants the best out of you,” Bailey said. “He’s going to get it, he is great at pulling the best out of you when he needs it. Sitting out really helped me get it under my belt and learn what he wants and when he wants you to put your foot on the gas and take it off. Facilitate and not facilitate and do stuff like that.”
Former point guard Lamonte Turner played in 11 games last season before he was sidelined with a shoulder injury for the rest of the season. Turner wasn’t able to make his presence known on the court in his senior season but he was able to work behind the scenes to impart whatever wisdom he could on Bailey during his time away from basketball.
“I learned so much, I watched so much film on him and he was great at talking with me and giving me so much information,” Bailey said. “ I think that was one of the big things, he never hid anything from me or kept anything from me. Anytime I asked a question he gave it to me. I really thank him for it because he really helped me a lot.”
On the court in 2020, Tennessee’s success will be reliant upon their defensive ability and with the return of SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons and senior leader John Fulkerson plus one of the deepest backcourts in the nation, Bailey believes the defense has the potential to be “great”.
“The guards in the backcourt can guard,” Bailey said. “We have the Defensive Player of the Year, so that does it there. (John Fulkerson) can guard. Fulky is smart. The freshman can guard. I can guard. Everyone can guard. So, I think defensively we’re going to be a really good team.”
“(Mike) Schwartz has done a great job of talking to us and making sure we know where we're supposed to be and he’s one of the best defensive coaches in the country I think. I think with all we put together, we’re going to be one of the best defensive teams in the country.”
Tennessee is expected to be a top team in college basketball this year and with a mix of returning experienced players and highly rated freshmen who can play right away, the Vols will have a lot of expectations placed on them. However, with the culture around the team, don’t expect the Vols to be distracted from the goals they have this season on and off the court.
“A lot of the things we do, we do together,” Bailey said. “We eat together, we hang out together, so we have a lot of like-minded guys who have the same goals. When you have a lot of guys who want the same thing, think the same way and do a lot of the same things together, that’s how you build a culture and get things going towards the right direction.”