Tennessee basketball has two scholarship positions to fill following the departure of Victor Bailey Jr. and freshman redshirt center Handje Tamba in the transfer portal this offseason.
The class of 2022 currently contains just one signee — local prospect BJ Edwards out of Knoxville Catholic. Edwards will look to attempt to replace the production of standout freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler, who recently declared for the NBA draft.
Chandler is Tennessee’s third one-and-done prospect in the past two seasons.
“The decision was tough,” Chandler said. “I had talked to my family and Coach Barnes about it as well. We thought it was the best decision for me. This has just always been a lifelong dream of mine.”
Replacing Chandler’s team-leading 13.9 points and 4.7 assists per game will be a tough ask, but Tennessee has already reached out to a few names to replace the seemingly unreplaceable future late first-round selection.
Where does Tennessee turn?
Obviously, the Vols will likely retain freshman guard Zakai Zeigler and have four-star Edwards on the horizon, but Tennessee will need a return on their losses of Bailey and Tamba.
A good place to start could lie somewhere within the remains of the LSU Tigers, whose recent firing of head coach Will Wade sent shockwaves throughout the roster. All 13 scholarship players either entered the transfer portal or declared for the NBA draft, as in the case of Darius Days and freshman Tari Eason.
One player who entered his name into the portal and has garnered interest from Tennessee is freshman small forward Brandon Murray. A 6-foot-5 product from Baltimore, Maryland, Murray shot 33% from range in his freshman season at LSU and dropped a career-high of 23 points in a home win over Texas A&M. Murray also totaled 13 and 15 points against one of the better defenses in the nation versus the Vols in early and late January.
LSU lost four commitments to its 2022 class, including five-star power forward Julian Phillips. He collected plenty of offers before eventually deciding on LSU over a final four including Tennessee, Florida State and USC near the beginning of this past season. As of early April, Phillips is the only real move that could represent a legitimate, feasible replacement for John Fulkerson and Tamba.
Another 2022 de-commitment Tennessee fans should be on the lookout for is four-star point guard Skyy Clark out of Nashville, Tennessee. Clark was recently committed to Kentucky and withdrew from the program.
“I just had a lot of time to sit around and think. Since watching the team and the way the roster is looking for next season, I haven’t really seen a fit for myself,” Clark said.
Tennessee recently made Clark’s top 6 list of schools following his departure from the Wildcats.
Keeping on the topic of guards, Tennessee has reportedly reached out to a pair in the transfer portal in Belmont’s Will Richard and Kansas State’s Nijel Pack.
Pack was one of the best 3-point shooters in the nation last season, draining shots from range at a 43.6% clip, good enough for 46th in the nation. His 17.4 points per game led the Wildcats by a significant margin, and the sophomore guard with multiple remaining years of eligibility has reportedly narrowed his search to Duke and Tennessee.
Richard is also a capable scorer in his own right. The 6-foot freshman from Fairburn, Georgia, shot nearly 63% from within the arc in conference play last season and an effective 33% from range on the year. Perhaps more importantly under Rick Barnes, Richard is also a sneaky good defender, ranking within the top 450 in the nation in both steals and blocks last season across all of Division 1.
Tennessee still awaits the final decisions from junior guards Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi on their respective futures with the team. Vescovi recently declared for the NBA draft while maintaining his two years of college eligibility, and James is likely to release a statement on his future soon with the ability to do the same.