The Oregon Ducks transfer could be huge for the Tennessee basketball Volunteers.
How many ways can Tennessee basketball look great for 2020-2021? The Vols have a top five recruiting class with two five-star guards. They return another five-star for his sophomore season. Their post-game returns their leading scorer from February, John Fulkerson, and will likely return SEC Defensive Player of the Year Yves Pons while adding double-double transfer E.J. Anosike.
Even with the loss of Jordan Bowden, that’s a ton to be excited about. Then there is the point guard play. After being thrust into the starting lineup as a true freshman mid-season enrollee from Europe, Santiago Vescovi should have a lot more experience next year.
Well, the point guard position has another major addition that should add to all of these reasons Tennessee basketball should be great, and it involves another elite guard. Victor Bailey Jr., who transferred from the Oregon Ducks and sat out last year, will now be eligible to play.
Bailey, like Vescovi, brings a healthy level of size to the position at 6’4″ 186 pounds. In two years at Oregon, he shot 38.3 percent from three. Although he only averaged an assist a game, his style of play will allow him to transition easily to point guard in Rick Barnes’ system, which calls for guys with proper height and the ability to stretch the floor at the point.
As a sophomore, Bailey shot 39.8 from the three-point line, hitting nearly one and a half threes a game, and he also shot over 91.1 percent from the free throw line. There’s a chance he arrives and immediately becomes Tennessee basketball’s best shooter.
Barnes’ system operates best when numerous players can be threats from outside. While newcomers Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer and Corey Walker clearly provide size and athleticism, the ability to shoot at each level does take time. As a result, Bailey helps take some of the burden off Vescovi, and the two of them means one elite shooter will always be on the court.
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After a full offseason to work on his craft, Bailey may have even taken an extra step. We already know he will likely be another point guard in Barnes’ system, and that means he has added to his skills. Considering how good he is at shooting the ball already and how good Barnes is at developing talent, that makes his potential limitless.
One of the biggest reasons the Vols finished the regular season needing to make an SEC Tournament run to reach the NCAA Tournament was lack of point guard depth. Barnes never had two true point guards who could stretch the floor.
At the beginning of the year, Lamonte Turner was running things. A combo guard, his shoulder issues limited what he could do shooting the ball. After Turner decided to have season-ending shoulder surgery, Barnes turned to a freshman, Vescovi, who was not supposed to be ready to go. Josiah-Jordan James would spell both of them as the No. 2 point guard.
Now, this year, Vescovi is ready to go, and Bailey’s redshirt is lifted. As a result, be mindful of what Bailey can do. While so many other elite backcourt players get all the hype for Tennessee basketball, this is the one guy who has two full years of experience playing at the college level and could play point guard full-time. He could also push for a starting role.