WE HAVE BASKETBALL NEWS, AND IT’S NOT ABOUT GAMES AND/OR SEASONS BEING CANCELED.
Graduate transfer EJ Anosike announced that he’s transferring to Tennessee for his final season, and he fills a need for next season’s team. Terry talked some about that in his post — and you should absolutely go read it.
There’s a lot of incoming talent at guard and on the wing, but the post was going to be an area of concern next season — just like it was last season.
Even though Anosike isn’t that tall — he’s listed at just 6-foot-6 — he’s got a big frame and looks pretty athletic for a guy who weighs close to 250 pounds. Here’s an example.
One of the best forwards in Mid-Major basketball finds a new home...— CollegeBB News (@CollegeBBNCAA) March 27, 2020
Sacred Heart transfer EJ Anosike commits to Tennessee over Gonzaga, Louisville and others.
This is just one play, and it’s called a highlight for a reason, but this gives you a glimpse at what Anosike brings to the table. I usually like to watch the play all the way through once or twice so I have a good scope of what’s happened when I go to break the play down further.
The guard drives and kicks the ball out to the shooter standing in the corner on the far side of the floor. Anosike is no. 24 in grey, and I’ve got him boxed in green so he’s easy to pick out. The defense is sleeping — there’s nobody even near him. If I’m coaching the defense, I’m pretty mad right now that none of my players thought put a body on the guy leading their team with nearly 12 rebounds per game. That kinda thing just can’t happen.
Here the ball is in the air, and Anosike is tracking toward the basket. Again, there’s nobody near him. No. 23 in blue isn’t touching anybody, and no. 42 in blue is the second body on no. 25 for Sacred Heart. It’s poor spacing and even worse awareness from the defense, so naturally Anosike takes full advantage.
This is the result. Poor no. 23 for the defense manages to get in the way just enough to end up on the business side of Anosike’s put-back dunk. Poor kid. Wrong place, wrong time.
Here’s another view, just for fun. Anosike is basically dodging the rim with his head, and he’s got half his forearm in the basket just for fun I guess. If I could put my forearm inside the basket, I definitely would just so people could see it and go “damn, his forearm is way inside the rim.”
And there’s poor no. 23 again, flailing around and ending up on the floor. Ouch. You know that one hurt his pride.
This doesn’t really have much to do with anything, but here’s an adorable picture that looks like it’s from sister Nicky’s senior day. I’m guessing that’s little EJ up front, cheesing. LOOK AT THOSE CHEEKS.
Breaking: Tennessee lands one of the top-available transfers, Sacred Heart transfer EJ Anosike, he told @Stockrisers. “I always grew up wanting to play basketball at Tennessee.” He talked his decision & playing for the same school his sister did. | Story: https://t.co/ow0l1lbrhs pic.twitter.com/IRz5MdJmTN— Jake (@jakeweingarten) March 27, 2020
Anosike looks like he’s going to fit in well down low with returning post players Yves Pons and John Fulkerson. At his height, the comparisons to former Vol Grant Williams will come, but Anosike and Williams don’t have the same game just because they’re both around 6-6. Williams was a polished interior scorer who used his strength and finesse to score inside pretty much anytime he wanted. It looks like Anosike has some post moves, but a lot of his buckets come in transition or on second-chance opportunities where he uses his athleticism to clean up around the rim.
Some of that is me watching highlights and making an educated guess about how he fits with Tennessee’s team next season, but the numbers reinforce my assertion. Anosike led the Northeast Conference in offensive rebounds in each of the last two seasons — he had 105 offensive rebounds in 2018-19 and 138 offensive rebounds last season — while John Fulkerson pulled down the most offensive boards of any Tennessee player with just 64. That’s a statically significant discrepancy, and it’s intended more as an endorsement of Anosike than it is an indictment of any specific Tennessee player.
And, apparently, he really likes to dunk the ball. That’s cool. I know if I could dunk I would do it LITERALLY ALL THE TIME.
I can already see Vescovi throwing the no-look pass to Anosike as he flashes into the paint and then obliterates the rim with a thunderous dunk... and Thompson-Boling Arena goes nuts.
Tennessee’s newest addition EJ Anosike loves the paint. pic.twitter.com/oyTXe0wd1g— Landon Raby (@lambo_raby10) March 27, 2020
It’s going to take some time for Rick Barnes and staff to figure out the rotation — there’s a bunch of new guys coming in, and who knows how they’ll adjust to college ball. But with Anosike, it looks like Tennessee is getting some ready-made production in the paint.
Barnes found a really nice band-aid.
Finally, the transition season for Tennessee basketball is over. Things were always going to be difficult for the Volunteers after watching Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone depart to the NBA after the 2018-19 season. A rocky 17-14 season was the result, filled with highs and lows.
The Volunteers took their lumps. But this past season was always all about next season.
Tennessee is set to return every key player outside of Jordan Bowden next year. This includes John Fulkerson and Yves Pons, who both took massive steps forward in new roles as juniors. Freshman guards Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James will return, each coming off of roller coaster first seasons in Knoxville. But those year one learning experiences are now behind them and out of the way.
Those four make up the core, then Tennessee’s fourth-ranked recruiting class will make up the rest. Five-star guards Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer will add some big time NBA talent to the roster, while four-star wing Corey Walker Jr. adds a bit more size. Oregon transfer Victor Bailey Jr. will add some experience to a backcourt that could really use some.
Those eight players form a really talented rotation, but it’s pretty guard heavy. Uros Plavsic and Olivier Nkamhoua provided depth for the Tennessee frontcourt last season as freshmen. They’ll be in the mix next season as well, but Rick Barnes received an upgrade in that department on Friday.
E.J. Anosike announced that he will join Tennessee for next season, transferring from Sacred Heart. The 6-6, 245 pound power forward brings toughness to the Volunteers, something they could have used last season. While he may not have the length you would typically want from a post player, Tennessee is getting a rugged body that will help their efforts on the glass.
Tennessee’s rebounding numbers were a constant thorn in their side last season. Averaging 34.5 per game, the Vols ranked 279th in the country in that department. They ranked 10th in the SEC in offensive rebounds, something Anosike specialized in at Sacred Heart. Tennessee was the worst defensive rebounding team in the SEC last season. Overall, Anosike scored over 15 points per game will adding 11 boards per contest last season. He brings an attitude to the Tennessee frontcourt — something they were definitely missing last year.
Anosike likely slots in as the first big off the bench for Tennessee behind John Fulkerson and Yves Pons. He provides added insurance for Barnes should Pons opt to test the NBA waters, though most agree that the rising senior could use one more year of seasoning at the college level. Adding Anosike also takes some pressure off of Plavsic, Nkamhoua and Drew Pember, who each could use a year in the weight room before moving into important roles after Fulkerson and Pons move on for good.
While Tennessee’s 2019 recruiting class is historic, it lacked a big man, which is something that the Volunteers absolutely needed. With Anosike now ready to roll, Barnes has his band-aid in place.
Tennessee is now even more loaded, set to compete for a title with this unique blend of veterans and potential one-and-dones. After an expected down year, this program is about to be a whole lot of fun again.
Another versatile linebacker to watch.
Another blue-chip prospect has Tennessee among his favorite schools this week. Four-star linebacker Ian Jackson out of Prattville, Alabama included Tennessee in his list of top ten schools.
Nebraska, Georgia, Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma, Florida State, Louisville, Alabama and Texas A&M were also on Jackson’s list.
Jackson is listed at 6-1, 208 pounds. He’s listed as an outside linebacker prospect, but would likely play more inside in Tennessee’s 3-4 system. Jackson is the 242nd ranked player in the 2021 class, per 247Sports. He’s the 19th ranked outside linebacker prospect in the country and the 9th ranked prospect coming out of the state of Alabama.
Tennessee offered Jackson in January of 2018 during a junior day event in Knoxville.
As a junior, Jackson racked up 91 tackles — 18 of which went for a loss. He added six sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. His highlight tape shows off his versatility, working off the edge, as a defensive back and as a traditional off-ball linebacker. His ability to play in space is his main appeal right now, with some even believing that Jackson could play as a safety at the next level. He will clearly have to bulk up if he’s going to hold up in the middle of a front seven, but the baseline skillset here is obvious.
Here are our top defining moments in the history of Tennessee Vols athletics – Knoxville News Sentinel
A proven frontcourt player is heading to Knoxville.
I want Thank God and for everyone who helped me get to this point in my career. I am excited for what the future holds for me. With that being said I am excited to announce my commitment to the University of Tennessee. I can’t wait to join my family in Knoxville!— Ej Anosike (@Rattyfam_EJ) March 27, 2020
Sacred Heart graduate transfer E.J. Anosike tells CBS Sports he’s chosen to play next season at Tennessee. That’s a really nice get. Anosike’s older sister played at UT for Pat Summitt. Rick Barnes’ teams has a shot at being a top-10 team in 2020-21.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) March 27, 2020
Anosike is one of the more sought after transfers of the offseason. He last played for the Sacred Heart Pioneers, where he spent the first three seasons of his college career. Anosike announced he was transferring earlier this offseason, and he quickly had teams like Georgetown, Louisville, and Gonzaga vying for his services.
Why the hype? Mainly because of what he did while in the Northeastern Conference and what he has proven as a player. Anosike was selected to the All-Northeastern Conference teams twice in his sophomore and junior years. This past season, Anosike averaged 15.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game on 48% shooting, on his way to First-Team honors.
Anosike comes in at 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds with a power forward skillset. He’s not really a hybrid forward like Tennessee has enjoyed in the past. His role will be much more focused on the inside.
This is arguably just as important a commitment as Tennessee’s two 5-stars in the 2020 recruiting class. Anosike will play immediately as a grad transfer and get major minutes, likely as a starter in the frontcourt. He’s proven as both a scoring option and a rebounding option, the latter of which is something Tennessee thought they were getting in Uros Plavsic (which hasn’t really panned out yet). Even with the incoming recruiting class, Tennessee’s frontcourt was lacking in proven depth beyond John Fulkerson. They just grabbed a player who might be an All-SEC selection to fill that depth.
We already knew Tennessee was gearing up for next season to make another run to the top of the polls. Anosike’s commitment means one of their lone weak spots has now been repaired.
A complicated situation.
Just like that, Tennessee’s — and everyone else’s — season was over.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 forced conferences hands. Tournaments were canceled, the season was over. Seniors had suddenly played their last games in college without even knowing it.
But some chatter around the college athletics world suggests that seniors like Jordan Bowden could be granted another year of eligibility. Nothing has been announced officially by the NCAA, but it’s certainly a topic being heavily discussed after seniors across the country didn’t get a chance to finish their careers.
On Thursday, Bowden talked about the possibility of returning to Tennessee.
“Man, I’d love to stay here at UT, but it’s just something I would have to talk about with my family and things like that,” Bowden said via videoconference. “But I would love to come back.”
The senior guard didn’t finish his career like he wanted. It was a struggle for Bowden for much of the year, filled with shooting slumps and overall inconsistent play. Still, the Knoxville native finished averaging 13.7 points per game. But his shooting percentages dipped, particularly from three-point range. Bowden shot just 28 percent from three, down from 37 percent as a junior.
He’s currently 24th on Tennessee’s all-time scoring list with 1,365 points.
Rick Barnes is unsure where he sits on the issue of giving extra eligibility, noting that several conferences had already finished up their tournaments the week before.
Bowden had some NBA chatter after the conclusion of his junior season. At 6-5, he’s got the size and ability to play at both ends of the floord as a pro. But his senior year highlighted the inconsistencies that have always kept him from getting to that next level as a player. Another year could be beneficial for Bowden, but Tennessee’s roster next season is already guard heavy as it.
Five-star guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson will join the mix with Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James set to return. Victor Bailey Jr. will become eligible as well. Because of this, we’ve already seen Jalen Johnson opt to transfer. How would Bowden’s presence change the rotation?
Again, to be clear, we haven’t had any definitive word that this is even an option from the NCAA. But it’s clearly something that Bowden hasn’t closed the door on just yet.