With Tennessee Basketball losing two key pieces to graduation and adding five key pieces in the off-season, their 2020-21 roster will look much different.
Although the 2019-2020 season didn’t conclude when it was supposed to, many programs managed to have a productive off-season, and improve their rosters for the upcoming season. With many players deciding to enter their names into the NBA Draft, several programs were forced to put more of an emphasis on recruiting, so that they could easily replace certain players if they ended up pursuing an NBA career.
Tennessee Basketball (who finished with a 17-14 overall record, and 9-9 conference record in 2019-2020) is a program that didn’t lose any players to the NBA Draft, but two of their key pieces from a season ago graduated in the spring, which may have caused a few Vols fans to go into a state of panic at first. The first key piece that the Vols will be without this season is Jordan Bowden, a 6’5″ shooting guard from Knoxville, Tennessee.
Bowden is a guy that gradually increased his scoring production each season, and earned the right to be looked at as one of Tennessee’s main scoring options.
He averaged 7.9 points his freshman season, 9.1 points his sophomore season, 10.6 points his junior season, and 13.7 points his senior season, while shooting above 37% from the field each season. And even though his three-point % wasn’t where he wanted it to be in 2016-2017, and 2019-2020 (shot 31.5%, and 28.7% ), he did give the Vols two consecutive seasons of quality three-point shooting. (shot 39.5% in 2017-2018, and 37.8% in 2018-2019)
Bowden was able to get high percentage looks at Tennessee consistently, because of his ability to tightly curl screens and stay low, so that he could quickly elevate at his peak when he received the ball. This left defenders no choice but to fight over screens, and attempt to make him second guess himself (which he didn’t do often).
He was also dangerous in transition during his time at Tennessee, because he always managed to get out ahead of the pack, stay behind the arc, as opposed to trying to creep his way towards the basket, and ensure that he was prepared to shoot on the catch.
Lamonte Turner (a 6’2″ Point Guard from Florence, Alabama, who only made 11 appearances last season, due to a devastating left shoulder injury), is the second key piece that the Vols will be without this season.
Turner is a player that had a love/hate relationship with many fans throughout his career, and there is no denying that he did take some questionable shots late in tight games, that angered more people than you probably think. However, he did prove to many that he could drill huge shots if the situation called for it.
For example, in the 2019 SEC Tournament Semifinal, Tennessee trailed Kentucky 76-75 with less than 40 seconds remaining, when Turner made arguably the biggest shot of his college career. When Admiral Schofield (current Washington Wizards Small Forward/Power Forward), caught the ball on the left-wing, pump-faked to get PJ Washington (current Charlotte Hornets Power Forward) out of position, and took one dribble towards the basket, he forced Tyler Herro (current Miami Heat Shooting Guard) to slide over and help.
As soon at that occurred, Schofield wisely kicked the ball out to Turner, who was all alone at the top of the key and stepped into a three that he confidently nailed with 29 seconds remaining. (Tennessee went on to win 82-78)
Why was Turner able to knock down the shot that help propelled the Vols to victory? Well, it was because he didn’t zone out when he saw Schofield trying to make a play, which allowed him to catch the ball and release it instantly. Therefore, he didn’t have to worry about possibly fumbling the ball, and feeling like he needed to throw up a prayer. Fans that were beginning to run out of patience for Turner, started to come around after that shot, and erase some of the doubts they had about his ability to perform in crunch time.
For his career, he averaged 10.2 points per game, and from 2017-2020, he averaged at least 10 points per game. (10.9 points per game in 2017-2018/2018-2019, and 12.3 points in 2019-2020. His best season from long distance came in 2017-2018 when he shot 39.5%, and his best season from two-point range came in 2018-2019 when he shot 56.7%.
In addition to being a guy that could make threes after coming off high- ball screens, or in catch and shoot situations at Tennessee, Turner also showed that he could stop immediately (if he was unable to fire a three after coming off those high-ball screens), allow his defenders to stay on his hip for a few seconds, and explode to the rim when he was ready. If he was struggling on the offensive end, you could always rely on him to buckle down defensively, and harass opposing guards all game long.
My message to Vols fans is simple, I understand what those two players meant to Tennessee’s program, and you still may need some more time to fully accept the fact that they are gone, but the Vols 2020-2021 roster (which is highlighted by the returning starters, bench/role players, and newcomers) should have you excited about what may be in store for them this season. In this article, I will be breaking down Tennessee’s full roster, and using four different categories, to help easily project how minutes will be distributed.