Tennessee landed one of its highest commitments ever Wednesday when 2019 five-star Josiah James announced that he’s picked the Volunteers.
James chose the Vols over a final four that also included Duke, Michigan State (where his father played) and his home-state Clemson, the latter of which was expected by many to be his destination. The No. 14 recruit in the 2019 class visited Knoxville earlier this month and was at Clemson for an official visit last weekend. Earlier this week, he cancelled a planned Sept. 27 visit to Duke and announced that he would shortly make his decision.
A 6'6" combo guard from Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, S.C., James is major get for Rick Barnes and Tennessee’s highest-ranked commit since Tobias Harris in 2010. He instantly becomes the crown jewel of the Vols’ recruiting class, joining three-stars Drew Pember and Davonte Gaines.
Barnes has built Tennessee’s current squad into a national contender without having a single top-100 recruit on the roster. Top big man Grant Williams was a three-star ranked No. 191 in 2016, while lead guard Admiral Schofield was ranked No. 251 in 2015. James’s commitment represents a recruiting breakthrough for a program that hasn’t gone further than the Sweet 16 since 2010 under Bruce Pearl, but won a share of the SEC regular-season title last year despite being picked to finish 13th in the preseason.
In an essay James wrote with Frankie Mansfield published Wednesday by the Moultrie News, he recounted how Tennessee was the first “big-time offer” he received back when he was 13. “I’ll never get that feeling again. They saw something in me from Day 1 and that really meant a lot to me,” he wrote.
Barnes was recently given a contract extension through 2023–24. Tennessee will look to carry the recruiting momentum as it chases a number of other top recruits, especially in the 2020 class, where its targets include five-star guard Jaden Springer.
The Vols’ 2018–19 season begins on Nov. 9 when they host Louisiana at Thompson-Bolin Arena.