With Neyland Stadium set to host a sold out crowd for Tennessee-Ole Miss at 7:30 p.m. ET, Tennessee Basketball put on a full practice in front of the public in Thompson Bowling Arena eight hours before kickoff.
With a decent turnout on Saturday in TBA, Rick Barnes' squad was able to put on a 40-minute scrimmage for many spectators.
Multiple newcomers are coming to Rocky Top to play for Rick Barnes this season, and nearly all saw action in Saturday's practice. Out of the newcomers, only Jonas Aidoo and Quentin Diboundje sat out.
During the scrimmage, the white (home) team's starting five consisted of Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi, Victor Bailey Jr., Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and John Fulkerson. The orange (away) team's starting five consisted of Kennedy Chandler, Josiah Jordan-James, Justin Powell, Olivier Nkamhoua and Uros Plavsic. The white team defeated the orange 75-65, as the white outscored the orange by 12 points in the second half.
The most highly touted member of Tennessee's 2021 recruiting class is five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler. With an expectation to play a vital role for the Vols this season, the Sunrise Christian product played nearly the entire 40 minutes of the scrimmage the Vols held, working with the second team as the one.
But plenty of newcomer Vols shined on Saturday, specifically fellow point guard Zakai Zeigler.
Observations on each player, including Chandler, from Satuday's practice can be seen below:
C Jonas Aidoo; #0; FR: Aidoo sat out the public practice but was present with the first team on the sideline. Aidoo is reported to have been dealing with an illness according to Rocky Top Insider's Ryan Schumpert.
PG Kennedy Chandler; #1; FR: The Vols five-star recruit saw the court for essentially the entire 40-minute scrimmage Tennessee held on Saturday, working with the second team as the one. Teammate Josiah Jordan-James helped Chandler lead the second team during the scrimmage.
To put it simply, while Chandler is as advertised, he is not perfect, yet.
His speed, agility and ability to finish or find the open man to finish make him a huge asset to Rick Barnes' offense. There were multiple times during the practice that Chandler was able to make something out of nothing and find a basket, and although the Wichita, Kansas native worked with the second team, everyone should expect him to start right away for Tennessee.
Additionally, Chandler was able to capitalize on some open looks and sink some threes. Despite the fact that Chandler had quite a few sensational plays for the orange squad, there is still plenty of room to grow on the defensive side of the ball. There were multiple times fellow point guard Zakai Zeigler was able to make a play with Chandler guarding him, as the five-star played a little too far off at times during the scrimmage. Chandler also lost control of the ball on some drives for the orange, especially in the second half, that did not help his team's chances of trying to secure a win.
Following the scrimmage, Rick Barnes stayed close with Chandler as the other members of the team mingled. Barnes seemed to be thoroughly unhappy with Chandler's performance in the scrimmage, as the Vols head coach was talking to Chandler in a stern tone regarding some plays the freshman made during the scrimmage.
Chandler has room to grow, but he is a stud. His five-star talent will come through when Tennessee takes the court for the 2021-2022 season, and if he can improve his defensive play and eliminate turnovers, Chandler will be an absolute force for the Vols.
PF/C Brandon Huntley-Hatfield; #2; FR: The third straight freshman on this rundown of the roster so far is five-star power forward Brandon Huntley-Hatflied. After reclassifying and joining Tennessee's 2021 recruiting class, BHH joined Kennedy Chandler as a fellow five-star recruit for the class.
At Saturday's practice, BHH played with the first team (white; home) and played the majority of the 40 minutes. It is clear Rick Barnes and the rest of Tennessee Basketball's coaching staff trusts the freshman, but it remains to be seen if Huntley-Hatfield has earned a starting spot to start the season.
The 6'9" freshman was getting a lot of coaching up during the scrimmage, as "Brandon!" calls from the sideline frequented the air of TBA. The freshman made some good plays on Saturday, slamming a dunk at one point and getting in position for a few key lay-ups. However, it is clear BHH needs work with how to conduct himself on the floor, as there were times he looked uncertain and not too confident regarding his movements.
BHH will turn out to be a fine player for Tennessee, but he may not start right away, especially considering the solid play from Olivier Nkamhoua.
SG Quentin Diboundje; #3; FR: Diboundje was dressed out but did not take part in Saturday's practice, but he was present on the orange team's sideline.
PG Zakai Zeigler; #5; FR: As mentioned earlier, Zeigler played the one with the first team on Saturday, and he may have been the most pleasant surprise for Tennessee. Although Zeigler (5'9") looks like an ant at times on the court, he made his presence known, conducting the floor like an experience vet and making a lot of plays with the ball.
Zeigler is not afraid to shoot from beyond the arc, either, as the New York native jacked up a few that found the basket.
What really stood out in Zeigler's play is his charisma. When no. 5 has the ball, he moves with such elusiveness that as an observer, you cannot help but think he is going to make a play.
Zeigler's small frame will cause problems at times during the season, but Tennessee seems to have a solid counterpart to Kennedy Chandler that can lead the second team.
PF John Fulkerson; #10; GR: Fulkerson warmed the hearts of Vol Nation when he decided to come back for another season as a super-senior. Anybody in TBA could sense the leader Fulkerson is for Tennessee, as Kingsport native was in multiple freshman's ears giving advice to help lead his team.
Fulkerson played with the first team, but he did not make any splash plays. He did take quit a fall to the court early in the second half, but he got back up quickly.
Yet again, expect to see 'Fulky' logging a good amount of minutes per game this season.
SG/SF Victor Bailey Jr.; #12; SR: The former Oregon Duck has been a big part of Tennessee's offense on the court since coming to Rocky Top, and Saturday's practice showed that his impact may be amplified even more.
One positive thing about the practice as a whole for the Vols was their willingness to shoot and ability to make three-pointers.
Victor Bailey Jr. was a big reason why.
The Austin, Texas native put his impressive shooting ability on display, sinking several baskets from downtown in the scrimmage for the white team.
Bailey figures to be a key part in Rick Barnes' offense for the upcoming season, and I would suggest Tennessee fans may see more of the Oregon transfer this year compared to last year.
PF Olivier Nkamhoua; #13; JR: The Finland native big man was on the court often in his team's loss in Saturday's scrimmage. While Nkamhoua has not played a big role for Tennessee since coming to Rocky Top, the scrimmage suggests that the junior may see more playing time this season.
Nkamhoua displayed veteran leadership with his call-outs on the floor, and his performance was solid as well. The Finland native was not afraid to shoot threes, and the ball was in his hands nearly every drive the orange team had when no. 13 was on the floor. Nkamhoua's passing ability and experience will lead to solid playing time this season, and I would not be surprised if he logs some starts occasionally.
SG Jahmai Mashack; #15; FR: Mashack saw a decent amount of action in Saturday's practice, and he was seen leading his team down the floor quite a bit as well. His passing needs some work, but his quickness and fairly big frame for a shooting guard will lead to a decent amount of playing time for the four-star recruit this season
SG Kent Gilbert; #21; SO: Gilbert saw little action for the white team on Saturday, and he figures to play a reserve role for the Vols this season.
SG Justin Powell; #24; SO: The red-shirt sophomore got the start for the orange team and saw plenty of floor time on Saturday. One of the biggest storylines in Tennessee;s offseason for Rick Barnes' squad has been Justin Powell's incredible ability to sink threes.
However, that was not on display Saturday. Powell missed quite a few of the shots he took from three-point range and provided little big plays for the orange. His hustle to get down the court and solid defensive play came through in the scrimmage, though.
The Auburn transfer will play his first season for Tennessee this year, and while he may not be a member of the starting I've, he should see quite a bit of playing time in his first year as a Vol, especially if he can return to early offseason form with his shooting.
PG/SG Santiago Vescovi; #25; JR: Vescovi joins Fulkerson and Josiah Jordan-James as returning Vols that are primed for a big role in the 2021-2022 season.
Vescovi was on the court for essentially the entire time in Saturday's scrimmage, and the Uruguay native displayed why he is valuable to this Rick Barnes team, as his shots from mid and deep range were nearly perfect across the board.
SG/SF Josiah Jordan-James; #30; JR: Jordan-James served as one of the main leaders for the orange team, and the junior looked good with the ball in his hands.
PG/SG Isaiah Sulack; #31; JR: The Knoxville native saw little playing time in the scrimmage and figures to serve a reserve role in the 2021-2022 season.
PF Handje Tamba; #32; FR: Yet another one of Tennessee's newcomers saw action in Saturday's scrimmage, as the Knoxville Catholic product played a decent amount for the losing orange team. Tamba committed a few fouls, and it is unlikely he will see many minutes to start the season.
C Uros Plavsic; #33; JR: I was impressed with what the public got to see from Plavsic on Saturday. The seven-footer got in position to make a few lay-ups and drew a few fouls as well. While Tennessee is unlikely to start the Serbian, the Vols have clear big man depth with Fulkerson, BHH, Tamba, Jancek and Plavsic.
PF Cole Morris; #34; SO: The big man saw little action in Saturday's scrimmage and figures to play a reserve role this year.
PF/C Brock Jancek; #35; SR: The experienced big man Volunteer saw some action serving in relief of Fulkerson and BHH, but not much. Jancek won't start for the Vols, but his intelligence and experience on the court make him a valuable reserve piece.
VR2 will be providing observations for all Tennessee Basketball practices available to the media moving forward.