Sanning: Would Vescovi have as much of an impact if Turner were healthy?

Cory Sanning

I'm sure by now, you've all read the headline and trust me, I know what you're all thinking.

Let me explain first. 

Santiago Vescovi has been a tremendous find for Tennessee. He's been the most impactful player on the court for the Vols since he arrived weeks ago and continues to prove that no stage is too big despite his young age.

But, for the sake of the "what if," one of our favorite games to play in sports, we're going to play a little game (yes, all pun intended). 

What if Lamonte Turner hadn't required season-ending surgery on his shoulder? What if he was still available for Rick Barnes? Would Tennessee be just as successful, or would it be in the same spot it finds itself in now?

It's a question that we'll never get a definitive answer to, but there are far more reasons to think that the Vols would be in a rather similar spot, just with a different face leading the way.

Prior to his Vescovi's arrival and Turner's untimely announcement, Tennessee had been doing just fine with this current group, albeit a couple of difficult losses sprinkled in here and there.

UT remained in the AP Top 25 for a majority of its non-conference schedule and had made some noise in the Emerald Coast Classic spurred by a buzzer beater by, you guessed it, Turner.

Tennessee's worst stretch of misfortunes wouldn't begin until the aftermath of Turner's collegiate career-ending announcement. 

For some reason, I refuse to believe in coincidences. 

Not only was Turner the team's most reliable scorer down the stretch, he was their heart, soul and backbone when the going gets tough. Look no further than to fellow senior Jordan Bowden as an example.

One of the conference's most explosive athletes and deadly shooters, Bowden played like a man possessed with his co-captain on the floor. 

Since Turner has been away, that confidence has, at times, been nonexistent. 

He's been steadily gaining it back as the Vols get into the thick of their SEC schedule, but losing one of his closest friends on the court clearly took an emotional toll on the Knoxville native.

No need to dive into his personal obstacles, but they're existent. 

What does Bowden's confidence have to do with Vescovi, you may ask? It's simple.

Did anyone expect a 18-year-old from Uruguay to be Tennessee's most impactful player despite not having gone through fall camp and early season tournament play? Simply put, no.

Everybody's attention turned to No. 23, and for good reason. 

That hasn't turned out to be the case, however. Vescovi's surprising start has had a lot to do with that.

The freshman guard has cut his turnovers down by a ridiculous margin and had another coming-out party against Arkansas on Tuesday, scoring a career-high 20 points and dishing out eight assists during a resounding 82-61 win at Thompson-Boling Arena. 

Whether he continues to bite the elbow or not, Vescovi continues to win the adoration of fans across Knoxville and the University of Tennessee's campus, his jersey already making an appearance in the "Rocky Top Rowdies" student section.

But the question posed was would he have this same impact if he had to compete against Turner in practice?

Not for a second do I believe so. 

And that's not a knock on Vescovi or his progress. I very well think he would have come in and contributed right away, as he's done now, just at a much lower volume.

Turner was one of the country's best defensive guards and clutch shot-makers. He's proven that time and time again over the past three years. 

Vescovi, meanwhile, is a promising young prospect that, despite his recent success, struggled to take care of the ball and be effective once he put it on the floor when he was initially inserted into the lineup. 

You think he would have had an easy time handling the ball against Turner in practice on a consistent basis? Me either. 

As he has done as of late, Vescovi would have adjusted. He would have gotten better. That's just what competitors do. 

Who knows? He may have come out even better if he had both Turner and Bowden to go up against in practice, but that's a different discussion meant for another day. 

The only thing that matters now is that Vescovi is here and, from the looks of it, is in it for the long haul. With Tennessee set to welcome in an explosive recruiting class next season, fortunes are slowly starting to look up once again on Rocky Top. 


Men's Basketball