Now that college football is over and the NFL is slowly winding down, many Tennesseans are starting to turn their heads towards Knoxville and realize, “hey, that basketball team is pretty freakin’ good.” Well yeah, they are.
Many times, people who begin watching a team when that team starts making noise get a bad rap from long-time fans calling them “bandwagoners” as if that’s supposed to be some sort of damning insult. That’s where we come in.
Here is everything you need to know to hop on board and enjoy the rest of the UT basketball season. So now, you can talk to your friends about the team without sounding like a total bandwagon fan. So hop aboard. The bandwagon is open for business.
Barnes is a seasoned veteran of a head coach. His head coaching career began with a one year run at George mason followed by a handful of seasons at both Providence and Clemson.
In 1998 he took the job at Texas where he stuck around until 2015 when he finally made his way to Knoxville. Barnes has one trip to the Final Four under his belt in 2003 along with a pair of Elite Eight appearances. Some key names that have played under Barnes include Larmarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant.
Barnes’s calling card is that he’s known as one of the most caring coaches in the country. Players constantly say he is a father figure to them and he even helped lead a couple of UT players to get baptized prior to this season.
Fun Fact: Barnes is currently 25thin all-time NCAA Division one wins.
Grant Williams #2 – Junior – Forward
Williams is the team’s best player. He’s a 6-7 forward that is currently the reigning SEC player of the year. Experts project him as a potential first round pick in this year’s NBA draft but Vols fans are hopeful that he will stick around for one more year.
Williams is averaging 18.8 points per game and which is first in the SEC. Most notably, Williams is a strong contender for the Naismith National Player of the Year award.
Fun Fact: 25% of fouls against the Vols this season have been committed against Williams.
Admiral Schofield #5 – Senior – Small Forward
Look on the floor and find the guy with the biggest shoulders- that’s Admiral Schofield. His father is a retired Navy Senior Chief (hence the name Admiral).
Schofield sits right behind Williams in the points per game category at 17.7 which is second in the SEC. Earlier this season, Schofield had the best game of his career leading the Vols to a win over #1 Gonzaga with a plethora of big shots down the stretch.
After his junior season, Schofield had the opportunity to leave for the NBA draft, but stayed in Knoxville because he says he wants to be one of Barnes’ favorite players he’s ever coached.
Fun Fact: Schofield was born in the same hospital where Princess Diana gave birth to birth to William and Harry.
Jordan Bowden #23 – Junior – Guard
Bowden is the hometown hero from Knoxville. He’s a versatile guard that shoots very well from three-point land and is also crazy athletic.
Bowden was a starter to begin the season, but after six games was replaced by Yves Pons (we’ll get to him later). Since his move to the bench, Bowden has lit the world on fire. In the four SEC games of the season, Bowden’s point totals have been 20, 20, 17, and 19.
He is currently the front runner to win the SEC Sixth Man of the Year award.
Fun Fact: He is the first Knox County native to receive a men’s basketball scholarship to UT as a freshman since 1985.
Yves Pons #35 – Sophomore – Guard
First off, his name is pronounced like the name Eve, as in Adam and Eve. Pons is the Vols’ best athlete which he really showed off with numerous flying dunks early in the season.
Outside of dunking, he is not a great offensive contributor, but Rick Barnes loves his defense.
Pons was born in Haiti, but moved to France at a young age making him Tennessee’s first ever basketball player from France.
Fun Fact: Pons attended the same high school as NBA star Tony Parker.
Jordan Bone #0 – Junior – Point Guard
Bone is another semi-local player from Nashville. He is the team’s starting point guard and orchestrates the offense.
Bone currently averages 6.3 assists per game which is good for third in the SEC.
Bone’s best attribute is his speed as he may very well be the quickest guard in the country. His ability to move is the key to the Vols transition offense.
Fun Fact: His older brother played on Tennessee’s 2010 basketball team that reached the Elite Eight.
Kyle Alexander #11 – Senior – Center
Alexander is the Vols’ tallest player at 6-11 and is the teams’ starting center. Hailing from Ontario, Canada, Alexander is currently third in all-time blocked shots at UT with 148.
Though Alexander tends to fly under the radar, his importance came to light in last year’s NCAA tournament. Alexander suffered an injury in the first round causing him to miss the second game. The Vols struggled protecting the rim and rebounding without him leading to Tennessee’s earlier than expected exit.
Fun Fact: Alexander graduated in May and is taking graduate level classes right now.
Lamonté Turner #1 – RS Junior – Guard
The reigning SEC sixth man of the year got off to a slow start this season due to a shoulder injury, but has bounced back in a huge way since the start of SEC play when he became fully healthy.
Turner is an energizer off the bench for Tennessee and is known as being fearless, never backing down from a big shot.
He is the Vols’ best free throw shooter (.940 last season) so expect to see him on the floor late in tight games.
Fun Fact: Turner’s birthday is on July 4.
John Fulkerson #10 – RS Sophomore – Forward
Fulkerson (or Fulky) comes off the bench for the Vols and is the definition of Mr. Hustle. Vols assistant coach Rob Lanier has even said he believes Fulkerson is the team’s “X Factor.”
Seeing Fulky rolling around on the hardwood wrestling for a ball is a common sight and one that clearly pumps up his teammates.
Anytime the Vols may start seeming complacent, lazy, or soft, Fulkerson will be kneeling by the scorer’s table and the team’s demeanor will change quickly.
Fun Fact: Fulkerson attended the same high school as NBA player Marshal Plumlee where Fulkerson broke Plumlee’s record for most blocked shots in a season.
The Team as a Whole
This team is generally summed up by two aspects.
First, the players lack egos. Opposing coaches constantly talk about how difficult it is to stop Tennessee’s offense because of the players’ selflessness.
There is no “stop one man and you stop the team” solution against Tennessee. The entire team seems to thoroughly enjoy playing with and for each other which has developed fantastic cohesiveness.
Second, this team has a chip on their shoulders. Tennessee was picked to finish second to last in the SEC last season and shocked the country by winning the conference.
The conference title was driven by a chip that all the players carried with them. The vast majority of last year’s team returned this season and that chip hasn’t gone anywhere.