Santiago Vescovi, who arrived at Tennessee in late December as a mid-year enrollee, wasn’t suppose to be playing such an important role for the Vols right now.

But after Lamonte Turner was lost for the season (ending his UT career), it made getting Vescovi into the lineup this winter a necessity for the Vols.

Even then, there were questions about whether or not it was wise to burn a year of Vescovi’s eligibility for half a season.

With a tournament berth looking unlikely (which would’ve instantly justified playing Vescovi), it’s fair that those questions remain.

But even with Tennessee looking like they’re NIT bound, I still think Rick Barnes absolutely made the right decision to use a year of Vescovi’s eligibility this winter.

That’s because I don’t think Vescovi will still be in Knoxville when he’s a senior. He already looks like a budding star and he’s only been on Tennessee’s campus for just over a month.

Vescovi has improved vastly over his first 12 games at Tennessee.

In the win against Arkansas on Tuesday night, the native of Uruguay scored a career high 20 points while dishing out eight assists and turning the ball over only three times.

Tennessee Vols

Vescovi turned the ball over 21 times in his first three games as a Vol. Over the last three games, Vescovi has only seven turnovers.

If Vescovi, a former three-star recruit, continues to develop at this pace, he’ll be a player that is of great interest to NBA teams.

The 6-foot-3 point guard has the size and floor awareness to make an impact at the next level. And he’s shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc, which will make him even more desirable to NBA teams (especially as his shooting improves).

Barnes’ decision to play Vescovi this season will not only put the Volunteers in a better position next season (when they’ll be poised to make some noise in March), it also gives fans an extra half season of watching Vescovi play.

I don’t know how long the South American sharpshooter will be in Knoxville, but it’s going to be fun watching him while he’s wearing orange and white.

Featured image via Randy Sartin/USA Today
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