2023 Tennessee vs Lithuania U21 - Foreign Tours

Tennessee Basketball: Meet Newcomers Debuting On Volunteers' Foreign Tour

Tennessee Basketball: Meet Newcomers Debuting On Volunteers' Foreign Tour

Tennessee has a wealth of newcomers coming to Rocky Top for next season, with many debuting in the orange and white during the team’s upcoming foreign tour.

Jul 18, 2023 by Briar Napier
Tennessee Basketball: Meet Newcomers Debuting On Volunteers' Foreign Tour

Is this year bound to finally be the one in which Tennessee basketball gets over the hump?

Since Rick Barnes came to Knoxville in 2015, the Volunteers have been ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll (for a four-week stretch in 2019), have made it to the NCAA Tournament five times and won both the Southeastern Conference regular-season (2018) and Tournament (2022) titles.

However, perhaps unfairly, a team’s success for a given season is heavily based on what they do in the postseason. 

In UT’s case since Barnes’ arrival—and for decades of the program’s history before him—they’ve been consistently very good, but not elite. Their nine Sweet 16 appearances (including last season) have led to just one trip to the Elite Eight (2010) and no appearances in the Final Four.

The talent is obvious, but as history has shown, the next step hasn’t quite been there for the Vols. 

With a wealth of newcomers coming to Rocky Top for next season, however—with many debuting in the orange and white during the team’s upcoming foreign tour—UT is looking to change that once and for all and make another long-awaited run past the Sweet 16 and beyond.

Here’s a peek at the Vols ahead of their foreign tour in Italy. They’ll take on the Lithuania U21 national team Aug. 4, 5 and Italian club A.S. Stella Azzura on Aug. 7. All of the games will be streamed live on FloHoops.

Jordan Gainey

The Barnes era at Tennessee has seen a habit being made of developing dynamic backcourt players, and Gainey—a two-time All-Big South Conference selection at South Carolina Upstate–certainly fits into that mold. 

After averaging 14.5 points per game over his time with the Spartans and leading the Big South in steals a year ago, Gainey’s development and role in the will directly contribute to the Vols’ success, espcially now that Chris Ledlum reentered the portal recently.

Dalton Knecht

Dalton Knecht, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, was an absolute workhorse for the Northern Colorado Bears last season, playing more than 35 minutes per game and finishing as the scoring champion of the Big Sky Conference. His 3-point shooting was especially impressive, with a 38.1 percent clip, and he averaged a career-best 20.2 points per game.

He still seems to be growing into his skillset, having originally come to the NCAA Division I level from JUCO ball. 

Knecht now gets an opportunity to show out for one of the premier programs in one of the top conferences in college basketball, and the Vols could use the boost in deep shooting. As a team, they shot a below-average 32.9 percent from 3-point range last season.

Cade Phillips

A graduate of the elite Link Academy in Missouri, Cade Phillips, a three-star recruit and the top overall player from Alabama in the 2023 class, spurned his home-state Crimson Tide—where his uncle, ex-NFL quarterback Brodie Croyle, starred in the mid-2000s–in favor of the Vols.

His 6-foot-9 frame will help a squad trying to build back some depth in the post after the offseason departures of Olivier Nkamhoua (transfer portal) and Uros Plavsic (pros). 

Cameron Carr

Joining Phillips from Link Academy to Rocky Top is Cameron Carr, a four-star shooting guard who was ranked in the top-50 nationally by Rivals, helping lead Link to a No. 1 overall ranking in ESPN’s final 2022-2023 national high school rankings. 

Carr stands 6-foot-5 with a lengthy 7-foot-1 wingspan and pro-level genes (his father, Chris Carr, played six seasons in the NBA).

Car is also a proven winner at the prep level, winning the coveted 2022 Peach Jam title with the MOKAN Elite AAU squad—which boasts an impressive list of alumnus including Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr. and Ochai Agbaji.

J.P. Estrella

Estrella’s game has gone nowhere but up in recent years, heavily due to the fact that he’s grown eight inches since his freshman year of high school to a towering 6-foot-11 and that his home state, Maine, isn’t exactly a well-known prep hoops hotbed. 

But after spending his senior season with Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, his stock rose to being a four-star recruit with plenty of high-major suitors, and with Estrella likely in the hunt for minutes, like Phillips on the low block, he could be due for some action on the Vols’ foreign tour.

Grant Hurst

The UT Martin transfer played only sparingly in two seasons with the Skyhawks, averaging 10 minutes a night during his freshman year in 2021-2022, before redshirting last year, choosing to enter the portal in March. 

It’s unlikely he’ll see a major role right away in what should once again be a strong Vols backcourt, but the Cleveland, Tennessee, native—located just over an hour’s drive away from Knoxville—will get plenty of love from the Vols faithful as a home-state talent.

Kaylan Makan

Makan, a 6-foot sophomore guard who transferred from The Citadel, only appeared in two games and is unlikely to appear in many more for the Volunteers this year. 

Per his UT bio, he does have a couple of unique distinctions: Makan is believed to be the first SEC men’s basketball player ever to be of Gujarati heritage, and while in high school, he once made 15 3-pointers in a single game for Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia.