Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes and his staff added four significant additions to their roster last week that could have an enormous impact on next season. The biggest addition came from a guy who was already on the roster to begin with.
Santiago Vescovi’s decision to return for one final year in Orange, which he announced via instagram on Tuesday night, was a huge recruiting win for Barnes and the Vols.
It’s portal season, and all the talk is about transfers (understandably so), but having Vescovi decide to come back is probably as big of a win for the Vols as just about any transfer they could have landed in this cycle.
That’s a pretty good haul, and no disrespect to any of those guys, but bringing Vescovi back for a fifth was the headline of the week.
“We’re excited because he’s excited. I remember senior night he talked about that it might not be his last one. It gives us back a guy that’s arguably been our most durable guy over the last four years,” Rick Barnes said this week of Vescovi’s return.
“Santi loves the University of Tennessee. He loves Vol Nation. When I got up this morning I went to get my hair cut and everybody at the barbershop was so excited about it. I think that says a lot, because we all know who goes to barbershops.
“We’re excited and certainly his teammates are too.”
Consider, we’re talking about a two-time first-team All-SEC selection (coaches). You’re not going to find a lot of guys like that in the portal, not guys who have proven they can not just succeed, but thrive at this level.
Vescovi’s 282 made three-pointers are the third most in Tennessee history behind only Chris Lofton and Allan Houston
In bringing back Vescovi Barnes is bringing back the team’s leading scorer from last year (12.5 ppg) and the third most prolific three-point shooter in the entire history of the program. Only Chris Lofton and Allan Houston have made more than the 282 triples that Vescovi has splashed over the last four years.
It’s easy to look at the honors he’s collected and the stats he’s put up over a stellar career and surmise that getting Vescovi back for one more year is a big deal.
The numbers don’t capture all of it though. Before Vescovi’s decision the Vols were poised to have a roster next season that didn’t contain a single home-grown senior.
Zakai Zeigler, who will be a junior next season, certainly qualifies as a guy with leadership qualities who will have a ton of experience, but after that the next most experienced returning players would have been Jahmai Mashack and Jonas Aidoo. Both of those guys saw their roles expand significantly this past season, but their experience pales beside that of Vescovi.
“I think that Santi, in some ways always wanted to come back and we just wanted him to do it for all of the right reasons. And I think he wanted to do it for all the right reasons,” Barnes said.
“We’re all excited about it because he has proven himself here, been durable, done everything you can ask from a player since the time he walked on here. I think with the young guys we have in the program he’s going to be a person that can give them some stability and teach them what this is all about.”
It’s been a big week for the Vols, no doubt about it, and they certainly look like a much better outside shooting team on paper.
Gainey made 40% of his three-point attempts over two seasons at USC-Upstate. Knecht shot 38% this past season at Northern Colorado and Vescovi has already proven himself to be one of the top long-range marksmen in the SEC.
The portal talk is fun and it’s come to pretty much dominate the month of April for college basketball coaches and fans. But make no mistake, the biggest win for Tennessee this week was welcoming back a familiar face.