Four Tennessee basketball players are on the list of early entry candidates for the 2023 NBA Draft. Senior wing Josiah-Jordan James, senior forward Olivier Nkamhoua, senior center Uros Plavsic and freshman wing Julian Phillips were on the list, which was released by the league on Tuesday.
The NBA Draft will be held June 22 at Barclays Center in New York. College athletes have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 31 to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school in order to maintain their eligibility.
James over four seasons at Tennessee made 87 starts in 108 games, averaging 27.9 minutes per game. He scored 9.0 points per game for his career, shooting 38.0 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from the 3-point line. He averaged 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals per game
Phillips averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 24.0 minutes per game this season, starting 25 times in 32 games, missing four games due to a hip injury in February. He shot 41.1 percent from the field but just 23.9 percent from the 3-point line.
Nkamhoua, who entered his name in the NCAA Transfer Portal on March 30, averaged 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game for the Vols this season, shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the 3-point line, where he went 18-for-54.
Plavsic averaged 3.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 11.3 minutes per game over the last four seasons, appearing in 101 games.
Tennessee added three transfer commitments last week
Tennessee’s four seniors — James, Nkamhoua, Plavsic and Santiago Vescovi — have an extra year of eligibility at their disposal. Vescovi announced last week that he would be returning for a fifth year with the Vols.
Head coach Rick Barnes last week at the Big Orange Caravan stop in Knoxville addressed the players that are considering turning pro or going through the pre-draft process in the coming weeks.
“With all those guys,” Barnes said, “it’s not that we have a lot of conversation with them because we think they’ve got to go out and find out what information they need to know moving forward.”
The Vols have been aggressively building their 2023-24 roster, getting three commitments from the NCAA Transfer Portal last week. USC Upstate guard Jordan Gainey committed last Tuesday, Harvard forward Caleb Ledlum committed a day later and Northern Colorado wing Dalton Knecht committed on Friday night.
“It’s really on them with also them knowing that, ‘Hey, we’ve got to make sure we have a team here next year,’” Barnes said. “We don’t put any timetables on any of them. We don’t do that. I think each guy knew that, that’s in it and that everybody has their own timetable. That they’ve got to work through it.”
NBA Draft: June 22, Barclays Center, Brooklyn
Barnes said on Thursday that Nkamhoua entered the portal at the advice of his father and his ultimate goal remains to turn pro. To date, he’s the only actively Tennessee player currently in the NCAA Transfer Portal.
“He told us that his dad wanted him to put his name in the portal, which is a decision they have to make,” Barnes said. “From day one, our conversation with him has been that his ultimate goal was to try and put himself in a position to be a professional athlete next year.
“Olivier has told us day one that his No. 1 objective is to be a pro basketball player,” Barnes added. “He has told us that is his pursuit.”
Vescovi led Tennessee this season in both scoring, averaging 12.5 points per game, and minutes, playing 32.9 minutes per game. He shot 39.6 percent from the field and 37.0 percent from the 3-point line, going 91 of 246 from deep. He was fifth in rebounding, averaging 4.6 per game, was second in assists with 102 and led the team with 60 steals.
“I think that Santi in some ways wanted to come back and we just wanted him to do it for all of the right reasons,” Barnes said last week. “And I think he wanted to do it for all the right reasons. But 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.”
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