UT holds basketball media day

Published 11:43 am Thursday, October 5, 2023

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The Tennessee men’s basketball program hosted its annual media day Tuesday, ahead of the 2023-24 season.

Led by head coach Rick Barnes, who is set to begin his ninth season at the helm in Knoxville this year, the Vols boast a healthy mixture of veteran experience and young talent.

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Tennessee’s 2023-24 roster features 16 players (13 scholarship student-athletes) representing 13 states, as well as Uruguay. UT has three fifth-year players, one senior, four juniors, three sophomores, two redshirt freshmen and three true freshmen.

Over the last six seasons, Tennessee leads all SEC programs in total victories (144), winning percentage (.716) and postseason wins (15). During that span, the Vols have captured a pair of SEC championships, winning the regular-season title in 2018 and the tournament crown in 2022.

Most recently, the Vols are coming off a 25-win campaign during which they finished the year ranked first in Division I in 3-point defense (.265), third in scoring defense (57.9 ppg) and third in field-goal defense (.373). Tennessee was a perfect 22-0 last season when holding its opponent to fewer than 60 points.

Tennessee’s first home action of the 2023-24 season comes in an exhibition game against Lenoir-Rhyne on Tuesday, Oct. 31 at 6:30 p.m. ET. Its first regular season home contest is on Monday, Nov. 6, against the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech. The Vols has proven to own one of the best home-court advantages in the nation, touting an impressive 43-5 (.896) record at home over the last three seasons.


2023 Tennessee Men’s Basketball Media Day – Player Quotables

Fifth Year Guard Santiago Vescovi

On what went into his decision to come back for another year…

“I’ve been here forever. I really love the program. I love Knoxville, and the people here are great. The support from everyone has been amazing. I feel like I’m at home here in Knoxville, and I love being around here. I love the team and everything about it. For my future, I thought it was best to come back for one more year and spend another year here with the guys.”

On what are some things he wanted to work on ahead of this season…

“Mainly showing more stuff on the ball. Shooting it a little more off of movement instead of catch-and-shoot. It’s pretty much just better decision making. I’ve been working on it. We have a great team. I really trust everybody on this team with the ball. I think it’s going to be a really fun year.”

Fifth Year Guard Josiah-Jordan James

On how this team can take the next step…

“We just need to be ourselves. We have to be the best version of ourselves at the right time, and that starts with the preparation in the summer. I feel like we had a really good summer with the preparation and the pre-season that we are in right now. There will be a lot of ups and downs, but we need to never waver and be consistent in our work. I think if you’re able to do that, then everything will work out.”

On what the deciding factor was for him to come back…

“It’s hard to leave such a special place. It wasn’t until the last day that I really decided my final decision in returning. The biggest thing was being around a group of guys who I felt like were on the same page as me and wanted to come back and do something that’s never been done at Tennessee. We have a roster that can do that. Zakai (Zeigler) probably would not have let me leave even if I wanted to. Being around the guys and everybody being on the same page, that really drew me towards coming back.”

Junior Guard Zakai Zeigler

On how big the program has been for him during his injury rehab…

“Definitely, this program, Vol Nation, every time I see someone in public, they always ask me how I’m doing and if I need anything. They’ve always showed me love through this whole process. Like I’ve always said, I don’t know how I can thank Vol Nation enough for what they’ve always done for me.”

On if the team is ahead in team chemistry because of the Italy trip…

“I consider that Italy trip to have helped us a lot. We were together for 10 or 11 days and we’re in a foreign country so all we had was really us. It was probably the closest we’ve all been since everybody had gotten on campus. That made us so much closer. Since we’ve gotten back from Italy everybody hangs out with each other.”