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Tennessee Basketball: Tobe Awaka Vols’ first alarming transfer portal entry

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Sure, Freddie Dilione showed glimpses of lethal scoring potential. Yes, D.J. Jefferson was a four-star. However, even with Tennessee Basketball losing Dalton Knecht , Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James, nobody was going to question Rick Barnes’ ability to replace those guys. Cameron Carr may already be on his way.

On the other hand, the loss of Tobe Awaka is a huge deal. All of a sudden, Barnes went from just having to find a few scorers in the portal to having to find another key big man. Awaka announced his intention to enter the transfer portal on Instagram.

Now, all of a sudden, Tennessee Basketball has to replace four of its eight rotational players from last year. Given how they lost in the NCAA Tournament, by being unable to rebound against Zach Edey and the Purdue Boilermakers, there was thought that Barnes would go big again. This moves doesn’t suggest that…or does it?

Look, down the stretch, J.P. Estrella showed promise. Jonas Aidoo is still in the starting lineup. Cade Phillips is also on the team as well. Could Barnes be looking in the transfer portal for another big man, such as recent Kentucky Wildcats transfer Aaron Bradshaw? Did Awaka enter because he’s going for more size?

It could also be possible that Barnes is going to stick with just one true big man on the court in the future and will alternate between Estrella and Aidoo. The truth is, we don’t know what this transfer means yet, but we know it gives Barnes a ton of work to do on the recruiting trail and in the portal.

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Assuming Estrella develops and Carr lives up to the hype, you could build a Tennessee Basketball six-man rotation next year of expected returners out of those two, Aidoo, Zakai Zeigler, Jordan Gainey and Jahmai Mashack. Taking that into account, Barnes still isn’t far off from having the rotation he’d want next year.

Key to that is finding the next go-to scorer in the portal with experience and then plugging in another elite player. Whether or not that player is a big man and a change back to what Barnes has done in the past or another flashy wing remains to be seen. One more point guard to help out Zeigler wouldn’t hurt either.

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