With four players signed and the ability to hand out at least two more scholarships, recruiting activity is still going strong for new Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall and his assistants as they look to plug a couple of more holes.
Before Monday afternoon, the most glaring roster deficiency was in the post, but the Vol staff scored some experienced help with the addition of Eric McKnight, a 6-9, 220-pound transfer from FGCU. He can play next season because he’ll receive his degree and has a year of eligibility remaining.
The well-travelled McKnight began his career in 2010 at Iowa State, where he played just 54 minutes before deciding to transfer. After sitting out a redshirt season, McKnight was a significant contributor for the Dunk City team that was the scourge of the NCAA tournament, averaging 6.5 points and 4.4 rebounds. He led the team with 47 blocked shots and .602 shooting from the floor. McKnight played a key role in one of the Eagles’ two upsets in the 2013 NCAAs, contributing nine points, four boards and four blocked shots against San Diego State.
McKnight began the 2013-14 season on suspension, and he was held out 12 games before returning to the court. He wound up starting 21 of 23 games. McKnight set a school record by making all 11 shots in a win over Jacksonville. That performance ranked second among all Division I players for field goals made without a miss. McKnight set a school record by shooting .663 from the field for the season.
McKnight had also reportedly considered Wichita State before choosing Tennessee, where he figure to compete for an immediate starting job after the departure of Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon. McKnight will provide energy, rim protection and dunks for a team that desperately needed all of the above.
Tennessee is also in the mix for Willie Carmichael, a 6-7 forward who originally signed with Southern Miss before asking for his release. Carmichael has to get stronger, but there is a lot to like, as ESPN.com wrote in this scouting report:
“Carmichael is a extra long and lean power forward that runs the floor effortlessly with long strides. He uses his excellent athletic ability to finish above the rim with ease. Carmichael has a good touch around the rim after he receives drop off passes created by dribble penetration. He also can score with his back to basket with a jump hook over his left shoulder.”
The Vols will also receive a visit from 6-10 Tariq Owens of Baltimore, who signed with Ohio in the fall but asked for a release after coach Jim Christian left for Boston College.
Owens reportedly has narrowed his choices between Tennessee and Temple, one of the four schools he considered before signing with Ohio.
Owens is also lean at 200 pounds, but he’s reportedly still growing and should be able to add bulk in Tennessee’s strength program.
Owens’ father Renard is a Baltimore police officer. The two are close and have a unique bond after the death of Owen’s mother in 2009.
“Because we laugh a lot, because we joke a lot, we have that balance,” Renard Owens told the Washington Post. “That helped us get through the tragedy. We could laugh, even when we were crying.”
Owens’ defense is ahead of his offense right now, but he would be able to contribute 15-20 minutes a game as a rim protector and rebounder. Some recruiting analysts rate him a four-star prospect.
Tennessee is looking for another point guard or combo guard to help fill the void at the point left by the departure of freshman Darius Thompson, who asked out of his release two weeks after Tyndall was hired. One possibility is 6-1 Ian Chiles, who is eligible to transfer from IUPUI and be immediately eligible because he has graduated.
Last season he led the Mastodons in scoring (15.8 ppg) and minutes played (33.1). Chiles is an adequate 3-point shooter (33 of 105, .314) but excels at the midrange game. He’s capable of getting into the lane for pull-up jumpers and floaters, and can also penetrate and kick. He was third on his team with 44 assists in 2013-14.