Vols tap Canadian connection for second time in as many weeks

That stamp new Tennessee basketball coach Rick Barnes and his assistants are putting on their program is going to have a maple leaf displayed prominently in one corner of it.

For the second time in as many weeks, the Vol staff has landed a talented big man from Canada. This week, it’s Kyle Alexander, who comes from Orangeville Prep in Ontario. Alexander is 6-10, and in basketball parlance is a plus six, which means his wingspan of 7-4 is six inches longer than his frame.

Alexander joins 6-10, 235-pound Ray Kasongo, also from Ontario, who signed last week out of the College of Southern Idaho. Like Alexander, Kasongo has got the wingspan (7-4) of a pterodactyl.

Chances are good Kasongo and Alexander won’t be the last players to come to Knoxville from north of the border. Associate head coach Rob Lanier, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., has recruited Canada for more than 20 years and has built strong connections there.

There’s a method to how Barnes and his staff are recruiting. Kentucky coach John Calipari loves to stockpile big men, all the better to keep his team’s defensive field-goal percentage low. The goal is under 40 percent, and it’s attained in large part with long-limbed shot blockers. Barnes did the same thing at Texas, where last year, he had seven players on his roster 6-8 or taller. He’s following that pattern at Tennessee.

It’s no surprise that in 2014-15 the Longhorns’ defensive field-goal percentage was .368, which led the rugged Big 12 by a considerable margin. No. 2 Oklahoma came in at .386.

Now that he’s in Knoxville, Barnes is taking dead aim at Kentucky. Anything less isn’t the way he operates.

Alexander comes from good bloodlines. His father played Division I basketball, and his sister was an All-American at Syracuse and a first-round WNBA draft pick. In addition to being long, he’s a rim runner who can get down the floor in transition. His offensive upside, say those who have seen him play often, is considerable.

Tennessee, which has also gained a commitment from point guard Lamonte Turner, isn’t finished recruiting. James White, a 6-8, 220-pound graduate transfer from UALR, is looking at Tennessee, as well as several other SEC (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Ole Miss) and power conference schools.

Last season White averaged 11.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots. He played in just 15 games after suffering a fractured tibia.

It’s no secret that Tennessee and several other schools are watching to see what happens at Florida after the departure of coach Billy Donovan to the NBA. Already, shooting guard KeVaughn Allen, who signed with Florida in the early period, has asked out of his scholarship. He’s ranked No. 54 in ESPN.com’s Top 100, but he’s from Arkansas, which means the Razorbacks will be involved in his re-recruitment.






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