Kennedy Chandler gave Rick Barnes six draft picks from Tennessee basketball in the past four NBA Drafts when he was picked Thursday.
The Vols could add another name — or names — to that list in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Freshman forward Julian Phillips is projected as a first-round pick by ESPN and Yahoo! in next year’s draft. Senior guards Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi are potential selections. James and Vescovi went through the NBA Draft process following last season before electing to return to Tennessee.
ESPN projects Phillips as the No. 17 pick, while Yahoo! has the 6-foot-8 forward as the No. 25 pick.
“Phillips was one of the last five-star recruits to commit to this high school season and chose the Vols over Auburn, Florida State and LSU,” wrote Yahoo!’s Krysten Peek. “Rick Barnes has had draft success with Kennedy Chandler (No. 38 this year), Keon Johnson (No. 21 in 2021) and Grant Williams (No. 22 in 2019). Phillips can be the next one up. He has a strong , natural feel for the game, can really pass on the move and is effective when going to his left.”
Phillips committed to Tennessee in May. He is the No. 12 prospect in the 247Sports Composite for the 2022 class. He signed with LSU in November but was released from his letter of intent after Tigers coach Will Wade was fired in March. He is the sixth five-star to sign with UT under Barnes.
James averaged 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds, while shooting 32.4% on 3-pointers. The 6-foot-6 James was also Tennessee’s most versatile defender, guarding four positions on the court.
The Charleston, South Carolina, native scored in double-digits in UT’s final eight games and 13 of the final 16. He ripped through the SEC Tournament, scoring 14 points per game and shooting 52.9% on 3-pointers.
Vescovi overhauled his conditioning prior to last season, which made him a different player on both ends of the court. He averaged 13.3 points and shooting 40.3% on 3-pointers. He also grabbed a career-best 4.4 rebounds and had 3.2 assists per game.
The Montevideo, Uruguay, native became the second player in UT history to hit 100 3-pointers in a season, joining Chris Lofton. Vescovi shot 44.5% on 3-pointers during SEC play. He scored in double-digits in 28 of Tennessee’s 35 games and was UT’s main offensive threat in January, leading the Vols in scoring in six of eight games in the month.
Tennessee has had three first-round picks under Barnes — Williams in 2019 and Johnson and Jaden Springer in 2021. Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone were second-round picks in 2019. Chandler was picked No. 38 by the San Antonio Spurs and traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.
If Phillips declared for the draft after his freshman season, he would be the fourth one-and-done in the past three seasons for UT. Chandler, Johnson and Springer declared for the draft after one season at UT.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson, If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.