Tennessee's hopes of avoiding a rebuilding season appear much brighter three weeks into Donnie Tyndall's tenure than they did before his hiring.
The new Vols coach has added six players including a pair of potential impact transfers in the past two days.
On Monday, Tyndall secured a commitment from ex-Florida Gulf Coast forward Eric McKnight, a long, athletic big man who can help the Vols replace Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon if he can avoid the off-court trouble that hastened his departure from his former school. On Tuesday, Tyndall nabbed ex-IUPUI standout Ian Chiles, a 6-foot-1 scoring guard who averaged 15.8 points, 1.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game this past season.
McKnight considered Wichita State, Bowling Green and Rutgers, among others. Chiles also had offers from Auburn and Maryland. Both are quick fixes who are slated to graduate from their former schools in time to be eligible to play their senior seasons immediately.
Add McKnight and Chiles to the list of freshmen and junior college transfers Tyndall had already secured the past few weeks, and it's clear he has more than made up for the splintering of former coach Cuonzo Martin's recruiting class.
Chiles should get the first crack at playing point guard for Tennessee with leading returning scorer Josh Richardson and now-healthy former five-star recruit Robert Hubbs III manning the wings. Junior college transfers Devon Baulkman and Kevin Punter and freshman Detrick Mostella figure to push that trio and provide depth next season.
The frontcourt rotation isn't so deep with Stokes leaving early for the NBA and Maymon graduating but McKnight and incoming freshman Jabari McGhee should both compete for playing time. In particular, McKnight's ability to run the floor, block shots and finish above the rim make him a potential asset.
That nucleus probably won't vault Tennessee into contention in the SEC and it might not even have the Vols strong enough to compete for third behind Kentucky and Florida.
Nonetheless, one thing is for sure: Tennessee is in a lot better position in the short-term now than it was before Tyndall was hired.
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