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Can transfer Antonio Barton fill Tennessee’s hole at point guard?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Antonio Barton (Getty Images)

Three weeks after Trae Golden's dismissal left Tennessee without a single true point guard on its roster, the Vols have managed to add an impact transfer who at least has experience playing the position.

Guard Antonio Barton, who played the past three seasons at Memphis, chose Tennessee over Maryland, Kansas State and Texas A&M, his brother tweeted Sunday afternoon. Barton is on pace to graduate from Memphis this summer and will be eligible immediately to play his senior season with the Vols.

Though Barton is a proven outside shooter and defensive stopper who will help Tennessee in both those areas, the big question for the Vols is his point guard skills. Can he handle the ball and create open looks for his teammates well enough to solidify a position that was already a weakness for the Vols even before Golden's departure?

Barton had some nice moments as a freshman at point guard in place of a struggling Joe Jackson, but since then he has played mostly off ball for Memphis. The 6-foot-1 rising senior averaged 1.6 assists per game as a sophomore and 1.1 as a junior, eventually determining he needed to transfer when he fell behind Jackson, Geron Johnson and Chris Crawford in the guard rotation.

If Barton is the answer for Tennessee at point guard, suddenly the Vols look like a threat to finish in the top three in the SEC and perhaps even push favorites Kentucky and Florida.

Pair Barton with elite freshman Robert Hubbs and last year's leading scorer Jordan McRae at the wings, and that's a potentially formidable Tennessee backcourt. Throw in potential all-conference big man Jarnell Stokes and a now healthy Jeronne Maymon in the paint, and the Vols clearly have top 20 potential.

The key will be whether Barton can deliver the ball to Tennessee's other weapons in places where they can look to score, an area that Golden often struggled in a year ago. Combo guards Josh Richardson and Darius Thompson should also get some minutes at point guard, but now the position is Barton's to lose.

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