The SEC got all kinds of positive press for its tournament showing last year. The league has looked good on paper for the 2017-18 season for some time. But only in more recent weeks has Tennessee started to generate a lot of positive chatter.
The Vols can thank James Daniel III for that.
He's only 6-feet and he's only 175 pounds, but Daniel is expected to bring some offensive punch to a Vols lineup that instantly looks better with him in the mix.
In August, the Volunteer basketball team will embark on a foreign tour that will take them to Spain and France. Tennessee fans will be paying special attention to the kind of impact Daniel will make.
Getting ready for foreign tour in August, Spain and France.
Daniel only played in two games for Howard last season because of an ankle injury, but he averaged more than 27 points per game during the 2015-16 season.
Daniel was only a 33-percent three-point shooter and he was only 39-percent from the floor period during that stellar '15-16 campaign. He was a volume shooter, no doubt, and he averaged more than four turnovers per game as a junior for the Bisons. But he got to the free throw line (11 times per game that junior year) and he was very good from the stripe.
Assistant Tennessee coach Michael Schwartz spoke with the media on the SEC's summer teleconference this week and, not surprisingly, Daniel was a major topic of discussion.
"The scoring," Schwartz said when asked about Daniel's impact and what he can bring to the next Volunteer team. "It's something that we needed to enhance in our backcourt. We feel with him and Chris Darrington that we added a pretty good two pieces."
Darrington was a first team junior college All-American at Vincennes University, where he averaged 20.7 points and 5.1 assists. He was a better shooter and a more efficient scorer than Daniel, although he won't arrive with as much fanfare.
"We were obviously young at those spots (in the backcourt) last year," he said. "James is still recovering from an injury at Howard. He has not been at full pace yet. It's great to have him here and his maturity. The way he's been vocally with our guys has been really impressive. ... One thing he doesn't struggle with is shooting and scoring."
Daniel will also be counted on to provide senior leadership for a Tennessee team that won't have any other seniors.
Besides those two, Schwartz and Rick Barnes' staff expects sophomore wing Grant Williams, only 6-foot-5 but a load at 234 pounds, to provide a lot of the scoring. He averaged 12.6 points as a true freshman.
It was noted on the teleconference that Williams topped the 30-point mark in two games last year.
"With Grant in particular ... he did most of his work 15 feet and in," Schwartz said. "He will continue to do that."
While Tennessee's staff expects Williams to continue to rack up points scoring from his back to the basket or on short drives, Schwartz said this summer Williams also spent time working on pushing his game back to the perimeter. His handle and passing were areas of focus.