By Alex Norman
Thursday, June 20, 2019 will be remembered as one of the biggest days in Tennessee men’s basketball history. They didn’t get to a Final Four that evening, or win a conference championship, but the Vols proved they can recruit and develop some of the best players in the nation.
Three former Vols, Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone, heard their names called at the NBA draft. It was the first time since 1977 that three Tennessee Volunteers were picked in a single NBA draft.
Let’s start with Williams, and what a ride it has been for the Charlotte native. He came to Tennessee as a mostly overlooked recruit, and left three years later as a first round NBA draft pick. Williams was taken 22nd overall by the Boston Celtics. Twice named SEC player of the year, he brings versatility to one of the NBA’s historic powers.
“Super smart. A guy I look at as a guy with a point guard’s mind,” said Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “You can run offense through him at the elbow, on the block… at the top of the key. He really thinks the game. He’s a tough, tough guy and a versatile player who can shoot the ball. He didn’t shoot it as much from 3, they (Tennessee) didn’t need him to do that. But his shot looks good and that should be an easy transition for him. Very intelligent. We are looking forward to having him. We think that translates well. You couldn’t be more impressed with a kid when you sit down with him.”
Williams averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Vols last season.
In the second round, Schofield was picked 42nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers, and was immediately dealt to the Washington Wizards. Like Williams, there wasn’t a big push in recruiting circles for Schofield. But during Schofield’s four seasons in Knoxville, he transformed his game, and his body, to become a future pro.
“I’ve been watching him the last three or four days because I knew we were trying to get involved in the second round,’ said Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks to a DC radio station. “The two things that I really love about him are his athleticism and his toughness. He brings it. He’s a strong kid. He’s a strong athlete. He’s a nice kid. I spoke to him last night and he’s just so excited. When you get drafted, it’s one of your favorite nights of your life.”
Schofield averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a senior. Listed at 6-6 and 240 pounds, he already has the physique to battle in the pro ranks. His inside game, plus the ability to shoot from long range, gives the Wizards some options going forward.
As for Bone, for a while on draft night it looked like his decision to forgo his senior season was the incorrect one. In fact, a popular video online shows the scene at his draft night party in which Jordan’s brother (and fellow former Vol) Josh is addressing a crowd in a somber tone. The Bone family thought Jordan’s chance to hear his name called had passed.
Instead, a mob scene ensued when friends and family jumped the stage to celebrate with Jordan after he was taken 57th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans. Following a flurry of proposed trades, Bone eventually signed with the Detroit Pistons.
Bone averaged 13.5 points per game in 2018-2019, and tied for the SEC lead with 5.8 assists per contest. His freakish athleticism was on display at the NBA draft combine, and that led to his future pro career getting a significant boost.
That trio will be remembered for helping the Vols return to the national stage, after a very uneasy period following the dismissal of Bruce Pearl in 2011. Rick Barnes and his coaching staff got the most out of those guys, and helped them achieve great things.
Should be fun to watch them in the NBA in the years to come.