published Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Donnie Tyndall, staff like UT Vols' new basketball recruits

KNOXVILLE — New Tennessee men's basketball coach Donnie Tyndall and his staff still have some targets to recruit and roster spots to fill, but they seem happy with the earliest of their late additions.

In the past week, Tennessee has signed forward Jabari McGhee and guards Kevin Punter and Detrick Mostella to revamp a depleted signing class and rebuild a dwindling roster, and while recruiting options are very limited in early May, the Volunteers appear to have done well with the players they've added.

In Punter, Tennessee is getting a player who averaged 20 points per game to earn junior college All-America honors and was recruited to Missouri before the Tigers' coaching change.

"The thing I like about him is you can give him the ball and say, 'Go get me a basket,'" Tennessee assistant Al Pinkins said Tuesday. "You watch UConn, you watch Kentucky -- I think that's what that game came down to: You call plays; you call set plays. OK, teams are really good defensively, the shot clock's at 10.

"The really good teams are teams that have guys, when the coaching is out of it, they can go get the ball and score a basket. Punter's really good at that."

Tyndall said Punter, listed at 6-foot-4, has a wingspan closer to 6-9.

"That length is really important in our style of play and our press and how we go about doing things in our zone," Tyndall said. "We have a line we always use: Deflections leads to steals; steal lead to transition opportunities. He's going to be really good, and he can score the basketball in a lot of ways, too.

"He can put it on the floor and drive it; he can make 3s; he can get to the foul line; and he's an unselfish guy and a willing passer."

Mostella, out of Notre Dame Preparatory School in Massachusetts, is ranked 44th nationally for the 2014 class by 247Sports.com, and an ESPN scouting report called the 6-3 Alabama native "easily one of the quickest guards" in the region.

"He's got elite speed dribbling the ball," the report continued. "Very confident player whose primary objective is to drive it down your throat. Always in attack mode. He's undersized but athletic enough to get to the rim. No fear in him whatsoever."

While the additions of Mostella and Punter on the perimeter should help Tennessee replace the scoring losses starters Jordan McRae, Jarnell Stokes, Jeronne Maymon and Antonio Barton took with them, the 6-8 McGhee should help a frontcourt that's still very thin.

The Vols are looking to add some size with their remaining slots, but McGhee, a Georgia native who comes to Tennessee from Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, possesses what Tennessee's new staff wants.

"He fits the mold," said assistant coach Chris Shumate, who played for Mick Cronin at Murray State and served on his staff at Cincinnati for six seasons. "We look for guys that are tough and are coachable. We'll take him from there and build him.

"They come in with a good base, and we'll build them up and teach them our system and our philosophies, but it's good to have that level of toughness when they're coming in the door."

McGhee is a bit of a project. Tyndall said he'll need to add 20 to 25 pounds to his 225-pound frame. Despite gaudy prep school averages of 24 points and 15 rebounds, McGhee needs to improve his offensive skill, as is the case with many post players.

"He's a hard-playing guy with a high motor," Tyndall said, "and those type of guys always flourish for me."

Pinkins, who joined Tennessee's staff after three seasons under Andy Kennedy at Ole Miss, called McGhee "a big-time athlete" and even went a little further in his assessment.

"He'll probably be one of the most athletic guys in our league," he said. "We have to work to get his skill level better. But he's going to be a good player for us."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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