Adding to the roster 'still in the works' for Donnie Tyndall's Vols

Adding to the roster 'still in the works' for Donnie Tyndall's Vols

June 18th, 2014 by Patrick Brown in Local - Breaking News

Donnie Tyndall

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE -- Donnie Tyndall claims he slept four-and-a-half hours on Tuesday night.

Tennessee's new basketball coach said that "felt like I got to sleep an entire weekend."

The whirlwind of putting a roster back together and appearing at any and every speaking event he could find perhaps finally has slowed slightly for Tyndall, but it hardly ever really stops.

And the Volunteers may not be done with the roster for next season, either.

With senior center Rawane "Pops" Ndiaye suffering a torn ACL last week and set to go on a medical scholarship should he decide to remain at Tennessee, Tyndall and his staff have a single scholarship slot available for next season.

"We've got six or eight different things still in the works," Tyndall said Wednesday afternoon during a break in his camp at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"We have one scholarship left to give, and there's certainly some things that could play out by the end of the summer, maybe even as soon as a couple of weeks from now."

One name to watch, according to a source inside the Vols' program, is John Octeus, a guard who decided last week to transfer from Colorado State to play his final season of eligibility.

A Miami native, the 6-foot-4 Octeus played one season at Wabash Valley College in Iowa, where new Tennessee guard Ian Chiles also played, prior to a two-year stint with the Rams.

Octeus averaged 20 minutes off Colorado State's bench in 2012-13 before he was the Rams' third-leading scorer this past season. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists for coach Larry Eustachy, Tyndall's predecessor at Southern Mississippi.

The source told the Times Free Press the Vols are in the mix with UCLA, Cincinnati and Baylor for Octeus and hope to get him in on campus soon.

As for any other potential additions, Tyndall said the Vols would continue to exhaust the "smorgasbord of options" -- from fifth-year transfers to transfers who would sit out a year and junior-college players and released signees -- they used to fill the roster last month.

"I'm not going to say we'll definitely use that scholarship," Tyndall said, "but if I had to say today, there's probably a pretty good chance that still would happen."

'Falling behind'

IUPUI transfer Ian Chiles is not among the Vols' newcomers taking part in the annual summer Rocky Top League after recently undergoing hernia surgery.

Currently one of Tennessee's options at point guard, Chiles, who led the Jaguars in scoring last season, will be sidelined "about two more weeks," Tyndall said.

As the new-look Vols build chemistry, doing so without their potential starter at point guard is less than ideal.

"Certainly we'd love to have him working out. That's so important," Tyndall said. "The one thing you'll learn, and I know it's your job to kind of speculate who will be the point guard or who will be the power forward and I understand that, but all these positions are 100 percent up in the air.

"Even though he's a guy that can play the point guard, we talk about it all the time, it's an opportunity for a guy like Brandon Lopez to prove himself, or Kevin Punter to slide over and play a little bit of point.

"I don't mean this the wrong way toward Ian, but when you're hurt, you're falling behind. As soon as he can get healthy, I know he'll be back out there ready to compete."

Tyndall said Lopez, a veteran walk-on from Knoxville, has been "right there" with upperclassmen Josh Richardson and Armani Moore in terms of filling leadership roles.

Tennessee guard Robert Hubbs III, left, got to play in only 12 games as a freshman but will be back for plenty more under the new coaches.

Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Times Free Press.

Hubbs hurting?

Rising sophomore guard Robert Hubbs III isn't fully back from January shoulder surgery just yet, but he's getting closer.

Tennessee certainly won't rush the former five-star recruit's return to full participation, though.

"He's cleared, but we just want to break him in slowly," Tyndall said. "Yesterday, in our individual part of practice, we hit him with the pad for the first time. We didn't want him to go live in the contact stuff. We thought, 'Let's break him in slowly.' I don't want to risk anything with Robert.

"He's a fantastic kid, he's working extremely hard and he was frustrated that he couldn't go in the live stuff yesterday, and I understand that.

"The most important thing is making him confident and feel confident and making sure he's 100 percent healthily and physically strong enough to get through a workout."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.