KNOXVILLE -- When Rick Barnes took over as Tennessee's basketball coach, his players probably knew more about him than he knew about the roster he was inheriting.
That's slowly starting to change.
Multiple Volunteers have noted that the adjustment to a new coach — the third of their careers for a trio of upperclassmen — is easier when that coach has a track record that Barnes does of getting teams to the NCAA tournament and producing NBA players.
As summer workouts continue, Barnes and his staff are getting a clearer picture of the roster they'll guide through their first season in Knoxville.
"After a few workouts, I will tell you, we were really pleased," Barnes said Monday night as he took a break from watching games, signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans while wearing a white shirt and orange shoes bearing the Nike Swoosh — a couple of days before Tennessee's switch to the apparel giant becomes official.
"I'm not sure we knew exactly what to expect. But after we got in the floor with them it was really quick (that) you felt, one, they wanted to be coached and, two, that (they) in some ways were better than what people wanted to give them credit for, I think."
The list of what the Vols must accomplish before the season tips off isn't short.
Tennessee must replace the across-the-board production of All-SEC star Josh Richardson, who was just drafted by the Miami Heat. The Vols also have to find a point guard, and at this early stage Barnes is suggesting it'll be a by-committee approach. Tennessee must also sort out minutes for the wings and develop some first-year post players to where they're ready.
Of Tennessee's 12 scholarship players, three were recruited by Cuonzo Martin, four were brought in a year ago by Donnie Tyndall and Barnes added five after arriving from Texas.facebook
It's an odd mixture, but it's the hand Barnes and his coaches have been dealt.
"I like them," he said. "I've got a lot of respect for the fact that I think you've got to give a lot of credit to the two previous coaching staffs, because the one thing that we walked into (is) we have a group of guys that they do play hard. They're competitive, which is not something you take for granted. That goes back to the fact that they've been coached hard.
"They've been receptive to what we're trying to do. I think they'd tell you we have really worked hard with skill development. That's a big part of what we believe in. Our conditioning program's really important to us, but along with that is player development, and this time of year we've tried to do that as much as anything."
Four of Tennessee's five signees have been on campus since the start of June, but Tennessee continues to wait for incoming point guard Lamonte' Turner.
"We're waiting on him to post this last grade that he has," Barnes said. "Then we'll make a decision from there where he'll be. We're counting on him being here next week unless something changes."
Regardless of Turner's status, Tennessee has one scholarship spot available for next season if it chooses to add another player late. Barnes would not rule it out, but no additions appear imminent. Most programs with available spots will monitor for fifth-year immediately-eligible transfers.
"Based on what I know about this sport, you never know what's going to pop up. And the fact that we've got one is a good thing," Barnes said. "I wish it was filled, but the fact that it's not, who knows what can happen between now and the start of school in the fall. We don't have anybody we're going to give it to this week to get them here, but it's there."
Tennessee would have four available scholarships for the 2016 class if the lone spot remains unfilled.
Nine games into his freshman season, Jabari McGhee had foot surgery and missed the rest of his first year with the Vols.
The 6-foot-8 forward is back participating in on-court workouts this summer "for the most part," Barnes said, but he's not played in the Rocky Top League.
"When you're coming off an injury like he's had, you're always going to be a little cautious getting back into it," the coach said. "He's doing fine. These guys are training really hard, and their bodies have been put through a lot here in the last four weeks."
Contact Patrick Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.