KNOXVILLE — Tennessee made the addition of guard Santiago Vescovi to the roster official on Monday.
It could not have come at a better time.
The 6-foot-2 international prospect officially signed with the Volunteers on Nov. 22 and will begin classes on Jan. 8, when the second semester begins. He still must clear NCAA as well as Southeastern Conference protocol before becoming eligible to play in games, and coach Rick Barnes said Friday that it was "highly unlikely" Vescovi would play this season, but he at least will be available for practice, which became all the more important Saturday.
"He got everything in place academically," Barnes explained Friday. "We're excited about him being here, but whether or not he plays this year, I would say it's highly unlikely. But he will be here on the 28th."
The Vols (8-3), who fell out of the Top 25 after consecutive losses to Memphis and Cincinnati, host Wisconsin this Saturday. The players are gone for a couple of days and will return to campus on Wednesday to prepare.
One who won't be back will be senior guard Lamonte Turner, who announced after Saturday's win over Jacksonville State that he had played his last game for the Vols and would be having season-ending surgery to repair his left shoulder.
Vescovi could help fill Turner's spot, but he has a long way to go to be ready. The second half of the season is all about game preparation and playinng, and there won't be much time to scale back and teach him the offensive and defensive schemes while also trying to prepare the other players for specific games.
He could play, but it's just as likely that he's a practice player who can learn the systems and be ready for the 2020-21 season.
"It's hard enough to learn it when you've been around it a while," Barnes said about learning Tennessee's systems. "He's young (just turned 18 on Sept. 14). But he's coming in and we're excited. Our team is excited and we're looking forward to him getting here."
If he can help, the Vols will need it. Vescovi, who was rated as a three-star prospect by the 247Sports.com composite rankings — which combine the ratings of 247Sports, Rivals.com and ESPN.com — comes in as the 29th-best point guard in the country and the 183rd best player overall.
He's from Montevideo, Uruguay, but his playmaking ability and shooting prowess put him on the international radar and got him placed at the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City when it opened in the winter of 2018. He transferred that July to the NBA Global Academy, an elite facility at Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence at the Australia Institute of Sport in Canberra.
He was named the most valuable player of the 2019 Skill Factory Tournament of Champions in Atlanta, where he had 29 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the championship game.
Vescovi will wear No. 25 for the Vols.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.