Rick Barnes explains why it's 'almost like a dream to coach' Julian Phillips

Rick Barnes explains why it’s ‘almost like a dream to coach’ Julian Phillips

Yew Julian Phillips is Tennessee basketball’s next one-and-done prospect, the five-star freshman wing isn’t thinking about it. That’s how Rick Barnes explained it Tuesday during his media day press conference.

“His family,” Barnes said, “from the very beginning told us he will make that decision when it’s time to be made.”

Right now, the 6-foot-8, 199-pound Phillips is just getting started with the Vols. And Barnes can’t say enough about the versatile wing, who matches an elite skill set on the floor with an elite work ethic off of it.

“His time here,” Barnes said, “it’s been incredible, almost like a dream to coach him. Because I tell everybody, I don’t know, individually if anyone has spent more time with Garrett (Medenwald).

“We’ve had a lot of guys going above and beyond. Most times it’s guys having to lose weight, do whatever. Those guys never look forward to that. But Julian on his own has searched out Garrett more than anybody because he wants to be the best player he can be.”

Phillips on Tuesday said he’s gained 11 pounds since enrolling at Tennessee on July 1, going from 188 to 199 after so many extra sessions with Medenwald.

He committed to Tennessee in May, after re-opening his recruitment following the firing of Will Wade at LSU, after previously being committed to the Tigers.

Out of Link Academy in Missouri, Phillips, originally from Blythewood, SC, was the No. 13 overall player in the country according to the industry-generated 247Sports Composite. He was ranked No. 4 among small forwards and the No. 1 overall player out of Missouri.

“He came in right away,” Barnes said, “and there’s no sense of entitlement on his part at all. He’s come in, he just wanted to work hard be accepted. I think he’s earned his teammates respect, because he’s, in his own way, he’s just gone about working hard, and he certainly wants to be coached, he wants to get better.”

Phillips is the fourth McDonalds All-America signed by Barnes over the last four recruiting cycles, following Josiah Jordan James (2019), Jaden Springer (2020) and Kennedy Chandler (2021).

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Should he leave for the NBA Draft following his freshman season, he would be Tennessee’s fifth one-and-done player in program history and the fourth over the last three years, following Springer, Chandler and Keon Johnson. Tobias Harris was the first for the Vols in the 2011. NBA Draft.

“I think if you talk to (Phillips), or even his family, his circle of trust, or they will tell you, hey, there will be a time to make those decisions,” Barnes said of the one-and-done possibilities . “But I can tell you, we’re excited and happy that he’s with us because he gives us again, another guy that has terrific versatility.

“And as he continues to grow and understand the game more and more, I mean, he’s, he’s got a wealth of talent, but it’s his overall mindset that is really so much fun to be around, because he really is about all the right things and wanting to get better.”

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