With a lot of roster spots to fill, Rick Barnes isn’t wasting any time.
Tennessee basketball is putting their finishing touches on their 2022 recruiting class, and Friday’s announcement was music to their ears. 4-star small forward DJ Jefferson out of St. Paul, Minnesota announced on his birthday that he committed to the Volunteers.
Tennessee got in fairly late on Jefferson, who had been committed to the Tulsa Hurricanes for 8 months. But when Tulsa head coach Frank Haith announced his resignation in March, Jefferson opened up his recruitment the very next day. Enter Rick Barnes. After some evaluation and a fast recruitment, Tennessee extended an offer at the beginning of May.
Jefferson has been referred to as a “late riser” in the recruiting world. He only recently gained 4-star status on the 247Sports composite after a rankings update this morning. Much of that was due to recent tournaments that he played in—most notably, the Iverson Classic in Memphis. While at those tournaments, Jefferson showed off a tantalizing ceiling as a basketball player.
Jefferson boasts a more traditional small forward frame at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, along with a noticeably bigger wingspan. He can generally be viewed as a project on the offensive end. Jefferson is still learning how to utilize his length and athleticism while pushing the ball. His shooting form could use some work, and he’ll have occasional flashes of brilliance when going to the rim. I was particularly impressed watching some of his dribble moves and ability to finish at the basket. He will also need to work on “playing big” and using his height on smaller guards.
On defense, that’s where you can get a real sense that Jefferson has a NBA future. The length mentioned above means coaches will be eyeing him as a monster defender on the wing. Jefferson has a knack for disrupting passing lanes, and he can also get vertical on blocks. Ideally you’d like to see more from him on defense on tape, but there’s enough to get excited.
I also can’t help but notice his resemblance to Corey Walker in the 2020 class. Both players fit the exact same mould and have high ceilings on defense. But much like Walker, it is unlikely to see Jefferson anytime soon. He has more than a few things to work on before getting major playing time.
Jefferson is a bit of a gamble. Admittedly, I’m not too sure that Tennessee would have gone after him as hard if they didn’t have a gluttony of roster spots to fill. But that’s the exact situation you need to take a flyer on a guy like Jefferson. If nothing else, you get a player who will take a few years in the program before stepping into his role and realizing his potential.
Tennessee basketball’s 2022 class now ranks 21st nationally, with all three high school commitments ranked in the top-120. The Volunteers have been on a hot streak recently, adding impact transfer Tyreke Key in April and 5-star forward Julian Phillips last week.