Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 28, 2019

NBA Draft gives UT a great recruiting edge

Jordan Bone, left, was the 57th overall pick, going in the second round and landing with Detroit after a trade, while Grant Williams, right, was selected in the first round by Boston, No. 22 overall. - File photos by Jerry Denham

If Rick Barnes needs to convince any recruits about his staff’s ability to develop players, he can simply point to this year’s NBA draft.

The Tennessee men’s basketball program had three players selected for the first time in the history of the draft’s current two-round format.

Grant Williams was a first-round selection, while Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone were selected in the second round.

All three arrived at Tennessee as under-the-radar, three-star prospects. They didn’t have major programs beating down their doors. Their commitments weren’t highly-publicized by the national media.

But through hard work and dedication, they all achieved their dreams of becoming NBA draft picks.

Tennessee joined Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia as programs with three players selected in this year’s draft.

Williams was selected with the No. 22 overall pick by the Boston Celtics. The 6-foot-7 forward was Tennessee’s ninth first-round draft pick, and first since Tobias Harris went 19th overall to Charlotte in 2011.

“Honestly, I was drafted by the best franchise possible,” Williams said in a conference call with Boston media. “It’s the most historic franchise in the league. It’s a franchise that my grandfather actually talks about every single day because it’s his favorite team.”

Williams likely would have gone to an Ivy League school if Tennessee didn’t recruit him. The two-time SEC Player of the Year averaged 18.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists as a junior this past season. He graduated in only three years with a degree in supply chain management, and gave up his final year of eligibility to enter the draft.

“He’s a guy with a point guard’s mind,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens says. “You can run an offense through him at the elbows, on the block, at the top of the key. He thinks the game. He’s a tough, tough guy and he’s a versatile player that can shoot the ball.”

Schofield was selected with the No. 42 pick overall in the second round, and will end up with the Washington Wizards as part of a draft-day trade once the trades are finalized by the league July 6.

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a senior. He led UT with 74 3-pointers and shot 41.8% from beyond the three-point line.

“I’ve been watching him the last three or four days because I knew we were trying to get involved in the second round,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks told The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan in Washington.

“The two things that I really love about him are his athleticism and his toughness. He brings it. He’s a strong kid. He’s a strong athlete. He’s a nice kid. I spoke to him last night and he’s just so excited. When you get drafted, it’s one of your favorite nights of your life.”

Bone was selected No. 57 overall in the second round and will end up with the Detroit Pistons after multiple trades were executed on draft night.

The Nashville native declared for the draft a year early after emerging as one of the top college point guards this past season as a junior. Bone averaged career-highs in scoring (13.5), assists (5.8) and rebounds (3.2). He set the Tennessee single-season record for assist/turnover ratio at 2.91, and holds the best career ratio in program history at 2.70.

Bone held a draft party in Nashville, and a video of his selection went viral on social media.

With only four picks remaining, Bone’s older brother, Josh, a former UT player and current video coordinator at Tennessee State, took the microphone to address friends and family in attendance.

“You know, I have to put my two cents in little bro,” Josh Bone said on the video. “I’m hurt right now. Probably more hurt than he is, but I doubt it.”

Josh was soon interrupted as Jordan’s name flashed on the TV screen. The room went nuts, and everyone mobbed Jordan in a wild celebratory dogpile.

Williams followed the draft from his hometown of Charlotte. Just before he was selected, he stepped outside to take a phone call.

“I didn’t even know if I was going to get picked yet, but I was just super excited. I couldn’t stop smiling,” Williams said on the Paul Finebaum Show. “My mom was crying, everyone around me was crying, and I was the only one keeping a straight face. It was just a tremendous experience. I will remember it for the rest of my life.”

Williams, Schofield and Bone were three players who helped Barnes rebuild the Tennessee program into national prominence. The Vols won an SEC regular-season title in 2018 and were ranked No. 1 in the country this past season while setting numerous program records.

They’ve been able to attract higher-rated recruits, and will likely produce more draft picks in the future.

But the legacy of Williams, Schofield and Bone have been secured.

Williams and Schofield leave Tennessee as two of the most beloved players in program history, admired as much for their character than for anything they did on the basketball court.

Before he jumped into the life of an NBA player this week, Williams took a little time to reflect on how far he’s come.

“Dang, the Tennessee journey is over. We did a lot of great things. I’m thankful, I met a lot of great people that I connected with during that time. Now, it’s on to Boston,” he told Finebaum. “You’re just thinking, ‘I just got drafted by the Boston Celtics.’ You have to appreciate that. You have to understand that.”