Rick Barnes explains why he has been 'most surprised' with BJ Edwards

Rick Barnes explains why he has been ‘most surprised’ with BJ Edwards

Rick Barnes wasn’t asked the question, but he volunteered the answer on his own.

Which of Tennessee basketball’s new faces surprised him the most this summer?

“If you really pressed me really hard,” Barnes said before practice on Wednesday, the second preseason workout for the Vols at Pratt Pavilion, “and asked me who I was most surprised with, it would probably be B.J. (Edwards).”

It’s not that Edwards snuck up on the Vols.

Barnes and his staff had long recruited the 6-foot-3, 188-pound guard in their own backyard. Out of Knoxville’s Catholic High School, he was a four-star prospect ranked in the Top 100 according to 247Sports.

He was the No. 16 overall point guard in the country and the No. 3 overall prospect in the state of Tennessee.

What surprised Barnes, specifically, was how Edwards handled the day-in, day-out intensity of facing Zakai Zeigler throughout summer workouts.

After all, it was that same opponent, the nonstop, full-speed Zeigler, who helped propel Kennedy Chandler during his one-and-done season at Tennessee.

“The fact that, you know what, he had to … go against Zakai (Zeigler) every single day. And just like Kennedy a year ago, I think certainly BJ would say the same thing, that as tough it was, it was great for him. Because Zakai is one of those guys that is never in the offseason. He’s in season form all the time, the way he brings it every single day.

“And watching BJ handle that every day was really neat. Again, somewhat surprisingly, to be quite frank.

Zeigler has been open with Barnes in telling him that he doesn’t want to be Tennessee’s starting point guard. Instead, he’d rather continue to come off the bench, playing the same role he had so much success with during his breakout freshman season.

With Chandler off to the NBA, Zeigler stepping in as the starting point guard was the assumption. Now the attention turns to Edwards and graduate-transfer Tyreke Keywho spent his time at Indiana State as a shooting guard.

For Edwards, it’s the other way around. He grew up playing point guard. He’s spent time recently working off the ball.

“He’s really worked hard at trying to get consistent with his shot,” Barnes said. “He’s deceptive. But the one thing we do know is that he’s very competitive and he’s willing to buy into whatever role that we know we need to put him in right now.”

One question Barnes was pressed on was if Edwards is a point guard or off-the-ball guard. The answer is both. That’s the vision the Vols have for him and all their guards.

“When he first got here, he strictly played the point, all summer long,” Barnes said. “But we want him to be off the ball, because with the group we have, we like to get our guards rebounding more and going with (the ball), knowing multiple positions. It will help all of them because it gives them a chance to, obviously, not just be locked in on one position.”

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