Santiago Vescovi is following the advice he received from Rick Barnes. Tennessee’s All-SEC junior wing will go though the NBA’s pre-draft process while maintaining his collegiate eligibility.
The decision was announced on Saturday afternoon by Vescovi on Instagram.
“Thank you to everyone who supported our team this season,” Vescovi wrote. “This year’s team was very special, and playing alongside this group of teammates made my love for the game grow even stronger.
“Coach Barnes has encouraged me to go through the NBA Draft evaluation process, and I intend to take advantage of that opportunity while maintaining my collegiate eligibility. I know have the full support of Vol Nation, and I look forward to the valuable experience and feedback I’ll receive in the weeks to come.”
College basketball players can go through the workout and evaluation process leading up to the NBA Draft, and can even hire NCAA-approved agents, while maintaining their collegiate eligibility.
Admiral Schofield went through the process following the 2017-18 season, before deciding to return for his senior year. Grant Williams and Jordan Bone went through the process a year later, with both deciding to enter the NBA Draft.
Vescovi had a breakout year, finishing second for Tennessee in scoring, at 13.3 minutes per game, while leading the Vols in minutes, at 31.2 per game, the only player on roster to start all 35 games this season.
He shot 41.3 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from the 3-point line, where he went 102-for-253. Vescovi is only the second Tennessee player in program history to hit 100 or more threes in a single season, joining Chris Lofton, who did so three times.
Vescovi scored in double-figures 28 times in his 25 games, going for 20 or more four times. He made at least three 3-point shots in 24 games.
He started the season with 20 points against UT Martin, going 6-for-11 from the 3-point, then poured in 23 against Villanova two days later, making four shots from the 3-point line. He had 20 in the loss at Kentucky and had 23 more in a home win over Florida.
Vescovi enrolled at Tennessee midway through the 2019-20 season, jumping into the starting lineup in his first career game, making six threes in a home loss against LSU. He averaged 10.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game as a freshman.
Vescovi averaged 8.7 points, 3.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 29.2 minutes per game last season.
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His field-goal percentage has climbed from 37.3 percent to 38.8 percent to 41.3 percent during his career. His 3-point percentage has improved from 36.0 to 37.3 to 40.3.
Vescovi likely will not be alone in going through the pre-draft process, with five-star freshman point guard Kennedy Chandler and junior wing Josiah-Jordan James as other candidates to do so.