“Santiago Vescovi”,all but confirms that he will be one and done in Tennessee

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee men’s basketball will honor four seniors against Kentucky on Saturday.

Two of them have been around the program for five years and have solidified the program’s foundation with leadership. Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi joined the Vols in the 2019-2020 season.

James was a top 20 prospect out of high school. As a freshman, he wore jersey number five, not knowing that he’d be at UT for five seasons.

KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE – JANUARY 02: Santiago Vescovi #25 of the Tennessee Volunteers looks on against the Norfolk State 

“I was a little kid when I first came here,” James said. “I thought I had everything figured out. But you know guys showed me quickly that I didn’t.”

Vescovi came to Knoxville on Dec. 28, 2019, was cleared to play by Jan 3, 2020 – and then played on Jan. 4 against LSU. The then bleach-blonde-haired guard made six threes. He also had nine turnovers.

“I still remember the first play of the game,” Vescovi recalled. “It was slow motion. Of course turned it over but that was kind of a welcome-to-reality moment.”

Fast forward to this season and both have been leaders for some time. When the time comes for them to leave head coach Rick Barnes said he will miss them in ways he could talk hours about.

“They are a voice not only to their teammates but from a coaching standpoint a voice we listen to,” he said.

The two have seen success like an SEC Tournament championship in 2022 and the SEC regular season championship on Wednesday. Both James and Vescovi opted to return for this fifth year because they wanted to achieve the greatest levels of success.

That meant adapting and changing their roles.

“Santi and I pride ourselves on being winners,” James said. “Doing whatever it takes to come out with a W at the end of the day. That’s why I’m so willing to accept whatever role coach wants to give me.”

Over five years, Vesocvi and James’ like-mindedness to do whatever it takes to win has strengthened their bond.

“He’s been my partner, my best friend, brother however you want to call it since day one,” Vescovi said. “I couldn’t have gotten to where I am right now if it wasn’t for him.”

Win or lose they kept building on the foundation built before them. Barnes said the two leave a legacy because they did things the right way.

“They both got here different ways,” the coach said. “They’re going to leave in the same ways in that almost like cornerstones in their time here that they’ve been a rock we’ve been able to rely on and build on.”

The Vols will honor James, Vescovi, Dalton Knecht and Colin Coyne on Senior Day before they play Kentucky at 4 p.m. inside the Food City Center.

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