After the Tennessee’s men’s basketball season abruptly ended at the SEC Tournament in mid-March, the coaching staff met with players for exit interviews.
“We talked about the perspective of the year,’’ coach Rick Barnes said in a recent interview on Sports Talk, WNML radio. “It’s great to hear them (players) because they’re very honest from their point of view, not only about themselves but teammates.’’
The staff is also honest with the players.
Barnes told each one to work on his weakness.
He had an interesting suggestion for gifted guard Josiah-Jordan James.
James was beset by injuries as a five-star freshman. He was sidelined by a hip injury in October, then a groin injury during the season.
That’s one reason James didn’t put up the numbers many expected. He averaged only 7.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and shot 37 percent from the field, 36.7 percent on 3s.
“Why don’t you get into yoga?’’ Barnes said to James. “Just try it.’’
James did, and the results, according to Barnes, have been remarkable.
“He has transformed his body in a way you wouldn’t believe in terms of flexibility,’’ Barnes said. “We actually face timed him the other day. We had him doing different poses just to show us how he was doing different things.
“It was really neat, some of the things he was doing that he couldn’t get close to (doing before). He actually said it was life changing for him in terms of how well he feels.
“He said his body feels right now the best it’s ever felt.’’
Barnes has helped many a player in terms of development.
He helped Kevin Punter double his scoring average by changing his shot, Kyle Alexander go from being uncoordinated to an NBA contract, Grant Williams from flabby to a phenom and the two-time SEC player of the year, Yves Pons from an offensive liability to a threat as a 3-point shooter.
But this might be the first time Barnes has turned to yoga to improve a player.
The results will be on display this season.
Barnes was also excited that the SEC voted Friday to allow student-athletes to return to campus June 8.
“I think it’s progress,’’ Barnes said. “I think everybody wants to see us make some kind of move to get going. I think it’s great. Our players are all wanting to get back on campus and get going. I’m sure every athlete is.
“It’s a phased program. We’ve got to start at some point. I really appreciate the way the SEC has handled this thing and also the way our university has handled things. Everything is being done with an air of caution.’’