There’s no more need for nametags. Tennessee’s basketball freshmen have moved past that stage.
“We’re starting our brotherhood,’’ Darius Thompson said Monday night as the Rocky Top League got underway in the relative cool of Christian Academy of Knoxville’s gym.
Thompson, A.J. Davis and Robert Hubbs made their Knoxville hoops debuts, although in three different games.
Thompson scored 21 points on an array of shots and moves as Rice Buick fell to Campus Lights, 124-99.
Davis scored nine in DeRoyal’s 109-105 loss to the News Sentinel.
“They’ve got us doing everything together,’’ said Hubbs, who had 19 points in Next Level’s 97-87 loss to Choice Spine, “so we’re like the Three Amigos.’’
Junior college transfer Pops Ndiaye also played in a mélange that featured current Vols, past Vols, an assortment of area small-college players and the odd hoops celebrity like Josh Selby.
Davis, Thompson and Hubbs were more or less strangers during the recruiting and signing phase of their transition from high school to college.
“I met Robert at the state tournament because we were both in the running for Mr. Basketball,’’ Thompson said. “That was the only time I met him.’’
But Thompson admitted Hubbs’ Twitter outreach was instrumental in his decision to back off his commitment to Vanderbilt and choose UT in the spring signing period.
“It really helped knowing that other people are gonna be there,’’ Thompson said.
Hubbs is from Dyer County in far West Tennessee. Thompson prepped at Murfreesboro Blackman. Davis is from Georgia.
“We started talking once we all committed,’’ Davis said. “As soon as we came up here, we’re all good friends now.
“We work out together every day. We’re doing something together every day.’’
They’re all still waiting to meet the final member of their signing class, Antonio Barton, the University of Memphis point guard who is graduating and transferring with immediate eligibility.
Thompson, the point guard in the group, figured he would be mentored by senior Trae Golden. Then Golden’s surprise exit was closely followed by news of Barton’s transfer.
“It’s gonna help me a lot,’’ said Thompson. “A senior guard, I’m gonna be under his wing, really.’’
The freshmen are saying all the right things as far as expectations and intentions, namely that they’ll do whatever it takes to make the team better — rebounding, passing, defense. Scoring, too, if it comes to that.
Jordan McRae, UT’s All-SEC senior guard, confirmed a good first impression from what he’s seen since the newcomers arrived for summer school.
“This is a good group we have,’’ McRae said. “All their dads are really involved in basketball coaching at some point, so they know the game pretty well.
“It definitely helps. There are some things we tell ’em on the court and you only have to tell ’em once and they immediately understand it.’’
News Sentinel 109, DeRoyal 105: Selby, a former UT commitment, Kansas Jayhawk and current NBA D-League player, poured in 50 for the winners. Wayne Chism added 29.
UT senior D’Montre Edwards led DeRoyal with 29, followed by 28 from a late-arriving Bobby Maze.
Campus Lights 124, Rice Buick 99: Illinois State signee Daishon Knight scored 39, McRae added 37 and Minnesota signee and ex-Central High School player Dre Mathieu added 15 for the winners. Ndiaye chipped in 14.
UT guard Josh Richardson’s 32 paced Rice, which played without fellow Vol Armani Moore.
Choice Spine 97, Next Level 87: Quincy Scates of Tennessee Wesleyan scored 24 and Jonathan Adams of Old Dominion 20 for the winners.
Lester Wilson of ETSU and Ryan Westbrooks of Lee had 24 each for Next Level, with Hubbs adding 19.