When Indiana State Sycamores transfer guard Tyreke Key committed to Tennessee basketball, the Vols hadn’t secured commitments from two highly touted wings, and they weren’t guaranteed the returns of Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi. That doesn’t end the expectations for Key this year, though.
Isaac Trotter of 247Sports is projecting that Key will be a rotational player even with Vescovi, James and Zakai Zeigler. Given the return of Olivier Nkamhoua, it’s pretty clear that all three guys will be in the backcourt rotation, along with five-star commitment Julian Phillips.
However, Trotter gives Key a chance to become a starter, and if he’s not, Key is projected to provide a major scoring punch off the bench for Tennessee basketball. Here’s what was written about the combo guard in the story.
Losing a star like Kennedy Chandler will not be easy for any program to endure, but Tennessee is built for success after landing Indiana State’s leading scorer Tyreke Key. Wake Forest struck gold in Indiana State transfer Jake LaRavia, and Key could be another former Sycamore to find a lot of success at the Power 6 level. Key absolutely could earn a spot in Tennessee’s starting lineup alongside Santiago Vescovi, Josiah-Jordan James and Zakai Zeigler. Or he could come off the bench and pack a scoring punch. It does not really matter. Key is a high-floor player who will make an impact whenever he’s on the floor.
Despite how loaded the Vols are, it is clear that there’s room for Key. After all, those are just four players we named who are clear-cut rotational guys, and with three backcourt players, there is room for six in a two-deep depth chart.
Key averaged over 17 points last year, and at 6’3″ 205 pounds, he could fill multiple roles. Given Vescovi’s past experience playing point guard, Key could come in and play the two while Vescovi moves to the one if Zeigler needs a rest.
On the other hand, if BJ Edwards, a four-star commitment, emerges as a solid backup point guard, Key could just be the backup No. 2 guard and another primary scoring option. He is an elite shooter, having gone over 80 percent from the foul line the past two years and over 40 percent from three as a sophomore.
Obviously, the big deal for Key is getting healthy, as he missed all of this past year due to having shoulder surgery, which limited his scoring efficiency in 2020-2021, the last year he did play. As a result, there are some questions about what he will bring to the table.
Still, Rick Barnes wouldn’t have targeted him for nothing, and he’s a huge reason Tennessee basketball is so loaded in the backcourt this year. Starting will be difficult since three guys will be in the fight at the two and the three, but being a rotational player is a fair expectation.