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Victor Bailey Jr. discusses upcoming basketball season

Vols Wire logo Vols Wire 9/12/2020 Dan Harralson
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KNOXVILLE — Redshirt junior guard Victor Bailey Jr. transferred to Tennessee following the 2018-19 season.

He transferred to Tennessee from Oregon and sat out last season at UT. Bailey Jr. appeared in 37 contests with eight starts at Oregon during the 2018-19 season, averaging 7.4 points per game.

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Jan 17, 2019; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Brandon Williams (2) defends Oregon Ducks guard Victor Bailey Jr. (10) during the first half at McKale Center. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Bailey Jr. met with media Friday on a Zoom call to discuss the upcoming season. Below is a transcript provided by the University of Tennessee.

On feeling more comfortable running the point:

“That year sitting out for me was good, it was a struggle because it’s hard to watch my teammates play. I was able to sit down and watch tape and watch film of (Jordan) Bone and get to see Santi and those guys run the point and do it everyday in practice. It helped a lot.”

On if the point will be his primary position:

“I think it’s still a combo, I can still do both. Whatever coach asks me to do at this point I can do it, which I feel comfortable being able to say.”

On the factors that led him to Tennessee:

“To me it was the culture, the first day I got here and seeing how our guys were working every day, seeing how invested the coaches were in the players and the process. Sitting down with (Garrett Medenwald) and seeing how meticulous and serious he was in guys getting better. I was sold the first day I got here.”

On the demand Rick Barnes places on point guards:

“Coach is definitely tough but he just wants to get the best out of you. I’ve heard Bone say it plenty of times, he’s tough but he just wants the best out of you. He’s going to get it, he is great at pulling the best out of you when he needs it. Sitting out really helped me get it under my belt and learn what he wants and when he wants you to put your foot on the gas and take it off. Facilitate and not facilitate and do stuff like that.”

On if there was surprise at how quickly the program took off under Coach Barnes:

“I wasn’t surprised at all to see those guys in the Sweet 16 and doing well, because Coach Barnes is obviously a great coach and knows what he is doing. How it all came back around full circle was definitely incredible, I didn’t think I would be here. It definitely happened fast, but I’m really blessed to be in the position I am.”

On how the relationship with Barnes developed:

“I didn’t go to any camps, but I was always around campus. I saw Barnes a lot and always wanted to watch the games and see what was going on with Texas because my mom was a coach and I wanted to be a part of that culture, that Texas culture and obviously Barnes was a part of that, so keeping in touch with them was big.

On how much he learned about the Tennessee basketball program last year going through practice:

“We go 100 every day. You can’t take days off, you take days off and you’ll be behind. That’s just the facts. You’ve got to come every single day ready to go and you can’t take any days off and go 100 percent every time you can.

On the transition from the Pac 12 to the SEC and his excitement level to play SEC basketball:

“I am very excited, it’s a great conference and the things that I kind of had to do was I had to get stronger. I remember being at the Sweet 16 and watching Tennessee walk past us in the tunnel and seeing how big and strong those guys looked. Getting in with G and getting my body right to prepare for the SEC season was big for me.”

On learning from Lamonte Turner:

“I learned so much, I watched so much film on him and he was great at talking with me and giving me so much information. I think that was one of the big things, he never hid anything from me or kept anything from me. Anytime I asked a question he gave it to me. I really thank him for it because he really helped me a lot.”

On who was the most intimidating walking by in the tunnel at the Sweet 16:

“(Admiral) Schofield looked pretty upset, I would probably go with Schofield. Barnes didn’t look very happy either.”

On his priorities during last season, what he really wanted to improve:

“Understanding. I wanted to understand everything about Tennessee and immerse myself in the culture and be a part of it and not look back. Give my all to Tennessee and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”

On what he believes is the Tennessee basketball culture:

“Hard workers. From the coaches to the managers to the GA’s to everybody. Everybody is just always working and trying to help each other out and you can feel that right when you walk in. When I walked in I felt it, I felt like everybody wants to get better and everybody had a common goal. I really enjoy being around that.”

On what he feels is the biggest strength he brings to the team:

“Being one of the older guys. I have a couple of college games under my belt. I know how it feels. I know there’s ups and downs and I know being one of the older guys I can help the younger guys out because they’re so talented. I think being one of the older guys is just going to help me a lot.”

On competition in practice and how it’s helping everyone:

“When you go anywhere that is good, you’re going to have a lot of talented guys around you. We have a saying here ‘iron sharpens iron.’ So, guys are constantly trying to push each other to get better and at the end of the day that’s all we want to do. It’s easy to do that when you have guys that are so talented, because it forces you to be at your best every day.”

On how many guys are able to play the point guard position:

“A lot. All of us can handle the ball. All of us are smart guys and understand what needs to happen. Coach Barnes is really vocal about what he wants to happen, so you’re not questioning what he wants. He’s really up front about it and as long as guys can take care of the ball, I think anyone can do it.”

On what he’s seen from Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer:

“I think they’ll be great from day one. Those guys are really talented, there’s a reason why they are who they are. They’re very talented guys, they’re young and they have fresh legs. It’s always great to have fresh legs coming in as a freshman and you can see it. They’re bouncy and they’re ready to go, so I’m excited to see what they can do.”

On Yves Pons coming back and what it means to have him back this season:

“He’s the defensive player of the year. That’s it right there. He’s such a help for us on the defensive end and he’s really building his offensive game to where he can be a two-way player. He’s talented and the reason why he was going back-and-forth, is because he’s a beast and can do it all. So, we’re glad to have him back and we’re so much better because of him.”

On who he’s seen that is going to make the biggest jump and surprise people this season:

“I think (Josiah-Jordan James) will do really well. I’ve seen a little difference in him. A difference in how he’s worked and approached things, that I think Josiah will really have a good season.”

On staying in Yves’ ear to edge him towards coming back to Tennessee:

“Absolutely. Everyone knew how much we wanted him to come back, so you’ve got to throw it in there a little bit. But, he’s still his own man, so we wanted him to able to make the decision for himself. Whatever he decided, we were going to be happy for him, because he’s a brother and we love him. But, for him to come back, that made everyone happy.”

On how the team found out Yves was coming back and what the reaction was like:

“I think we found out before practice one day. Everyone was excited. Everyone was smiling and talking about it and everyone was glad to have him back, because we need him.”

On what the potential of this team is defensively:

“Great. The guards in the backcourt can guard. We have the Defensive Player of the Year, so that does it there. (John Fulkerson) can guard. Fulky is smart. The freshmen can guard. I can guard. Everyone can guard. So, I think defensively we’re going to be a really good team. (Mike) Schwartz has done a great job of talking to us and making sure we know where, we’re supposed to be and he’s one of the best defensive coaches in the country I think. I think with all of that put together, we’re going to be one of the best defensive teams in the country.”

On what it is about the culture of Tennessee basketball that so many guys understand:

“You know you’re going to get better. You don’t really have an option. You either get better or you’re going to be watching and no one wants to be watching. Everybody is pushing everybody and everybody wants to get better, because that’s the culture and either you buy in or you won’t be a part of it.”

On what the team stance is on Santiago Vescovi’s hair:

“Santi can do whatever he wants. He’s a player.”

On the culture being off the floor and all of the guys seem to have many of the same values:

“A lot of the things we do, we do together. We eat together, we hang out together, so we have a lot of like-minded guys who have the same goals. When you have a lot of guys who want the same thing, think the same way and do a lot of the same things together, that’s how you build a culture and get things going towards the right direction.”

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