Former Memphis Tigers guard Antonio Barton has decided to transfer to UT and play for head coach Cuonzo Martin.
Barton, senior, had narrowed his choices down between four schools heading into the Memorial Day holiday weekend but ultimately chose Tennessee over Maryland, Texas A&M and Kansas State.
There were some concerns over who would play point guard for the Vols after the 2013 All-SEC second team guard Trae Golden announced he would transfer in early May. It appears that Cuonzo Martin has filled that void in Barton.
Tanner Tucker, a sophomore, is an avid follower of Tennessee basketball and demonstrated enthusiasm regarding the new recruit.
"I'm very excited he chose us, we need his senior leadership at the point," Tucker explained. "This easily makes us a contender. The one thing we lacked was an experienced player at the point."
Barton helped the Memphis Tigers win back-to-back Conference USA Tournament Championships in 2011 and 2012 while starting 31 games during his three year stay in Memphis.
A 6-foot-2 inches combo guard out of Baltimore, Barton will be able to man the backcourt of the stockpiled Vols starting lineup immediately without sitting out a season, which is usually the case for transfers. Per NCAA rule, if a player enrolls in a graduate program that was not otherwise offered at his previous school then he does not have to sit out.
Barton will take advantage of the rule and further his education in the process. He intends on completing his undergraduate degree during the summer.
With the addition of Barton, return of Jeronne Maymon and arrival of Robert Hubbs to the team in 2013-2014, more casual Tennessee basketball fans such as UT senior Hailey Duke pledge to be more supportive of the team.
"With all of the excitement surrounding the basketball program, it really makes you want to go to more games and back the team a little more," Duke mentioned. "I haven't regularly attended games in my stay here but with the way Cuonzo is adding all these great players, it's going to be hard not to go."
Tucker beleives Barton's addition wil shed a positive light on the Vols heading into the season.
"The reception of his transfer has been tremendous," Tucker said. "Positivity is swirling around the program which just a few weeks ago seemed a bit in turmoil."
Barton is a strong defensive presence who shoots the ball well from the arc at a career 41.7% mark. He's suffered a decrease in playing time every year since his freshman season but figures to assume the majority of the point guard minutes for head coach Cuonzo Martin. Despite a 45.3% career field goal percentage, Barton struggles making his free throws. He made a career low 58.3% of his free throws in 2012 to 2013.
Will Barton, Antonio Barton's brother, is currently playing in the NBA with the Portland Trailblazers. The Barton brothers played together in the Tiger's backcourt for two seasons before Will declared for the NBA draft.
Antonio's brother broke the news on Twitter before anyone else.
"My bro Antonio Barton has decided to attend the University of Tennessee for his senior year," the excited brother tweeted. "He will be allowed to play right away."
The arrival of Antonio Barton suddenly gives the Vols options at guard for the upcoming basketball season. Barton looks to play the majority of the point guard minutes while All-SEC guard Jordan McRae will continue leading the team splitting time at both shooting guard and small forward. Two talented freshman are being added to the mix with five-star recruit Robert Hubbs looking to start games at shooting guard and also the presumed backup point guard in Darius Thompson.