TENNESSEE BASKETBALL: An in-depth look at Jordan Gainey
By: Jordan Moore
Senior Staff Writer
The All Vol Call In Show
The first transfer portal addition for Rick Barnes and the Tennessee men’s basketball team this off-season was Jordan Gainey from USC Upstate. The last name should sound familiar, as he is the son of current Vol assistant coach Justin Gainey. Talking to the Big Orange Caravan in Nashville a few weeks ago, Barnes told reporters that the roster needed more shooting, and it’s safe to say that needs were filled with the addition of Gainey. As a high school prospect, Gainey didn’t have many options from which to choose scholarship-wise. He ultimately ended up in the Big South at USC Upstate, but don’t let that fool you, the kid is a bucket-getter.
As a true freshman at USC Upstate, Gainey burst onto the scene in a big way earning the Big South Freshman of the Year award, being named to the All-Big South Second-Team, & the Big South All-Freshman team. He averaged 13.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, & 1.2 steals per game. Gainey had an incredible season: he shot 47.1% from the floor, 49.3% from three on 150 attempts, & 81.7% from the free throw line.
As a sophomore, Gainey became the go-to guy for USC Upstate, as their leading scorer from the prior season transferred to Georgetown. Gainey’s usage rate (a metric to determine the percentage of team plays used by a player while on the floor) went from 21.6% to 28.9%. This likely led to Gainey becoming the focal point for opposing defenses to stop, which is what may have led to his shooting numbers taking a step back. In the ‘22-’23 season he averaged 15.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, & 1.9 steals per game while shooting 39.3% from the floor, 34.5% from three, & 77% from the free throw line. Gainey earned First Team All-Big South honors while also finishing third in the Big South Defensive Player of the Year voting.
So what will Gainey bring to the Vols? Let’s start on the offensive end of the floor. As I stated above, Gainey is a bucket-getter. A six-foot-four shooting guard, he is one of the best pure shooters in the country. He is a player who does the majority of his offensive work beyond the arc or right at the elbow. During his two seasons at USC Upstate, 58.6% of his shot attempts came from those areas of the floor & he shot 39.9% on those attempts. His rim/3 rate was 69% during his freshman season which backs up those statistics. According to Shot Quality, Gainey ranked in the 86th percentile in points per possession at 1.17 during his freshman season. 60% of his possessions were considered “good possessions” (25%+ is average, 30% is above average, 35% is great, 41%+
During his sophomore season, these numbers dipped to the 65th percentile in points per possession at 1.11 while his good possession percentage fell to 25%. His rim/three rate stayed relatively the same at 64%. At Tennessee, Gainey won’t have to take on the offensive load like he was asked to do as a Sophomore at USC Upstate. He will likely be asked to be one of the first guards to come off the bench in a reserve role to give Santiago Vescovi a rest at the shooting guard spot. This will allow the Vols to keep a scorer on the floor at all times. Gainey should be able to provide solid role-player minutes without Barnes having to worry about sacrificing offense.
We all know Barnes preaches defense, defense, defense. On this end of the floor, Gainey uses his long arms & quickness to jump into passing lanes and pick the pocket of his matchup. This past season, Gainey was top 50 in the country in steals and steals per game. He is able to guard the one through three spots with his quickness and length. As a freshman, he showed the ability to be a solid defensive rebounder but as he took on a bigger role on offense as a sophomore those numbers fell. He also has a little bit of an ability to block some shots. As a freshman he had 16 blocks, which would have ranked fourth for the Vols this past season behind Jonas Aidoo, Olivier Nkamhoua, & Julian Phillips. Gainey’s defensive metrics leave a lot to be desired. Barnes will definitely need to get him coached up on that end of the floor but I’d much rather take a player who can shoot at a high percentage while needing to get him to improve on the defensive end.
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Photo above | WVLT