The Tennessee Volunteers matched a program record this past season in men’s basketball with 31 victories, and they set a new standard with four consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the Associated Press poll.
Admiral Schofield was Tennessee’s top senior, averaging 16.5 points per game and 18.4 points against ranked opponents, which is a more telling stat given that the Vols won 24 of their games by double digits. Schofield is happy to talk about his final go-around in Knoxville, but the NBA hopeful prefers to include his entire college career when reflecting.
The chiseled 6-foot-6, 241-pound guard from the Chicago suburb of Zion arrived at Tennessee along with Rick Barnes, who was the program’s third head coach in as many years.
“We did something very special at Tennessee, and that can’t be taken away from us,” Schofield said. “We built a winning culture, which isn’t an easy thing to do with all the coaching changes that had been going on. We established a basketball program that didn’t have a lot of support when I first got there.
“Our fans always talked to me about football. They thought I played at Neyland Stadium, so they talked to me more about football than about basketball, but the culture started to change. I just hope it can continue to grow.”
Schofield will be in Chattanooga this Tuesday as the featured speaker at the annual Best of Preps banquet at the Convention Center on Carter Street. He will be the first basketball player to be the banquet’s guest speaker, as well as the first athlete straight out of college.
His appearance will occur nine days before the NBA draft on June 20, which has consumed his time since the Vols were bounced out of the NCAA tournament 99-94 in overtime by Purdue in the Sweet 16.
“It’s been a pretty good experience,” Schofield said. “This is something you dream about, so it’s been a little surreal. You’re just going from team to team and having great experiences in different facilities with different organizations. Understanding you’re about to be one of the top players in the world is pretty fun.”
Schofield, who is in the process of working out for nine teams, insists he does not pay any attention to mock drafts, which have him all over the map. The CBS projection has Schofield getting selected in the first round by the Utah Jazz (23rd overall), while NBAdraft.net has him pegged late in the second and final round with the Golden State Warriors (58th).
The NBA has a salary scale for first-round picks but not for second-round selections.
“It’s always been a dream to be a first-round pick, but at the same time it’s about the best fit,” Schofield said. “I was never a guy who was highly recruited, so I don’t see it as a big deal now as far as how early I get picked. I just want to be on a roster with an organization that wants me and believes in me.
“If it’s early first or early second or middle second, it wouldn’t matter to me. I’m working to be a first-round pick, but I really want the best fit.”
Schofield is among three Tennessee players hoping to get drafted, with Grant Williams and Jordan Bone having elected to forgo remaining eligibility with the Vols.
“We haven’t talked much because we’re all kind of doing our own thing,” Schofield said. “They’re working out on the West Coast, and I’m back home working out in Chicago. We all have to pretty much focus on ourselves now, because we’re not on the same team anymore. Tennessee’s motto was ‘It’s not about me,’ but it’s all about me now.
“That has been a big mental adjustment, and it feels a little weird having to be a little selfish, but you shouldn’t feel that way. You’ve worked really hard to put yourself in this position.”
Schofield was a part of Tennessee teams that went a combined 31-35 his first two seasons before he and the Vols broke through with a 26-9 record in 2017-18. The Vols shared the Southeastern Conference regular-season title with Auburn when he was a junior, but his senior year had even more in store.
A dramatic comeback triumph against Kentucky in the SEC tournament semifinals gave Schofield a 6-4 record against the Wildcats in his career, and he wound up among the top 20 players in Vols history in points (1,570), rebounds (704) and made 3-pointers (184).
Schofield always was polished during interviews and continually represented Tennessee with class, and he is able to open up more about his final days with the Vols now that there are no reins.
“I do think we got some bad calls at the end,” he said with a laugh. “I can say that now. We got some bad calls. It’s not something we can dwell on, but we could have gone further.”
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.