Vols sign North Florida transfer Chaz Lanier

Vols sign North Florida transfer Chaz Lanier

University of Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes announced Saturday that his program has signed North Florida transfer Chaz Lanier, a 6-foot-4 guard who picked the Vols over BYU and Kentucky.

“I’m going back home,” Lanier said. “I was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come back to my home state and put on for my city and family. My whole family will be at every game next year, lord willing.”

Lanier was a first-team All-Atlantic Sun selection this past season when he averaged 19.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 0.9 steals per game. He buried 44.0 percent of his 3-pointers, 51.0 percent of his field-goal attempts and 88.0 percent of his free throws.

Lanier played four seasons for the Ospreys, starting 49 of 104 career games. He’s made 48.1 percent of his career FGAs, 40.7 percent of his career 3-pointers and 86.4 percent of his career free throws. Lanier has a 126/86 career assist-to-turnover ratio.

Barnes is hoping Lanier can help fill the scoring void left by the departure of Dalton Knecht, who is going to be a lottery pick in the 2024 NBA Draft after enjoying a breakout campaign in Knoxville. Knecht won SEC Player of the Year honors and was named a first-team All-American after leading UT to an SEC regular-season championship.

The Vols advanced to the Elite Eight for only the second time in program history before losing to eventual runner up, Purdue. They went 14-4 in SEC play and finished with a 27-9 overall record.

“Tennessee never compared me to Dalton in terms of our play style or game, but we did talk about the route he took which is a very similar path,” Lanier said. “It’s possible I can do the same thing.”

Knecht (21.7 PPG) and longtime program stalwarts, Josiah-Jordan James (8.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG) and Santiago Vescovi (6.3 PPG), are out of eligibility. Four Vols have transferred elsewhere since the loss to Purdue, with starting center Jonas Aidoo’s (11.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG & 1.8 blocked shots per game) defection to Arkansas being the biggest loss.

There are six returning players: Zakai Zeigler, Jordan Gainey, Jahmai Mashack, J.P. Estrella, Cameron Carr and Cade Phillips. Ziegler is the best of the bunch. Coming off a torn ACL sustained in February of 2023, Ziegler still had a solid season, averaging 11.8 points, 6.1 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He is one of the nation’s top perimeter defenders.

Barnes is welcoming three other transfers besides Lanier and incoming freshman, Bishop Boswell, a 6-foot-4 guard who is a four-star prospect. The transfers are Darlinstone Dubar (Hofstra), Felix Okpara (Ohio St.) and Igor Milicic (Charlotte).

Dubar is a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 17.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 0.9 BPG for the Pride. Okpara is a 6-foot-11 center who averaged 6.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 BPG for the Buckeyes. Milicic is a 6-foot-10 power forward who averaged 12.8 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 BPG for the 49ers.

Barnes still has two scholarships remaining at his disposal. FanDuel has Tennessee with 40/1 odds to win the 2025 NCAA Tournament. The Vols are still seeking their first Final Four trip in program history.

With its 40/1 odds that it shares with Purdue, that leaves Tennessee tied with the Boilermakers for the 14th-shortest odds on the board.

In Joe Lunardi’s latest way-too-early edition of ‘Bracketology’ for ESPN, which was updated May 14 (when UT had all of its players except for Lanier), the Vols are a #4 seed that faces Tubby Smith’s High Point squad in the opening round.

In Jon Rothstein’s updated preseason Top 45 at FanDuel, he has Tennessee ranked #22. His projected starting five for the Vols has Lanier, Zeigler and Mashack listed as the guards with Milicic at forward and Okpara at center.