Barton provides a dimension the Basketball Vols have lacked since Tony Harris finished up his career in 2001 – a point guard with exceptional speed. Barton is so fast, in fact, that head coach Cuonzo Martin is making the transition game a bigger emphasis than in previous seasons.
"Way bigger," junior wing Josh Richardson said. "We know how much athleticism we've got this year. With the new rules (eliminating hand-checks, forearm bars, etc.), everybody on our team can get in the lane, pick up fouls or get easy buckets."
And, with Barton replacing the departed Trae Golden, Tennessee has a point guard with the quickness to get the motion offense in motion.
"Antonio, every time he gets the ball, is pushing it right down your back (in transition)," Richardson said.
Senior wing Jordan McRae has noticed.
"Antonio is really a speed guy," McRae said. "He's one of those point guards that can make you rush. His length and quickness is going to help us out a lot."
Junior post Jarnell Stokes says Barton is "just what we needed," adding: "We needed a guy that could push the ball. I'm definitely looking forward to running the floor this year. We needed a guy who could push the ball, a guy who picks up (defensively) 94 feet."
Ditto for freshman wing Robert Hubbs, who noted: "He will help us. He is very explosive. He is a true point guard. He knows what he is doing."
Barton missed the first exhibition game due to a leg injury and is doubtful for Thursday's final tuneup against Southern Indiana. He is expected to play in the regular-season opener at Xavier. In addition to his playmaking prowess, the newest Vol drained 41.7 percent of his 3-point tries in three seasons at Memphis.
"He does a great job pushing the ball, and he makes shots," Vol head coach Cuonzo Martin said. "That's always a good thing when you've got guys on the perimeter making shots with guys like Jeronne (Maymon) and Jarnell on the blocks. It really helps."
Tennessee rarely played transition basketball in Martin's first two seasons but the Vols scored 105 points in this year's exhibition opener. Richardson believes the faster pace fits Big Orange personnel quite well.
"It definitely could be an advantage for us because of the amount of height we have on the wings," he said. "We're quick. We'll probably be quicker than the other team at every position, especially down low with Jeronne and Jarnell. That's a big advantage for us."
Barton played in a fast-paced offense for three years at Memphis, so he's comfortable with a quick tempo. He's comfortable with his role in it, as well.
"Just rebounding and getting out on the wings," he said. "Getting the ball, taking less dribbles and getting ahead (via quick passes)."
That is the game he was born to play, he believes.
"I can get it out real quick," Barton said. "I'm pretty fast, and a lot of guys can't stay in front of me. When I get the ball I'm looking to hit it. We're trying to get easy transition buckets before the defense is set."
Having played against them several times while at Memphis, Barton already knew how good McRae, Stokes and Maymon are. A few of his new teammates have surprised him with the skills they've exhibited on the practice floor, however.
"Josh (Richardson) is all-around talented," Barton said. "The freshmen coming in – (Robert) Hubbs, Darius (Thompson) and A.J. (Davis) – are better than what they were advertised."
With Barton running the offense, all of this talent could produce a memorable season for the 2013-14 Vols.
"We have a lot of weapons – from the starting five to the guys coming off the bench," he said. "We've got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things … bring different things to the team.
"Everybody we've got can score. A lot of teams won't be able to double-team (Stokes and Maymon inside) because we've got so many other guys that can create."
And, for the first time since Tony Harris, the Vols have a speedy point guard to put the fast in the fast break.
See more from Stokes in this preseason video interview: