Kasongo opens up about recruitment

Ray Kasongo is the newest roster talent for Rick Barnes at Tennessee. The junior college transfer opened up to InsideTennessee about the path that led him to becoming a Vol.

When it came down to the final week of Ray Kasongo’s recruitment process, Tennessee and Mississippi State were locked in an intense battle over the Southern Idaho transfer’s talents.

Kasongo visited both campuses, talked extensively with both coaching staffs and carefully weighed both options to determine where he would best fit. When the time came for him to finally make his decision, the 6-10, 235-pound power forward went with the place where he believed he could get the most immediate playing time and make the largest impact.

“That’s what I pretty much based my decision on. I felt like (Tennessee) would have a bigger need for me than Mississippi State,” Kasongo told InsideTennessee. “Mississippi State has a bunch of guys returning … I just felt like at Tennessee I’d be able to go there and make things work.”

The Vols are certainly glad to add Kasongo to the current puzzle, one that is marginally thin on pieces in the frontcourt and desperately needing a big man in the post. Kasongo’s large frame and shot-blocking ability adds that dimension to Tennessee’s roster, and he believes Barnes noticed his versatile talents that extend far beyond playing defense in the paint.

“My athleticism, in terms of me running up and down the court, that’s what really (separates me.) I rebound the ball really well and my shot-blocking ability,” Kasongo said.

“I can score pretty much, I’m not going to say at will, but most times when I get the ball down low it’s either going to be an and-one or bucket. On top of that, seeing my skillset and all that, they’ve noticed that I can beat guys off the dribble and shoot from midrange and hit the occasional three. It was a good fit for me.”

His junior college numbers won’t stun you. Kasongo averaged 6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season at Southern Idaho and blocked 75 total shots. But when you take into account the fact that he only averaged 15.6 minutes per game, those numbers are put into context, showcasing Kasongo’s high ceiling after he’s able to adjust to the pace of Division I play.

Tennessee assistant coach Rob Lanier saw the potential his newest player possesses, and he locked down the Toronto native after building a strong relationship with his most recent recruit.

“We spoke every day on a daily basis. The reason why I really like him is because he keeps it real with me,” Kasongo said of Lanier. “He pretty much told me that if I was to come in at Tennessee, with my skillset and everything, I could definitely help the team.”

That sold Kasongo more than the splendor of the Vols’ facilities or the excitement surrounding the athletic program. When it came down to choosing his new home, the former Oregon commit wanted a place where he could play right away and fit into a system that desires to be as good as he does.

“It feels really good. I feel like I made the right decision for me and my family. When we visited schools I just felt like I was home when I was there,” he said. “My relationship with the coaches is really, really good and I got along with the players. It all really worked out.”

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