Like an automobile stuck in mud, Tennessee’s basketball program has been spinning its wheels a lot the past few years. Fortunately for the Vols, a simple gear shift may solve the problem.
The Big Orange shifted from adidas to NIKE gear on Wednesday, and five Tennessee players say the impact will be felt immediately on the recruiting trail. Simply put: Elite prospects prefer to wear NIKE attire and prefer to attend NIKE schools.
Freshman Admiral Schofield says just knowing Tennessee was on the verge of becoming a NIKE school played a key role in his signing with the Vols last November.
“It’s a huge deal,” he said. “I really paid attention to that when I heard Tennessee would be switching to NIKE this year. That really sealed the deal for me. It wasn’t just because of the campus or the academics but that (attire) endorsement. Every basketball player loves NIKE. It is just so much more advanced in its technology that the switch to NIKE is a big deal for our program.”
Schofield is convinced the affiliation with NIKE will produce a quality haul for the Vols when the November signing period arrives.
“A lot of guys feel like, ‘If you aren’t a NIKE school I don’t know if I can go there,’” he said. “NIKE takes care of the teams they sponsor, so it’s a blessing that we’re switching to Nike. I think NIKE’s got some nice things in store for us.”
Senior guard Kevin Punter agreed that the switch to NIKE will help Vol recruiting “a lot,” adding: “Recruits may not tell you they’re going to base their decision on that, but being a NIKE school helps. I don’t care what they say: All basketball players want to wear NIKE.”
Senior forward Derek Reese also views the switch from adidas to NIKE as a step forward.
“I think it will help a lot — not just in basketball but in every sport,” he said. “NIKE is kind of a big thing everywhere. It’s very popular, so that gives us an advantage over schools that aren’t NIKE schools in terms of impressing recruits and stuff.”
“You want to look good when you play good, so switching to NIKE is going to help a lot with the kids,” senior guard Devon Baulkman said. He added that several prospects he knows are giving Tennessee much more consideration now that it is a NIKE school.
Sophomore guard Detrick Mostella touched on the same theme.
“Every athlete likes NIKE, so it’s going to get us a lot of top recruits,” he said. “Hopefully, it will have a big impact.”
|Here's a look at the Tennessee men's basketball team's home jersey for 2015-16.|
It’s no secret that attire featuring the NIKE swoosh carries added status. That’s partly because of its popularity among NBA superstars.
Punter touched on the same theme, noting: “Nine people out of 10 wear NIKE on the court. It grows on everybody.”
Baulkman says seeing NIKE on famous feet is only part of the attraction, however.
“Most professional athletes use NIKE,” he said. “But it’s good material, very comfortable, and people don’t seem to get hurt as much wearing NIKE gear.”
No scientific proof exists but another Vol also mentioned the widespread belief among athletes that NIKE shoes are sturdier and safer than rival brands.
“Some people think there’s different injuries with adidas,” Mostella said. “Injuries happen, but that’s what people my age think.”
Schofield may be the most enthusiastic NIKE fan on Tennessee’s roster. He loves everything about its gear.
“They’re just so far advanced, compared to other shoe companies,” he said. “Their technology is better. I love wearing NIKE. Nothing against adidas, but NIKE is just a better fit for me personally. My teammates are going to enjoy it, too, because it’s more stylish and fashionable.”
Insider Report: NIKE Era begins