Tennessee basketball's pursuit of big men continues.
Zach Kent of Blair (N.J.) Academy is a Scout three-star prospect that could fill a glaring void in coach Rick Barnes’ 2017 signing class.
The 6-foot-10, 225-pound center Zach Kent from Blairstown, New Jersey, plans to officially visit on Oct. 14-16, which is the weekend of the home football game versus Alabama. This will be Kent's first official visit. Northwestern and Virginia Tech have been tossed around as receiving trips.
Over the past several months, Kent has been mentioned with many schools, including Clemson, Oregon, Mississippi, Notre Dame, Providence, Purdue and Vanderbilt but his list continues to fluctuate.
"I am in a comfortable spot." Kent told InsideTennessee. "Tennessee, Northwestern, and Virginia Tech like me and there are a couple of other schools that are deciding how much they like me and I am deciding how much I like them. There has been interest from other high-majors in the past, but if they want to look away, that's their problem.
"I've done a lot of thinking and I think you can get a good education at any of these high-level schools. That's not an 18-year-old kid saying I don't care about academics, it’s just an 18-year-old kid saying I care about my dreams and what I want to accomplish and I think the best way to accomplish that is by picking the best school basketball-wise."
"My dreams and my goals are a once-in-a-lifetime thing. So for me and my mindset, I have to go all out for it. No one is going to push me harder on the basketball court than I am going to push myself."
With the list growing longer of potential targets lost for Tennessee, it appears likely they would welcome the opportunity to show Kent the positive impact an experienced coaching staff can have in his personal development both on and off the court.
Associate head coach Rob Lanier leads Tennessee’s recruitment of Kent. Lanier has recruited Blair Academy for years and has a great relationship with Blair Academy coach Joe Mantegna. While at Texas, Barnes and Lanier landed two recruits from Blair — Royal Ivey, who went on to play several years in the NBA, and Alex Wangmene, who is currently playing professionally overseas.
The Vols have been pursuing Kent for over a year and were one of the first schools to offer him a scholarship. Lanier visited Blair twice in recent weeks to scout Kent in open gyms.
"Coach Lanier is a really good guy," Kent said. "I've had really good conversations with him about the program. He knows what I am trying to accomplish collegiality, that I want to win and after that I want to play in the pros. We've had good conversations all-around, focusing obviously on college and the professionals and I am sure I will learn more on my visit."
Kent is going to get an education on what life is like as a member of the Orange & White this weekend.
"I am keeping an open-mind," he said. "I'll know on my visit. I will make all my observations when I am there. I definitely value first-hand knowledge and conversation over what so and so said."
Barnes is expected to visit Blair Academy this week to meet with Kent.
Joining Zach on his trip to Knoxville will be his mother and father as well as his mentor, long-time AAU coach Duane Coverdale.
Mantegna thinks Kent is a late-bloomer with lots of potential.
"Zach is a stretch-five,” Mantegna said. “He is big and physical enough to guard bigs around the rim but can shoot it out to 24 feet with a high percentage. He plays decent with his back to the basket and passes it very well out of the post. He's not a power finisher around the rim, but I think he will be after the weight training he receives from whatever Power-5 school he decides to attend.
"He's a very good ball-screen defender and has good instincts at blocking shots. He runs the floor pretty well, so he's able to get back on defense. I think he's going to be a plus defender. The kid has a big frame and really hasn't filled out yet. He should be about 260 pounds when he tips off his sophomore season."