Barnes: ‘Basketball in this state is bigger than I had ever imagined’

Barnes: ‘Basketball in this state is bigger than I had ever imagined’

Basketball

Barnes: ‘Basketball in this state is bigger than I had ever imagined’

KNOXVILLE – Tennessee will open SEC play Saturday against Georgia.

Rick Barnes is in his fourth season at Tennessee and has the Vols built into the No. 3 team in the nation.

Ahead of SEC play, Barnes discussed his long history of understanding the importance of Tennessee basketball and the support it has from the fanbase.

“I grew up on the other side of the mountain (in North Carolina),” Barnes said. “I knew all about Ernie and Bernie. Numbers-wise, I think we have been in the top 25 in attendance for 14 years. Basketball in this state is bigger than I had ever imagined. I knew there was success. But being here, I have gotten to meet a lot of different coaches at other universities and see the jobs they do.

“I look around and see the players in this state. It’s good. Growing up in North Carolina, I knew Tennessee had great success. All I can say is that, since I have been here, the fans have been unbelievable. I go back to our first year. We played a game against Tennessee State on New Year’s Eve. I remember Rob Lanier tapped my leg and said, ‘Coach, there is 16,000 people here today.’ With where we are right now, people are obviously excited, but I go back to those days too, where I really appreciate the fanbase.”

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