The Tennessee Volunteers, commonly known as “The Vols,” play at an arena known as the “Summit” because it is named after Hall of Fame women’s coach Pat Summitt. It is located in Knoxville, Tennessee and has an arena with a capacity of 21,678, and the team color is bright orange – a slightly brighter orange than the color worn by Syracuse University.

The Vols had their heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, which the “Erie and Bernie Show was a part of,” and they also reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament in 2007, 2008, 2014, 2019 and 2023, which has allowed them to achieve the status of “perennial powerhouse” even though they have never won a national championship.

Who are the best Tennessee Men’s basketball players this NCAAB 2023-24 season?

Guard Dalton Knecht and forwards Jonas Aidoo and Zakai Zeigler are the top players for this season’s Volunteers squad.

Tennessee Volunteers Men's basketball Roster History

Ernie Grunfeld and Bernard King appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in February, 1976, and ESPN later did a 30 for 30 episode on the exploits of those two while they were at Tennessee.

Famous Tennessee Volunteers Men's Basketball Players

Aside from Grunfeld and King, who both came out of New York, famous Tennessee Volunteers included NBA players Allan Houston, Dale Ellis and Chris Lofton.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Tennessee Men’s CBB Players of all time

  1. Red Robins (1964-1966)

Position: Center
Career Stats with the Vols: 14.0 points. 10.9 rebounds
Awards: First team All-American: 1966

A 6-foot-8 forward from Leesburg, Virginia, Robbins was nicknamed for his red hair and perceived fiery personality, and grabbed over 6,000 rebounds in an ABA career that took him to New Orleans, Kentucky, Virginia and San Diego before he finished his pro career in Italy. He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers but never played for them.

  1. Paul “Lefty” Walther (1944-1949)

Position: Forward
Career Stats with the Vols: 15.6 points
Awards: First-team All-American

A native of Covington, Kentucky, his playing career was split by World War II, when he served in the Navy. He was team captain at Tennessee during 1948–49, his final season there. He played six seasons in the NBA for Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Fort Wayne, and he appeared in the 1952 NBA All-Star Game before spending 32 years working for Merrill Lynch.

  1. Reggie Johnson (1976-1980)

Position: Center
Career Stats with the Vols
Awards: First-team All-American 1979, 1980

He averaged 8.4 points per game in an NBA career that took him to San Antonio, Cleveland, New Jersey, Kansas City and Philadelphia, and he and won a league championship with the Sixers in 1983. In February 2009, he was named to the University of Tennessee's "All-Century" Basketball team, which includes the 20 greatest players in school history.

  1. Tom Boerwinkle (1965-1968)

Position: Center
Career stats with the Vols. 11.4 points, 9.2 rebounds
Awards: First-team All-American, 1968

A native of Independence, Ohio, he was the son of immigrants from the Netherlands who came to the United States in 1890. Boerwinkle played for the Vols and helped the team win the 1967 Southeastern Conference championship. The next year, he was named a Helms Foundation first-team all-American. In his junior and senior seasons, he averaged a double-double each season—10.2 points and 12.2 rebounds his junior season and 11.3 points and 15.2 rebounds his senior season. He spent his entire 11-year career with the Chicago Bulls.

  1. Grant Williams (2016-2019)

Position: Forward
Career Stats with the Vols: 15.7 points, 6.5 rebounds

He was the 22nd overall pick of the NBA draft in 2019 and now plays for the Washington Wizards after beginning this season with the Dallas Mavericks. Williams was an All-SEC freshman, sophomore and junior for the Vols and was back-to-back SEC Player of the Year in 2017-18 and 2018-19, becoming the first player to do so since Corliss Williamson in 1995,

  1. Chris Lofton (2004-2008)

Position: Guard
Career stats with the Vols: 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds
Awards: First-team All-American 2006, 2007, 2008

After a stellar career with the Vols, the native of Maysville, Kentucky, never made it to the NBA because of his size (6-foot-2). He broke Allan Houston’s school record for 3-pointers made and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a member of the Vols in the Nov. 21, 2007 issue, and his final 3-pointer came in a loss to Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

  1. Dale Ellis (1979-1983)

Position: Shooting guard
Career Stats with the Vols: 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds
Awards: First team All-American 1982, 1983

A longtime member of the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA, where he was considered the league’s best 3-point shooter, the native of Marietta, Georgia was the ninth pick of the 1993 draft and went on to make 1,1719 3-pointers, which at the time he retired was second in NBA history behind Reggie Miller.

  1. Ernie Grunfeld (1973-1977)

Position: Power forward
Career Stats with the Vols: 22.6 points, 6.6 rebounds
Awards: First team All-American: 1976, 1977

The native of Satu Mare, Romania won a gold medal for the United States at the 1976 Olympics after his family immigrated to the United States when he was 8 years old. His parents are Holocaust survivors. As a high school student he was the leading scorer on the Team USA Maccabiah Games team, and he held the Tennessee school scoring record until Allan Houston broke it.

  1. Allan Houston (1987-1991)

Position: Shooting guard
Career Stats with the Vols: 21.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists
Awards: First team All-American 1992-1993

A sharpshooter from Louisville Kentucky, who now runs the Westchester Knicks of the G-League, Houston played nine seasons for the Knicks after leaving the Detroit Pistons as a free agent. He played under his father, Wade, at Tennessee and became the school’s all-time leading scorer and his number 20 retired at a school ceremony in 2011. He also has been assistant to the general manager and assistant to the president of basketball operations for the Knicks.

  1. Bernard King (1974-77)

Position: Power forward
Career stats with Vols: 25.8 points, 13.2 rebounds
Awards: First-team All-American 1975, 1976, 1977

The Brooklyn, New York native was the NBA’s leading scorer in 1984-85 and is best known as a pro for scoring 50 points on Christmas Day against the Boston Celtics. His younger brother, Albert, also played in the NBA, and he is a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. His recruitment made the Vols nationally famous because of the Bernie and Ernie rhyme and the New York connections, which appealed to Sports Illustrated because the magazine was published in New York.

Parameters of Rankings

The Vols have had their share of close calls in the NCAA tournament but no championships, something this year’s squad hopes to change. In coming up with these rankings, career scoring records were important, but so, too, was Hall of Fame membership and career success in Knoxville, which is best quantified by All-American status since so many Vols teams have made it to the NCAAs but none has ever advanced past the Elite Eight, which was accomplished by the 2010 team. Here’s hoping a Final Four appearance of better is in the cards this season, which would allow us to update this list.

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