College Basketball

The 10 Greatest Tennessee Volunteers Basketball Players of All Time

The University of Tennessee has a long and storied history when it comes to its basketball program, and that history is full of standout players. From legendary head coach Ray Mears to a host of All-Americans, the Vols have produced some of the most talented and successful players in college basketball. In this blog post, we’re going to take a look at the 10 greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time. These ten players represent the best of the best from one of the most decorated programs in the country.

1) Chris Lofton

Chris Lofton is widely considered one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time. A standout guard from 2003-2007, Lofton was a four-time All-SEC selection and two-time team captain. He remains the all-time leader in 3-point field goals made at Tennessee with 256, which was also an SEC record when he left college. Lofton was selected as the SEC Player of the Year in 2007 and earned second-team All-America honors that same season.
In his four seasons with the Vols, Lofton averaged 16.7 points per game and finished as the school’s career leader in steals with 227. He remains one of only four players in school history to score 2,000 or more points, finishing with 2,037. His college accomplishments were enough to get him drafted in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Though his professional career did not turn out the way he had hoped, there’s no denying the impact Lofton had on the Tennessee program. He helped lead the Vols to three NCAA Tournament appearances, and he still holds multiple program records to this day. For that reason, Chris Lofton will go down as one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time.

2) Allan Houston

When discussing the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time, it’s hard to ignore Allan Houston. The former two-time All-American is arguably the most accomplished and successful player to ever wear the orange and white.
Houston was a key part of the Volunteers’ success from 1989-93, helping them reach four NCAA Tournaments during that span. He earned first team All-SEC honors in 1991 and 1993, was named the 1993 SEC Player of the Year, and was a first team All-American in 1992 and 1993.
Houston was also named the 1992 NCAA Tournament East Regional MVP, helping lead the Vols to their first Final Four appearance since 1967. He finished his Tennessee career with 1,801 points, fifth all-time in school history.
After college, Houston went on to have a successful NBA career. He was drafted 11th overall by the Detroit Pistons in 1993 and went on to play in nine All-Star games and make two All-NBA teams. He also became one of the NBA’s best clutch shooters, famously hitting a game-winning shot for the New York Knicks in 1999.
Allan Houston is undoubtedly one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time and will forever be remembered for his accomplishments both at the college and professional level.

3) Dale Ellis

Dale Ellis is without a doubt one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time. He was a three-time All-American, an All-SEC selection four times, and a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
Ellis joined the Volunteers in 1978, and in his first season he averaged 14.6 points per game. As a sophomore, he upped that average to 18.9 points per game, and over his four-year career at Tennessee, Ellis scored 2,067 points, becoming the all-time leading scorer in school history until Allan Houston broke the record in 1993.
In addition to his scoring prowess, Ellis also grabbed 870 rebounds during his time as a Vol, while shooting a stellar 51.5% from the field and an impressive 80.5% from the free throw line. He also led the team to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1982 and reached the Sweet Sixteen round that same year.
Ellis went on to have a long and successful NBA career and was selected to two All-Star teams and earned All-NBA Third Team honors in 1992. To this day, Dale Ellis is remembered as one of the best players ever to wear the orange and white for Tennessee.

4) Ernie Grunfeld

Ernie Grunfeld is one of the most accomplished players in Tennessee Volunteers basketball history. A three-time All-American, Grunfeld still stands as the program’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and assists. He was named MVP of the 1976 NIT Tournament and led the Vols to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1977.
Grunfeld was selected with the 11th overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. He went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA with Milwaukee, Kansas City/Sacramento, New York and Washington. Grunfeld also served as general manager for the Bucks and Washington Wizards before his firing in 2019.
Grunfeld was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, joining former teammate Bernard King who was inducted in 2013. Grunfeld’s No. 22 jersey is retired at Tennessee, along with two other Volunteers greats, Dale Ellis and Tony White.

5) Bernard King

When you think of Tennessee Volunteers basketball, there is one name that always stands out: Bernard King.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, King attended the University of Tennessee and quickly became a star on the court. In his three years as a Volunteer, King averaged 23.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, and was named to two All-American teams. He also set numerous records, including most points in a single season (961) and highest single-game scoring performance (54).
In 1977, King was drafted 7th overall by the New Jersey Nets, but his NBA career was sadly cut short due to injury. However, in 1984 he was back on the court and was named the NBA’s Comeback Player of the Year. During his 14 year career in the NBA, King averaged 22.5 points per game and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
Today, King is still remembered for his excellence on the court. He is widely considered one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers of all time and is an inspiration to many aspiring basketball players.

6) Reggie Miller

When you think of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time, one name stands out among the rest: Reggie Miller.
The native of Riverside, California is one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball history. During his four years at Tennessee, Miller scored an incredible 2,648 points — a mark that still stands today as the third-highest total in school history. He also set single-season records for free throws made (265) and points scored (793) during his senior year in 1988.
In addition to his scoring prowess, Miller was also a superb defender. He was named to the SEC All-Defensive team three times and finished his career with 213 steals — a mark that still ranks fifth all-time in school history.
Reggie Miller is widely considered to be the greatest player in Tennessee Volunteers basketball history and is an easy pick for the top spot on this list.

7) Travis Mays

Travis Mays was one of the most beloved players in the history of Tennessee Volunteers basketball. He was a four-year starter for the Vols from 1988-1992 and was an integral part of two NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Sweet 16 run in 1992.
Mays was a first-team All-SEC performer his senior year, leading the Vols to the SEC East title and averaging 17 points, 5.3 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game. He also became Tennessee’s all-time leader in assists with 632 during his career.
Mays was considered one of the best point guards in the nation during his time at Tennessee and is remembered as one of the most dynamic playmakers to ever don the orange and white. His No. 10 jersey was retired in 2017, cementing his place among the greatest Volunteers of all time.

8) Vincent Yarbrough

Vincent Yarbrough is one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time. During his career at Tennessee, Yarbrough was a two-time All-SEC selection, winning Player of the Year honors in 2000-01 and Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2001-02. He also earned All-American recognition twice and was a Wooden Award Finalist in 2002.
Yarbrough was a consistent performer for the Volunteers, averaging double figures in scoring for three consecutive seasons. His senior season was especially impressive, as he averaged 18.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. He also set a single-season school record with a .581 field goal percentage.
Yarbrough helped the Volunteers reach the Elite Eight in 2000 and 2002, leading them to the Sweet Sixteen in 2001 and 2003. He also helped Tennessee win its first SEC tournament championship in six years in 2002. Following his college career, Yarbrough went on to play professionally overseas.
Vincent Yarbrough’s impact on Tennessee basketball is still felt today. His talent and leadership helped elevate the program to new heights and put it on the national map. He is truly one of the greatest Volunteers basketball players of all time.

9) Shelvin Mack

Shelvin Mack is one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time. A two-time All-SEC honoree, Mack played for the Volunteers from 2008-2011 and was instrumental in their success during that time.
Mack had an incredible career at Tennessee, where he averaged 15.8 points and 4.6 assists per game. He led the Volunteers to the NCAA Tournament each of his four years with the team, and even led them to a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2010-11. He also earned SEC All-Defensive Team honors twice, which is a testament to his prowess on both sides of the ball.
Mack was drafted by the Washington Wizards in the 2011 NBA draft and has since gone on to have a successful NBA career with the Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz, and Chicago Bulls. He continues to show why he was one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers ever, as he remains one of the most consistent bench contributors in the league.

10) Ron Slay

Ron Slay is undoubtedly one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time. The former guard was a fan favorite during his time in Knoxville and remains one of the most beloved figures in Tennessee basketball history.
Slay joined the Vols in 2000 and quickly made his presence felt on the court. He was an impressive three-point shooter, averaging 12.4 points per game and shooting 40.5% from beyond the arc during his three-year career. His aggressive style of play also earned him respect from fans, coaches, and opponents alike.
In 2002, Slay was named SEC Player of the Year, as well as an All-American by various outlets. He led the Volunteers to the Sweet 16 that same season and finished his career at Tennessee with 1,468 points, good for 16th all-time in school history.
Beyond his impressive on-court performance, Slay was also known for his outgoing personality and dedication to the university. He was a leader on and off the court, inspiring others to follow his example.
It’s no wonder why Ron Slay is remembered as one of the greatest Tennessee Volunteers basketball players of all time. His outstanding contributions to the program will not soon be forgotten.

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