Basketball Vols sign highly-touted 2023 class

Tennessee’s signing class is currently rated the eighth-best in the nation.
The Southeastern Conference released opponents for the Vols upcoming 2021-22 season.
The Southeastern Conference released opponents for the Vols upcoming 2021-22 season.(WVLT)
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 8:01 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Tennessee welcomed four dynamic players to its men’s basketball signing class Wednesday, Vols’ head coach Rick Barnes announced. Made up of guards Cameron Carr and Freddie Dilione and forwards J.P. Estrella and Cade Phillips, Tennessee currently has the No. 8 recruiting class in the nation, according to both 247Sports and Rivals.

Cameron Carr | Guard | Eden Prairie, Minnesota Currently enrolled at Link Academy in Branson, Missouri, and rated a four-star prospect and the No. 87 player in the class of 2023 by 247 Sports, Carr is set to join the Vols next summer. At Link Academy, Carr is teammates with forward Cade Phillips—one of his fellow Tennessee signees in the class of 2023. Link Academy is also the same program that produced current Vol Julian Phillips.

“Cam has that ‘pedigree’ we talk about a lot as a staff,” Barnes said. “His dad had a lengthy NBA career. His sister plays basketball in the SEC. He’s been around high-level basketball his entire life. He recently had a six-inch growth spurt, so his ceiling continues to rise. It’s exciting to think about his potential impact on our program. He’s already an elite shot maker who’s game off-the-bounce is evolving. We really like his IQ and feel for the game, and we’re confident his work ethic will lead to him getting better and better.”

A native of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, the 6-4 guard played at Manhattan High School in Manhattan, Kansas, prior to transferring to Link Academy. On the Nike EYBL circuit, Carr helped lead Mokan Elite to the 2022 Peach Jam title—posting a 5.7:1 assist to turnover ratio and shooting 35 percent from 3-point range. Mokan Elite, one of the top programs on the Nike EYBL circuit, also produced former Vol and current Memphis Grizzlies guard Kennedy Chandler. Carr is the son of Chris Carr, who played six seasons in the NBA (1995-03) after starring collegiately at Southern Illinois (1992-95). Cameron Carr’s older sister, Chrissy, is a redshirt senior guard at Arkansas.

Freddie Dilione | Point Guard | Fayetteville, North Carolina A consensus top-60 prospect nationally, the Fayetteville, North Carolina, native Dilione is rated as high as No. 24 overall in the Class of 2023 by 247Sports—as well as the top prospect in the state of North Carolina by the 247Sports composite.

“Freddie is another guy we’re thrilled about adding—he is the definition of a ‘Tennessee guard,’” Barnes said. “He comes from an amazing and supportive family. Our recruitment of Freddie began when he attended our Elite Camp in the summer of 2021. And as his recruitment continued, it became clear that he fit our culture extremely well. We love Freddie’s versatility on both sides of the floor. As a playmaker, he does a great job of making his teammates better, and he can score in so many different ways. He’s going to be a lot of fun to coach.”

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Dilione broke the Overtime Elite league single-game scoring record with a 36-point performance against the OSL Falcons. A point guard, Dilione stands 6-5. As a junior during his breakout 2021-22 season at Word of God Christian Academy, he averaged 25.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. Dilione’s stock rose significantly over the summer, as he stood out on Adidas’ 3SSB Circuit as a member of Team Loaded (N.C.)—averaging 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in five games. Prior to competing at Word of God Christian Academy, where he is coached by Byron Williams, Dilione played the previous three years at Fayetteville (N.C.) Trinity Christian, where he averaged 21.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore. He becomes the third men’s basketball player from Fayetteville to sign with the Vols, joining grad transfer John Fields (2010-11) and Kwe Parker (2016-17).

J.P. Estrella | Forward | Scarborough, Maine A native of Scarborough, Maine, Estrella (pronounced: uh-STRELL-uh) has signed and submitted a National Letter of Intent and plans to enroll as a freshman next summer. He would be the program’s first-ever player from the state of Maine.

“J.P. is a guy we initially fell in love with due to his versatility,” Barnes said. “We love his entire family, really. “On the court, his ability to handle, pass and shoot the basketball at his size made him a priority for us in this recruiting class. He was 6-2 as a high school freshman, and that guard skill-set—now that he’s grown to 6-11—has remained intact despite his massive growth spurt. He’s still just scratching the surface of realizing the player he will become, but his rise from being an under-the-radar prospect to one of the best big men in the country has been fun to watch. We believe J.P. can develop into a force for us in the SEC.”

Currently a senior at prep powerhouse Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, the 6-11 forward is rated by On3.com as the 36th-best overall prospect in the Class of 2023. He is a consensus top-50 prospect by all major recruiting services. Prior to this fall, Estrella attended South Portland High School near his hometown for two years. He powered the Red Riots to the Maine Class AA state title as a junior, averaging 20.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game while earning Varsity Maine All-State honors. Estrella played his AAU ball with the Middlesex (Mass.) Magic of the Boys Under Armour Association, coached by Mike Crotty Jr., after previously competing with XL Thunder, coached by Abi Davids. He is coached at Brewster Academy by Jason Smith. His mother, 6-4 Allie (Booth) Estrella, played basketball at Boston College from 1995-99 after earning “Miss Maine Basketball” honors in 1995. Interestingly, Allie (Booth) Estrella finished her collegiate career in Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena, as she was a senior on the No. 8-seeded Boston College team that fell to the No. 1-seeded Lady Vols in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 15, 1999.

Cade Phillips | Forward | Jacksonville, Alabama Phillips is currently a senior at Link Academy in Branson, Missouri, where his squad is ranked No. 4 nationally in Sports Illustrated’s Preseason Power 25. The 6-9 forward previously attended Jacksonville High School in his hometown of Jacksonville, Alabama. ESPN and On3.com both rate Phillips as the No. 1 overall prospect out of the state of Alabama in the Class of 2023.

“We’re all very excited to welcome Cade and his family into our Tennessee basketball family,” Barnes said. “He’s been blessed with a terrific support system surrounding him, and he’s an impressive athlete who fits really well into the style of basketball we want to play. Cade has great hands and quick feet around the rim. We also love his toughness. We believe, in time, he will grow into a player who provides tremendous upside and versatility on both ends of the floor.”

As a junior last season at Jacksonville High—coached by Shane Morrow—the four-star prospect averaged 13.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game while shooting 57 percent. In 24 games, he totaled 109 blocked shots. He took his rim protection to a different level during 2022 postseason play, swatting 25 shots in a four-game span—including an incredible 11-block performance in the regional final—en route to Class 4A All-State honors from the Alabama Sports Writers Association. On the Nike AAU circuit, Phillips played for The Skills Factory. Prior to shifting his focus to basketball, he played outside linebacker, safety and defensive end as a football player. Phillips boasts a rich athletic bloodline, as both of his parents competed as student-athletes in the SEC. His father, John David Phillips, was a football quarterback at Alabama. His mother, Reagan Croyle Phillips, played basketball—and also was selected Homecoming Queen—at Alabama. Phillips also has a grandfather, John Croyle, and an uncle, Brodie Croyle, who were football standouts for the Crimson Tide. Cade Phillips also becomes the second Tennessee basketball signee in as many years from Link Academy, as current freshman Julian Phillips (no relation) attended Link in 2021-22 and helped lead the Lions to the championship game of the 2022 GEICO National Championships. Link is coached this season by Bill Armstrong, and the Lions’ roster also features fellow UT signee Cameron Carr.