By Ken Lay

Rick Barnes and the University of Tennessee men’s basketball team are currently preparing for the 2021-22 season. The Volunteers had their first official practice Tuesday.

But on Monday, Sept. 27, Holston Hills Country Club hosted the Rick Barnes Emerald Youth Golf Classic.

Barnes, who is in his seventh season as the UT coach, gives his name to the tournament, which raises money and awareness for the Emerald Youth Foundation, a ministry for inner city youth.

Barnes serves on the foundation’s Board of Directors and he believes in Emerald Youth Foundation’s mission.

“I think this is great for young people of Knoxville to have a chance to live a really full life with Emerald Youth,” said Barnes, who became involved with the foundation upon coming to Knoxville because he was a latch key kid. “This is one of many opportunities for people to get involved with helping our youth.

“There are a lot of places that people can become involved. This tournament gets bigger every year. And it needs to. It needs to so Emerald Youth can continue to get the things it needs to continue to help the youth of Knoxville.”

The event raised more than $300,000 and Barnes will make a personal donation of $75,000

Before the tournament, Barnes met with local media to discuss the upcoming season, the Vols’ nonconference schedule and college basketball.

Barnes said that he’s looking forward to the upcoming season, which officially began with the first practice early last week.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We had a great spring and actually had a good summer leading up to it. I think our guys are excited about it.”

The Vols went 18-9 last season in a campaign impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and Barnes said that he relishes a return to normalcy for his team in 2021-22.

“This is totally different than a year ago. Last year was a year that I don’t think any of us wants to relive, in terms of what we do on the practice court and what we do as a team in the locker room and all the time we spend together,” Barnes said. “We’ve been able to go back and use our film room, our locker room and being able to have dinner together every day.

“Just being together with the player is the best part.”