By Alex Norman
Back in 2015, Tennessee’s men’s basketball program was in shambles.
They had just completed a mediocre 16-16 season, including a putrid 7-11 mark in SEC play.
Their head coach, Donnie Tyndall was fired after only one season due to NCAA violations that were committed during his time at Southern Miss. Tyndall already had NCAA violations on his resume from his time at Morehead State, which made then Tennessee athletics director Dave Hart’s hiring of him in the first place such an awful decision. Remember, Tennessee had drawn the ire of the NCAA not long before hiring Tyndall due to rule breaking during the Bruce Pearl era.
The Vols replaced Tyndall with former Texas head coach Rick Barnes, who was presumed to have lost his fastball.
And starting play that fall would be a freshman forward that could use some time in the weight room.
His name was Admiral Schofield.
During a forgettable 2015-2016 season for Tennessee basketball, Schofield averaged 7.6 points and 4 rebounds as a freshman. He started 22 games out of necessity, as the roster was not SEC caliber. During his sophomore campaign Schofield slightly increased his stats, while becoming a key player off the bench, and an SEC sixth man of the year candidate. In both seasons, the Vols went a combined 31-35, finishing no higher than ninth in the SEC.
But a transformation was happening not only for Tennessee men’s basketball, but for Schofield as well. By the time his junior year rolled around, physically he had become a chiseled athlete, with boundless energy. He also became a team leader, both on and off the court. It’s not a coincidence that the improvement in his game went hand in hand with the Vols resurgence. Schofield increased his points per contest to 13.9 and led the Vols with 6.3 rebounds per game, as the Vols won their first SEC title in a decade.
Schofield’s personality was welcomed by Vols fans, at a level that perhaps no basketball player had achieved since Wayne Chism. The athletic department thought so highly of Schofield that he was the front man for a very popular video that the VFL Films crew produced about the crowd noise at the 2015 Tennessee/Oklahoma game.
During this, his senior season, Schofield has turned himself into a likely NBA draft pick. He’s averaged more than 16 points and 6 rebounds per game. His career high 30 points and dagger three pointer led the Vols to a win over top-ranked Gonzaga back in December. In January it was a three pointer in the corner from Schofield that sealed the deal at Florida, and set off a raucous orange celebration in Gainesville. His stepping up and taking a charge at the end of the Ole Miss game in February kept Tennessee’s SEC title hopes alive.
It’s rare that an athlete is this good and this personable. Schofield fits the bill on both fronts. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Schofield pursue a career in the media when his playing days are done.
Last Tuesday, Schofield played his final game at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tennessee improved to 27-3 with a 71-54 win over Mississippi State. He led all scorers with 18 points. Before the contest, Schofield and fellow seniors Kyle Alexander, Brad Woodson and Lucas Campbell were honored. The ovation for Schofield was a memorable one as he fought through tears.
He will be sorely missed on Rocky Top, and remembered as a key component in the resurgence of Tennessee basketball.
Thank you, Admiral Schofield.