Talented quartet signs with Vol Hoops

Knoxville, Tenn.--(UTSports) The Tennessee basketball team received National Letters of Intent from four prospects this week with the signing of guards Larry Austin Jr. and Jordan Cornish and forwards Phil Cofer and CJ Turman, head coach Cuonzo Martin announced Thursday.

Austin is a 6-1 guard from Springfield, Ill. Cornish is a 6-4 native of New Orleans, La. Cofer and Turman are both 6-8 post players from the state of Georgia.

As of Thursday, ESPN.com had Tennessee’s signing class ranked No. 16 nationally.

“I’m really excited about this signing class,” Martin said. “We’ve signed four great kids who bring a combination of athleticism, skill and toughness to our program. I know all of them are eager to get here and get to work.”

All four signees plan to enroll at Tennessee in the summer of 2014 and begin their collegiate careers as freshmen next season.

An Illinois native – like all four members of UT’s full-time coaching staff – Austin attends Lanphier High School in Springfield, where he is coached by Blake Turner.

“Larry is a fast, strong floor leader who is really tough-minded and aggressive on the defensive side of the ball,” Martin said. “He’s a natural playmaker who has really good court awareness, loves to lead the break and set up his teammates. He’ll be a great addition to our program.”

Austin has been a part of four different USA Basketball squads, including the 2011 U16 National Team (5-0, gold medal at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship) and the 2013 U18 3x3 Team (7-0, gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 3x3 Championship).

As a high school junior in 2013, Austin earned second-team Class 3A All-State status from the Associated Press.

A scouting report by ESPN.com described Austin as a tough floor leader who “can run the team and get others involved with his penetration and great court vision. He can get to the rim at will and finishes well for a player his size. He knocks down mid-range jumpers and has improved his jumper behind the arc. He has great escape ability with his quickness and speed burst.”

Austin, who played AAU ball for coach Rich Gray’s St. Louis Eagles, chose Tennessee over Illinois, Memphis, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Wake Forest.

“I felt comfortable at Tennessee because I felt like the coaching staff is really genuine and they keep it real with you,” Austin said. “They don’t tell you what you want to hear – they tell you what you need to hear.

“I also felt like, with the other (signees in this class), we can be special and do some big things. The (other signees) and the guys on the team now are all good guys to be around. And Tennessee’s fan base is great.”

Cofer attends Whitewater High School in Fayetteville, Ga., where he is coached by Mark Fisher (and Jason Barnes in previous seasons).

“He’s a very athletic player who has an unbelievable work ethic,” Martin said. “He comes from a family of great competitors. He’s a big-time inside presence who has a great knack for making plays around the rim on both ends of the floor.”

As a junior in 2013, Cofer earned second-team Class 5A All-State status from the Georgia Sportwriters Association.

ESPN.com described Cofer as an athletic and aggressive post presence who “attacks the glass on both ends and snatches rebounds in and out of his area. He is a tip-in and tip-dunk threat if not aggressively and physically boxed out. Cofer runs the floor well and finishes above the rim over or around defenders. He gets to the rim with short quick drives where he can score with his quick first step or draw the foul.”

Cofer played AAU ball for coach Al Outlaw’s Team Georgia Elite and chose UT over Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.) and Alabama.

“Both my parents went to Tennessee, so that obviously was a factor,” Cofer said. “But also, it just felt like family. All the Tennessee fans showed me a lot of love. The coaches are great. I have a great relationship with coach Martin. He almost feels like a second dad, so things just felt right at Tennessee.”

His father, Mike Cofer, lettered as a defensive end/linebacker for the Tennessee football team under head coach Johnny Majors from 1979-82. Mike Cofer was selected by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 1983 NFL Draft and played 10 years in the NFL (all with Detroit) as a linebacker and defensive end. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1988.

Phil’s mother, Reba, also attended UT.

Cornish attends Brother Martin High School in New Orleans, where he is coached by Chris Biehl (and Bill Gallagher in previous seasons).

“(Jordan has) a strong frame for a guard,” Martin said. “He’s big and physical. He can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, and he can also knock down the 3-point shot. He plays with a scorer’s mentality.”

Last month, Cornish ascended to the No. 1 spot on the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s Super 16 list, essentially earning the label as Louisiana’s top-rated player in the Class of 2014.

Possessing great size for a guard, Cornish is a player who – according to an ESPN.com scouting report – “can do a little bit of everything on the floor. He shows the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.” He is also labeled as an above-average rebounder for a guard.

He will be Tennessee’s first player from the state of Louisiana since Maurice Robertson (New Orleans) in 1996.

Cornish was a member of coach Jonathan Pixley’s Team Louisiana Red Storm AAU program and chose Tennessee over Oklahoma, VCU and Purdue.

“Tennessee was the right place for me because it’s all about family there,” Cornish said. “I love Tennessee’s style of play, the great coaching staff and also the fans.”

NOTE: There are no periods in his name (just CJ)

Turman is a senior at Morgan County High School in Madison, Ga., where he is coached by Charlemagne Gibbons.

“CJ gives us another big inside presence who can overpower opponents,” Martin said. “He’s a guy that really understands the game. He scores around the rim. He’s a big, physical athlete. I love his explosiveness.”

A glowing scouting report by ESPN.com touts Turman as “tough, physical, athletic” and “a beast.”

The report went on to describe Turman as a “great area rebounder, especially on the offensive end of the floor where he consistently gets his share of putbacks. Turman does a great job of using his explosiveness to rebound with two hands in a crowd. He is a good straight-line driver from the low wing and along the baseline. He also sweeps across the lane and shoots a running hook with touch and body control along with scoring on power-drop-steps and shots over his left shoulder through contact. Turman can also hit the open 15-foot jumper with time and space as well. He at times simply elevates over his defenders. Defensively, Turman does a great job of holding his ground or position in the low post and making the defense shoot over his outstretched hands.”

Turman played AAU ball with coach Mike Stokes’ Southern Stampede Program and chose Tennessee over Alabama, Georgia, Miami (Fla.), Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Wake Forest.

“During the recruiting process, coach Martin made me feel like I was already one of his current players,” Turman said. “That’s the biggest reason why I picked Tennessee. I think coach Martin can bring out the best in me.”

For the most up-to-date information about the Tennessee basketball program, visit UTsports.com/basketball and follow @Vol_Hoops on Twitter and Instagram.

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