Five-star guard Josiah James surprisingly picks Tennessee giving Rick Barnes his biggest recruiting win

Josiah James, a five-star combo guard from Charleston, South Carolina, verbally committed to Tennessee on Wednesday. The development came as a surprise to recruiting analysts, almost all of whom were projecting James to remain in-state and eventually sign a National Letter of Intent with Clemson.

In other words, it's heartbreak again for Clemson.

Last year, surprisingly, Brad Brownell's Tigers lost in-state star Zion Williamson to Duke. Now they've lost another in-state star, once again surprisingly, this time to the Vols.

It's difficult to overstate what this means for UT.

James is a 6-foot-6 playmaker who is ranked 14th in the Class of 2019, according to 247Sports. That makes him the highest-rated prospect to commit to the Vols since Barnes replaced Donnie Tyndall in March 2015 -- and it extends a string of positive things happening on Barnes' watch at Tennessee.

His Vols were picked 13th in last year's preseason SEC poll but overachieved as much as anybody, despite not having a single top-100 prospect on the roster, and finished tied with Auburn atop the league standings. For that, Barnes was named SEC Coach of the Year. Now every important piece from that team is back. As a result, Tennessee is ranked fourth in the CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 (and one).

James is the eighth top-20 prospect in the Class of 2019 to commit. The others are No. 7 Kahlil Whitney (Kentucky), No. 9 Tyrese Maxey (Kentucky), No. 12 Bryan Antoine (Villanova), No. 13 Nico Mannion (Arizona), No. 16 Isaiah Mobley (USC), No. 17 Onyeka Okongwu (USC) and No. 19 Armando Bacot (North Carolina).

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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