SACO — JP Estrella, the 6-foot-11 center who led South Portland High to its first boys’ basketball state championship in 30 years, announced Friday he will play college basketball for the University of Tennessee.
Estrella said he knew Tennessee was the spot before he left his official visit to the Knoxville campus in June. He delayed making his public decision to allow family and coaches to be part of the announcement, which was held at XL Sports World.
“That visit was really the only visit, for me, where I really didn’t want to leave,” Estrella said. “It was like, ‘Is it really time to go?’ After that, I was like ‘I think this is going to be the spot for me for sure.’”
Estrella was a Varsity Maine All-State selection after averaging 20.2 points and 11.8 rebounds last winter in his junior season at South Portland. He turns 18 on Saturday and will head to prep basketball power Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, for his senior year on Sunday. He said he will make his commitment to Tennessee official by signing a national letter of intent during the Nov. 9-16 early signing period.
Tennessee won last season’s Southeastern Conference tournament. Coach Rick Barnes signed a contract extension through the 2026-27 season in March. Estrella said the Tennessee staff sees him as a “play-making big,” who, “if I keep working hard can definitely touch the floor as a freshman.
“Coach Barnes believes in that vision for me and I believe in Coach Barnes because of that relationship I’ve built with him,” Estrella said. “I had great relationships with other schools, but I just felt more like it was family on that visit there.”
Estrella also likes Tennessee’s fast-paced style and Barnes’ history of coaching big men who are dynamic offensive players, including Kevin Durant at the University of Texas.
“They’re always an offensive powerhouse and a defensive powerhouse, too. And they just win,” Estrella said. “They won the SEC championship last year, they’re going to win it again this year. And hopefully a few years when I get there.”
Syracuse and Iowa, two schools where he also took official visits, were in Estrella’s final three. He also made an official visit to Marquette and received offers from Duke and Kansas.
Joining Estrella at the table for the announcement, livestreamed on 247 Sports, were his parents, Allie and Mark Estrella, his brother, Cameron, and club coaches Abi Davids of XL Thunder and Michael Crotty of the Middlesex (Massachusetts) Magic.
Former Middlesex Magic players include NBA players Pat Connaughton and Duncan Robinson and 6-foot-9 Notre Dame freshman Dom Campbell of Scarborough. Crotty said Estrella can “definitively” play in the SEC because of his abilities on the perimeter, in the post, and being able to run the court “like a deer.”
“I believe he will be an impactful guy at Tennessee,” Crotty said. “Ten years ago, I didn’t think we’d have anybody in the NBA. …I don’t think there’s any limit on JP. He’s going to have to work. One at a time. But I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
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