KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When the Tennessee men's basketball team warms up for games, gasps of astonishment are often heard from those paying attention.
It is at the sight of D.J. Jefferson throwing down ridiculous trick dunks.
Jefferson is redshirting this year, so he hasn't seen game action, but he makes an impact on the fans in more ways than one before the games begin.
In the layup line pregame, fans can watch Jefferson's dunk show. Many pull out their phones waiting for him to do something one often doesn't see. It's a craft that began in eighth grade for Jefferson and blossomed into high-flying acts above the rim.
"As I got older and I took basketball more seriously," he said. "I started working on my legs. Squats, quarter squats, box jumps, things like that. I just started to try all the dunks I wanted to try and I happened to make them and then I started to be more creative with them so."
Jefferson works on it after practice or after one of his individual workouts.
His favorite is the Eastbay dunk, which is a dunk where a player puts the ball in between their legs and then slams it home.
"Now it's just way where I can go up there and do it without no problems," Jefferson said. "So that's kind of my favorite dunk."
It's not the only way he puts a show on for the fans, though. Jefferson is seen chatting it up with young fans before the games too, making them feel involved.
"It's always about the kids, man," Jefferson said. "Growing up, there was a lot of times when I wanted to go watch the games but it would be hard for me because I couldn't really afford it. Now that I'm at this point now there are kids that are looking up to a lot of players like myself. I'll always be there for them. It's always about the kids, man. It's always about the kids."
He said he has been inspired by his senior teammates on how they act around young fans. He wants to be like them too.
"Players like Uros, Santi, Josiah, Julian — the list goes on," he said. "I'm just trying to be a good example for them, be that role model. That way, they can always say back to their parents or kids that DJ was the man, he was always for the kids."
Jefferson takes his pregame show to the NCAA Tournament now. The Vols are a four-seed in the East Region and play 13th-seeded Louisiana at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday.