“The numbers don’t lie,” he said last week.
Darrington made just seven of 28 three-point attempts in 31 games as a freshman at Vincennes University in the 2015-16 season.
It’s a statistic he uses to illustrate a point, because the 6-foot-1 guard led the Indiana junior college in that same category this past season, shooting 43.1 percent with 90 makes from beyond the arc.
“That’s just the level of work right there,” Darrington said.
Darrington is known a scorer now entering his first season at Tennessee. But his confidence is rooted in a more fundamental trait, work ethic, as he begins the second chapter of his college basketball career.
“I believe in myself, but not arrogantly,” Darrington said. “I believe in myself because I put the work in. Coming out of high school, I was a Division II, NAIA guy. I didn’t have a big name, didn’t play for the big AAU teams. I’m not just 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-10 or long and athletic. I literally had to work.”
Darrington worked his way to a scholarship offer from the Volunteers as he earned junior college All-America honors this past season, nearly doubling his scoring production as he led Vincennes to a 32-3 record. He credited the success to the hours he spent working to improve his shooting and ball-handling.
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes wants Darrington, along with graduate transfer James Daniel III, to provide leadership and scoring out of the backcourt this season. The Vols are seeking to make their first NCAA tournament appearance under Barnes, who is entering his third season in Knoxville.
“I’ve heard he’s hardest on the point guards,” Darrington said of Barnes. “So he’s been just letting me know what I need to do and that he’s counting on me. I don’t want to let him down, so I’ve got to come in here ready, do what I’ve got to do and hopefully make him proud and the fans proud, too.”
Daniel is also known as a scorer. He led the nation with 27.1 points per game as a junior at Howard University in 2015-16. Darrington is not worried about their compatibility as teammates.
“That’s going to be fun,” Darrington said. “He can score it. I can score it. That’s what they needed. That’s why they recruited us. He’s a good player, I’m a good player. I’ve got other good players in the backcourt. So we’ve all got to push each other and we’ve all got to keep going.”
Each has arrived on the biggest platform of his career with the same goal, Barnes said.
“When you recruited both of them, all they talked about was winning,” he said. “They wanted to win. Neither one of them talked about anything other than being in a program where they wanted to win. I think Chris Darrington made the comment that he doesn’t have time to rebuild.”
Darrington said he followed the Southeastern Conference some while growing up, but not Tennessee specifically.
“Whoever was on, I just watched,” he said.
But he knows enough about the Vols’ recent history to know he wants more for the program.
“I know they went 16-16 last year,” Darrington said. “Looking to improve on that. I’m looking to be the best here, not just myself but the team,” he said. “We’re looking to win the league and get to the NCAA tournament. That’s always been a dream of mine, so that’s what I’m looking to do.”