Cuonzo Martin identifies five things to know about the Vols

Tennessee men's basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin answers questions from journalists during media day at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011.

Photo by Adam Brimer, Adam Brimer

Tennessee men's basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin answers questions from journalists during media day at Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011.

Skylar McBee's new look: Rockin' the 70s 'stache

Few coaches have faced the kind of challenge in their first season as the one directly in front of new Tennessee men's basketball coach Cuonzo Martin.

Martin inherits a program that has become accustomed to success, with an SEC-high six consecutive NCAA tournaments, yet wouldn't seem to have the means to continue those winning ways this season. While the Vols have four players who were ranked in the top 100 coming out of high school, they bring very little experience into a brutal schedule. UT's ledger includes home-and-away meetings with Top 15 SEC East foes Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida as well as non-conference juggernauts Duke, Connecticut and Pittsburgh.

Martin's response to the task has been to get to work, and that will be on display for all to see today as fans have been invited to attend the first preseason practice 5-7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"I just want to let the fans get involved and get a look behind the scenes,'' said Martin, who held closed practices at Missouri State. "I know Tennessee fans are interested in seeing the new guys, and I want them to give them a sneak preview of how the team is doing.''

Martin outlined five things the Vols must do to have any chance of extending their NCAA tournament streak:

Post Play

"We don't have a guy we can throw it down to and score 20 points with his back to the basket, and there's not many of those guys in the country,'' Martin said. "We have more face-up guys, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but we just have to adjust to it with more off-the-dribble scoring and attacking at the rim. But you still have to get to the free-throw line and find production in the paint.''

Loose Balls

"Winning the battle for loose balls is going to be a staple, period, regardless of where we're picked to finish,'' Martin said. "It's a brand that we're going to have. We have to win any physical battles. It's diving on the floor and giving your body up for the betterment of the team. There's no out of bounds, you have to go in the stands or the seats to get it done. I'd put taking a charge in this category.''

Togetherness

"The one thing about team togetherness, you have to buy into the team concept completely. Whether that's to score 15 points one night, or get 10 rebounds another night or set great screens to win a given game. You may be more of a facilitator than a scorer one night, depending on how they defend you. You have to do everything necessary for our team to be successful.''

Jamming

"Jamming the ball, in most cases it will be our point guard, but it can also be our wings,'' Martin said. "Jamming is picking up the ball full-court, almost like a press; it's applying constant pressure and harassing the opponent. The last five minutes of the game, we feel like we have an advantage because of our conditioning. Now, all the sudden, the offense doesn't flow like it used to, because the ballhandler is going to want to give up the ball sooner and not deal with the jam. It's a tough job, and it's physically demanding.''

Toughness

"It goes beyond the court,'' Martin said. "It's a commitment – not necessarily in a violent way – but a mental approach to be ready to do battle on the court. We talk to our guys about setting their jaw, preparing for a worst-case scenario every time out. Be tough enough for the three-hour practices, or to handle missing three or four shots, or to fight through tough ball screens. Just keep getting up, not sagging your shoulders, blocking out everything, being ready to handle anything. You push through and keep going, realizing nobody wants or cares to hear excuses.''

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Comments » 19

vol98champ writes:

Last year we lost to the University of Indianapolis with a team that should have competed for the SEC championship. This year Martin has 4, 4 star recruits and several others that are probably as talented as the team he brought to UT last year and almost beat our 5 stars. Let's see what he can do with this bunch. I'm hopeful, but worried after what I saw last year.

calvolfromkingsport writes:

Toughness will beat some very good teams.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

"Martin inherits a program that has become accustomed to success"

Really? I mean, we did hire Martin. Oh that's right, he has "character" and he recruits "character" players. I'm sure everything will be fine...and if it isn't, nobody will notice.

murrayvol writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

"Martin inherits a program that has become accustomed to success"

Really? I mean, we did hire Martin. Oh that's right, he has "character" and he recruits "character" players. I'm sure everything will be fine...and if it isn't, nobody will notice.

So many names. So little to say. Cubicle chatter.

Prostar writes:

Too many times last year they played individual basketball, not as a team. Too many times they seemed to coast and slack off. I expect to see a full all-out effort. Hopefully they've been practicing their free-throw shooting also.

GerryOP writes:

I love what Pearl did for us, be brought us basketball players. Coack Zo appears to be bringing us a basketball TEAM. A team that is more than the sum of the players. Go Zo!

RunningWithTheVols writes:

Unfortunately, Pearl's last few teams resembled Jerry Green's teams: soft punks who played hard only when they wanted. Often, the past couple of years, it was just embarassing.

VolunteerLifer writes:

I like what Coach Martin has to say here. Cool stuff.

asleep#212036 writes:

in response to RunningWithTheVols:

Unfortunately, Pearl's last few teams resembled Jerry Green's teams: soft punks who played hard only when they wanted. Often, the past couple of years, it was just embarassing.

Agree completely. Pearl did more with much less in his first few years. The last couple? I felt we underachieved, especially against disciplined teams who slowed the game down. Pearl could absolutely teach and coach a run and gun exciting style of b-ball and as long as the other team thought they could run with us (ie, Florida), we won big and won often. Unfortunately, after a few seasons, it became painfully (for us) obvious to all our opponents that he was merely managing a bunch of street ballers who were great one on one but woefully outmatched when forced to play as a team outside their high scoring comfort zone. Martin's teams will play defense, they will rebound, they will pass, they will block out, they will take high percentage shots. They likely will not score 80+ per game, fire up ridiculous three's, hot dog the fast breaks, or quit when the game gets tough. He may not yet have the talent but I feel he will get the most out of what he has - something Pearl did not do his last two seasons. Go Vols!!!

seofeed writes:

I know it's not in the man's nature but please speak up during interviews. I can barely understand him because his voice is so deep and he speaks so low. I couldn't understand him at all in the interview during the Georgia game. Please speak up because I want to hear what you're saying Coach. Glad to have you here! GO VOLS!

LJS1984 writes:

in response to vol98champ:

Last year we lost to the University of Indianapolis with a team that should have competed for the SEC championship. This year Martin has 4, 4 star recruits and several others that are probably as talented as the team he brought to UT last year and almost beat our 5 stars. Let's see what he can do with this bunch. I'm hopeful, but worried after what I saw last year.

I watched that Indianapolis team play King College courtside here in Bristol. The Greyhounds weren't to be messed with. lol

reg_mza#219136 writes:

The Running Rebels of UNLV in the 90s weren't a great post up team either but are great examples of teams that succeed with attacking the glass, attacking the rim, and doing a lot of little things off the dribble. We do not have that type of talent but if we can consistently attack attack attack on the offensive end then have a point guard that can put it all together cohesively then it will be interesting to see how it goes in SEC play or the unsuspecting team.

I can only hope that the diving for the loose balls doesn't leave us a gimpy injured mess. That is the one drawback to being that reckless for the sake of a loose basketball. We do not have the depth to recover from injuries on this staple so all I can do is pray and hope those kids do not get injured.

I think we will be a cohesive team first Vol team. Whether that translates to wins will be determined but I think this group, after all they have had to adjust to in transition will be a together group very similar to the group that transitioned to Bruce Pearl after the Buzz Peterson era came to an end. That was a pretty tight group as well.

I think they can be tough, battle tough, with Miller, Maymon, Hall, Miller, and the freshman whose name I cannot recollect but we're just so thin in the back court. Not to mention all three mentioned are foul prone so this could get ugly if they battle tough.

Lastly, speaking of free throw shooting, this is the most horrendous free throw shooting team in the SEC this year. They lost two of the best free throw shooters in Hopson, Harris, and and Goins but the rest are just atrocious from the free throw line. You could argue that McBee was over 85% but he only took 17 free throws, not a good indicator of free throw shooting prowess. You could argue that Golden shot over 80% but that was only 40 free throws. That is a little more reassuring but how will those numbers hold up once he's playing 32-35 minutes and jamming the ball for 40 minutes. The next best free throw shooter is clipping at Tatum at 67% and then Hall at 57%. Yikes...I hope they teach the fundamentals of free throw shooting until their elbows hurt. We will look as ridiculous as Memphis if we attack the basket so much, get to the foul line, then brick 60% of our free throws.

Alright now I'm done.

IPOrange writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

"Martin inherits a program that has become accustomed to success"

Really? I mean, we did hire Martin. Oh that's right, he has "character" and he recruits "character" players. I'm sure everything will be fine...and if it isn't, nobody will notice.

I don't understand. Are you disagreeing with the sentence you quoted? If so, what does recruiting "character" players have to do with inheriting a program accustomed to success? What the heck are you talking about?

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I like Martin's fundamentals! We will work hard win or lose. You can't argue with Pearl's success as far as wins and losses and I for one hated to see him mess up. But I really think Martin is gonna do well. I hope these players don't play as selfish as some past teams. Especially at the one and two spot.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

The pornstache has got to go.

westknoxrepub writes:

Tonight many teams will be holding Midnight Madness. . .we'll be holding a candlight vigil.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to IPOrange:

I don't understand. Are you disagreeing with the sentence you quoted? If so, what does recruiting "character" players have to do with inheriting a program accustomed to success? What the heck are you talking about?

Don't even try to understand, IPO. He's just another droning troll. He may even be one of our previous droning trolls under a different screen name, but who cares, really? Just another pathetic nonentity trying to compensate for an utterly empty, hopeless life. Like most trolls, he is merely to be pitied, not understood.

brod writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Tonight many teams will be holding Midnight Madness. . .we'll be holding a candlight vigil.

dam**t westknox. this team hasn't played a game yet. at least have a little bit of optimism.

Teamguy writes:

Coach Martin knows some things about handling adversity.

I wanna see Coach Martins' offensive schemes. But faaa.. Atleast its not the high flex.

'Wake up to theeese'

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