Basketball coach Cuonzo Martin talks after his first official practice on Oct. 14
Thompson-Boling Arena was transformed into floor-burn central Friday afternoon.
It was the official start of Tennessee men's basketball practice, and the workout was as up-tempo and intense as most expected it would be under the direction of a first-year coach with much to prove.
"I was pleased with the effort,'' Vols coach Cuonzo Martin said. "Guys were getting on the floor, diving for balls and hustling.''
Pat Walden, who played for the Vols in 1981-82 and coached the Knoxville Thunderbolts in 2008-09, said it reminded him of a former UT coach's workouts.
"This reminded me of Coach (Don) DeVoe's practices,'' said Walden, referencing the Vols' coach from 1978 to 1989. "Defense is what they'll have to do to win games.''
Walden, one of 300 or so fans who attended the open practice, left the arena with a smile.
"I really liked the physicality,'' Walden said. "You'd better play like a man.''
UT freshman Wes Washpun is only 18 years old, but he was at the point of attack Friday.
"Wes did a great job hounding the ball, and he really ate up Trae (Golden) in a couple of the drills,'' UT assistant Kent Williams said. "Wes got frustrated early, too, but that's what we want. We want guys to learn to handle it, and Wes adjusted.''
Martin said the skills Washpun showed are why he wasn't concerned with Washpun's modest three-star recruiting ranking.
"I gauge talent with my eyes, not what someone writes who has seen the guy two or three times,'' Martin said. "I didn't recruit Wes to be a scorer; I recruited him to set the tone for us defensively.''
UT junior shooting guard Skylar McBee, whose 3-point shot was falling, said Washpun does indeed have a knack for defense.
"He's super quick and super long, and that's good for him because Coach Martin is defensive minded,'' McBee said. "He's a lot like Melvin (Goins); he gets up into you and he makes up space quick.''
Washpun said he's been chomping at the bit to go through a full practice, and he's looking forward to more when UT returns to the practice court today for a three-hour workout at Pratt Pavilion.
"For it to finally be here is a great thing, because I've been working really hard getting ready for it,'' said the 6-foot-1, 163-pound Washpun. "I think me and Trae give Tennessee two different looks at point guard; I'm more of a defensive stopper and slasher, and Trae is more of a scorer.''
Martin and Williams both said Golden figures to get some
rotations at shooting guard, and could end up on the floor playing alongside Washpun at times.
Third Look: Former Austin-East High School standout Brandon Lopez was the only walk-on to get extended time playing with the starters.
"Brandon has a chance, because of how we play,'' Williams said. "We want our point guard to distribute the ball, and on defense, be tough and hound that ball, and he does that as well as anyone. He has the makeup for it.
"If Brandon can play some one, there will be times Trae plays at the two.''
Faces In The Crowd: Former UT players Tobias Harris, Melvin Goins, Josh Bone and J.P. Prince attended practice.
"That's some good D out there,'' Goins said. "There's some good hustle, too.''
Prince, who averaged 17 points, five rebounds and three assists playing in Turkey, said it was the first time he'd been back in Thompson-Boling Arena since his college career.
"It's different,'' Prince said. "Just a lot different.''
Future Open Practices: Martin said Friday's workout won't be the last one that's open to the fans, but he's not ready to announce the next open practice.
"There's some things our guys need to do, some battles they need to have, where I want them to be able to let their hair down,'' Martin said. "But it was great to see all the fans here today and give them a behind-the-scenes look.''
Miller Time: Junior college transfer Dwight Miller, a 6-8, 240-pound forward, made the first two baskets for his team during the abbreviated scrimmage and spent much of the afternoon tussling with Renaldo Woolridge and Jeronne Maymon.
Weighty Issue: The Vols opened practice wearing 10-pound weight vests, as they have throughout much of preseason workouts.
"I think it's a plus for our guys,'' Martin said. "It's about getting that mental edge.''
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32