Trae Golden gets 'message,' could move back into starting lineup

Cuonzo Martin recaps the Vols' win over Georgia

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin says multiple changes to the starting lineup aren't his "style," but it sounds as if the Vols are on the brink of changing things up again.

In what would be the fourth lineup switch since the start of the SEC season, Martin opened the door for Trae Golden's return to the starting five on Monday.

"If he continues to work hard in practice, I think so," Martin said when asked if Golden would start against South Carolina (9-13, 1-7 SEC) on Wednesday (TV: MyVLT, 8 p.m.) at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Golden, who started the first 22 games for the Vols (11-12, 3-5 SEC) at point guard this season, came off the bench in UT's 73-62 win over Georgia last Saturday to score 16 points and dish out five assists in 28 minutes.

When told of Martin's comments before Monday's practice, Golden's mood brightened.

"I better work hard these next couple days then, or I won't be starting; Coach has shown that," said Golden, who leads the team with 12.9 points and 4.7 assists per game. "It sent a message even if he didn't want a message to be sent."

Golden said he believes the reason he got benched was that he didn't bring the right kind of focus and energy to practice last week.

Martin insists he would prefer not to be tinkering with the lineup, preferring stability so that his players can more easily understand their roles.

"I like to keep the same routine and keep it consistent," Martin said. "In this case, we needed Trae to play hard on both ends and put forth a better effort. But I don't like changing lineups every other week; it's not my style.

"It wasn't to send a message; I don't get caught up in the periphery of what people think."

Martin didn't indicate who Golden would replace should he get his starting spot back.

UT junior Skylar McBee started in Golden's place at point guard, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be the one coming out.

McBee's primary position has been at shooting guard, and when Golden entered the game, McBee resumed his play at that spot.

Freshman Josh Richardson has been the starting shooting guard since a 67-56 win over Florida in the SEC opener on Jan. 7, replacing sophomore Jordan McRae.

Richardson earned the spot with shutdown defense but has faded of late on both ends of the floor. Richardson is shooting just 24 percent (6-of-25) in SEC play, including 1-for-9 shooting from 3-point range over the past six games.

McRae, meanwhile, enjoyed one of his finest all-around performances against Georgia, scoring 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting and dishing out two assists with no turnovers.

"We'll see," is all Martin would say about other potential changes to the lineup.

Former UT associate head coach Tony Jones, who's now coaching the Alcoa High School boys' basketball team, said he's sure Martin's decision to bench Golden had a strong effect.

"I know Trae couldn't have liked it," said Jones, who recruited Golden, Georgia's high school player of the year, out of McEachern High in Powder Springs. "But his parents, I'm sure they really didn't like it. What happens is even if the player can handle it, the parents and friends start asking them about it, and it's tough."

Martin doesn't discuss playing time with any of his players' parents, and he has made it clear that what others think certainly doesn't factor in.

Martin's decision to reconsider Golden as a starter is based on how Golden performed against Georgia and how he handles practice the next two days.

"I thought Trae did a good job, 16 points, six rebounds, five assists," Martin said of Saturday's Georgia game. "I thought it was his best job all season directing traffic and being vocal on both ends of the floor.

"If he pushes himself to exhaustion and continues to improve, he has a chance to be one of the best guards in the league."

McBee, who had 10 points with one turnover in the first start of his 87-game career, is the "second-best option" at point guard, said Martin, adding that there are no plans to move Golden to shooting guard during his UT career.

Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32

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Comments » 25

RoadTrip writes:

There you have it. Both ends of the court. Push yourself. Direct traffic. Score when necessary - not as the first option.

He says he gets it now. He's 23 games in. It's time for it to click. If he does he will be an ALL SEC PG before he is through as a Vol.

mattlock writes:

Why in the world you interview Tony Jones for this story and why in the world would we care what he thinks?!?! Seriously Mike, this isn't very professional in my opinion, interviewing the former assistant coach to make comments arguably questioning Martin's decision that Golden already admitted worked out. . .what was the point if that?!?!

born2ride writes:

It is always good to hear from TJ.

vol75 writes:

I love it when we start channeling our inner Noman Dale. Our former coach knew that PG Chris Jones was the key recruit for this year. He was a big loss. And Kevin Ware would push Cam Tatum. That is all history. But it underscores the fact that we were going to struggle without some new help. To that end, Martin has done a masterful job of holding things together and changing the culture of the program. The future lies in his ability to recruit.
And why would Tony Jones even respond to questions that should not have been asked?

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I agree he has a chance to be one of the best guards in the league. I'm not convinced he's gonna be the best point guard...but hey it's not me or anyone else on here that has to be convinced. It's Trae. I think not starting him was a brilliant move. I confess that I thought it wasn't a good move before the game!? What'd I know? He would have been the last player I'd have not started....ok well Maymon or maybe Stokes. but I believe Martin is more aware of his player's abilities and desire than many thought.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to vol75:

I love it when we start channeling our inner Noman Dale. Our former coach knew that PG Chris Jones was the key recruit for this year. He was a big loss. And Kevin Ware would push Cam Tatum. That is all history. But it underscores the fact that we were going to struggle without some new help. To that end, Martin has done a masterful job of holding things together and changing the culture of the program. The future lies in his ability to recruit.
And why would Tony Jones even respond to questions that should not have been asked?

We're at least on some player's lists. We've offered some for 2013. Right now we're as in on them as anyone...I hope. I didn't see any point guards though in the 4-5star range with interests as of today.. I'm not sure we'll need one next season. Trae has the potential. Plus we've signed a couple who're "under the radar" type already. Maybe they will help.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

BTW I really liked Tony Jones. He was a bright spot in a tight spot last year with the team. I haven't heard anything about Alcoa this year but I bet he does a great job there. Who knows? Maybe he'll send a couple All-Americans our way.

FeelVol writes:

in response to mattlock:

Why in the world you interview Tony Jones for this story and why in the world would we care what he thinks?!?! Seriously Mike, this isn't very professional in my opinion, interviewing the former assistant coach to make comments arguably questioning Martin's decision that Golden already admitted worked out. . .what was the point if that?!?!

Agreed mattlock,it seems that Griff just wants to stir up controversy within our program and I don't care much for it.

FanNotSheep writes:

I guess Chavis wasn't available?

Hey, I'd love to see Tony Jones back on the Tennessee bench, but unless and until that happens, I think it's inappropriate to seek out his opinion on personnel matters. This is Martin's team now.

underthehill writes:

McBee did much better than I thought he could at point and McRae shows promise of helping bring the ball up the floor..I thought Golden benefited from playing fewer minutes and had more energy late in the game..

hcjournals#206623 writes:

As long as we all understand that there is an echelon we are not at yet, I'm cool with all of this......Kentucky is laughing at us as we speak.....

devo-evol writes:

in response to hcjournals#206623:

As long as we all understand that there is an echelon we are not at yet, I'm cool with all of this......Kentucky is laughing at us as we speak.....

Stupid comment. What is the point? but to try and ruffle feathers. Very weak, no relevance.

DougSharp writes:

"I like to keep the same routine and keep it consistent," Martin said. "In this case, we needed Trae to play hard on both ends and put forth a better effort. But I don't like changing lineups every other week; it's not my style."

Hey coach, it's gotten you this far, stick with it maybe it'll all work out........NOT

I would put Golden in the lineup when he needed to gives the kids a breather or when he needed someone to drive to the basket and pick up a foul, and that's about it.

hikerdude writes:

For the life of me I cannot understand why CCM gives McBee so much playing time. For every point he scored against Georgia he gave up two. He tries hard, bless his heart, but he is just too slow.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to hikerdude:

For the life of me I cannot understand why CCM gives McBee so much playing time. For every point he scored against Georgia he gave up two. He tries hard, bless his heart, but he is just too slow.

That may be your impression, but I guess Martin disagrees. Like some others, I would love to see the plus/minus statistics for McBee's time on the court. It's not always about the individual stats a player puts up, it's how the team plays as a whole when he is in there, a point missed by many who criticized Steve Pearl's heavy minutes last year.

jdcdjc writes:

They all need to shoot their free throws better, if not it's going to cost them down the road.

thevoice writes:

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Keep Golden coming off the bench if that's the one time he performed well.

brod writes:

unfortunately this year ut goes as golden goes. it was the same with goins last year. we need another bobby maze, one that is there for four years instead of two.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DougSharp:

"I like to keep the same routine and keep it consistent," Martin said. "In this case, we needed Trae to play hard on both ends and put forth a better effort. But I don't like changing lineups every other week; it's not my style."

Hey coach, it's gotten you this far, stick with it maybe it'll all work out........NOT

I would put Golden in the lineup when he needed to gives the kids a breather or when he needed someone to drive to the basket and pick up a foul, and that's about it.

I can't imagine that playing anyone else as many minutes as Golden has gotten would have made a positive difference in the team's record this year. We are all understandably frustrated with his erratic play at times. That probably includes Martin and Trae as well. However, when he is playing well, there is no one else on this team that can do what he does. More rest, yes; long-term benching, NO. Martin's ploy seems to have worked this time; if Trae got the message, there is no down side to starting him again. If he falls back into his low-performing ways, there is no reason not to try it again. Of course, unless Trae plays well consistently, this team's slim post-season hopes will die an early death, so we had better hope the lesson stuck THIS time.

DougSharp writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I can't imagine that playing anyone else as many minutes as Golden has gotten would have made a positive difference in the team's record this year. We are all understandably frustrated with his erratic play at times. That probably includes Martin and Trae as well. However, when he is playing well, there is no one else on this team that can do what he does. More rest, yes; long-term benching, NO. Martin's ploy seems to have worked this time; if Trae got the message, there is no down side to starting him again. If he falls back into his low-performing ways, there is no reason not to try it again. Of course, unless Trae plays well consistently, this team's slim post-season hopes will die an early death, so we had better hope the lesson stuck THIS time.

I agree John I dont think playing anyone else would've produced a more positive outcome, but I would like to have seen the impact on next year's outcome if Martin had bit the bullet early and put his young guns in the starting lineup. I like how this team is forming for the future, regardless what happens this year.

DougSharp writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I can't imagine that playing anyone else as many minutes as Golden has gotten would have made a positive difference in the team's record this year. We are all understandably frustrated with his erratic play at times. That probably includes Martin and Trae as well. However, when he is playing well, there is no one else on this team that can do what he does. More rest, yes; long-term benching, NO. Martin's ploy seems to have worked this time; if Trae got the message, there is no down side to starting him again. If he falls back into his low-performing ways, there is no reason not to try it again. Of course, unless Trae plays well consistently, this team's slim post-season hopes will die an early death, so we had better hope the lesson stuck THIS time.

Should've mention on last reply, though Trae is only a Soph he isn't a point guard and IMHO Richardson is a shooting guard with much more upside, thus regulating Golden to a role player status. A vauable role player, kinda like Williams was the last few years.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DougSharp:

Should've mention on last reply, though Trae is only a Soph he isn't a point guard and IMHO Richardson is a shooting guard with much more upside, thus regulating Golden to a role player status. A vauable role player, kinda like Williams was the last few years.

I would still say that Golden is a better shooter than Richardson, who I think I saw recently is down to 23% in SEC games. I would also say that Richardson has to virtually reinvent his shooting style if he is to get much better. The last few games it looked to me as though he shoots his outside shots with his elbow straight and most of the motion coming from his shoulder, sorta like the arm on a catapult. His hand action on his follow-through has no hint of the "duck-head" look I have always associated with good shooters. As for Golden, if by "role player" you mean a 20+ minute guy, I might agree. He is still one of at most three guys on the team who can get his own shot, or who you would even want to TRY to get his own shot. Even agreeing that Golden is a less-than-perfect PG, he is still better than anyone else they have right now and might be better at it next year than this.

DougSharp writes:

Richardson needs the floor time just as Mcrae does, which will allow them to become consistent producers as they were in HS. I like your breakdown of his shot. I had not looked at it that closely. Hopefully someone connected will see your suggestions and help the kid the adjustment 20 minutes or so would be a good balance for Golden. Next year I suspect we'll have a pure PG although probably a true freshman and
he'll be able to get alot of minutes as a back up.

DougSharp writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I would still say that Golden is a better shooter than Richardson, who I think I saw recently is down to 23% in SEC games. I would also say that Richardson has to virtually reinvent his shooting style if he is to get much better. The last few games it looked to me as though he shoots his outside shots with his elbow straight and most of the motion coming from his shoulder, sorta like the arm on a catapult. His hand action on his follow-through has no hint of the "duck-head" look I have always associated with good shooters. As for Golden, if by "role player" you mean a 20+ minute guy, I might agree. He is still one of at most three guys on the team who can get his own shot, or who you would even want to TRY to get his own shot. Even agreeing that Golden is a less-than-perfect PG, he is still better than anyone else they have right now and might be better at it next year than this.

John, I have to conceive the notion you may be right on every point. Richardson will prove to be a much better player overall at some point I still believe. Thanks for the detail comments. It gives me lots to look at and reconsider.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to DougSharp:

John, I have to conceive the notion you may be right on every point. Richardson will prove to be a much better player overall at some point I still believe. Thanks for the detail comments. It gives me lots to look at and reconsider.

Thanks for the kind words. Your posts also give us much to think about. I have often said that Richardson has the potential to be at least another JP Prince when he matures physically. If he also cleans up his shot, he could be even better if slightly less spectacular.

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