Team chemistry has helped Vols succeed

Cuonzo Martin talk about making improvements this season

Cameron Tatum on this season and upcoming game against LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. — The Tennessee men's basketball team arrived in Louisiana on Tuesday night, but LSU coach Trent Johnson has seen the Vols coming for quite some time.

"I remember watching them over in Maui (in November), and I was like 'Woo,' " Johnson said at his Monday news conference. "You can say that there was a level of toughness there, and there were some guys that could play.

"This was definitely going to be a team to be reckoned with."

Johnson's hunch has proved correct, with the Vols (16-13, 8-6 SEC) having won six of their past seven games entering their game Wednesday (TV: CSS, 9 p.m.) against the Tigers (17-11, 7-7) on Senior Night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

UT first-year coach Cuonzo Martin said he knew he had the pieces after the Vols played in the EA Sports Maui Invitational (Nov. 21-23), but not everything was in place — until recently.

"We didn't have a level of team togetherness, passion for one another," Martin said. "Where you say, 'I really wanna see my teammate be successful before I see myself have success.'

When you have that, you have results.

"You start to play together, you don't worry about if your shot is falling or not; you're just playing basketball."

Tennessee is in position to finish in the top four of the SEC standings, which would earn the Vols a first-round bye at the league tournament (March 8-11) in New Orleans.

Team chemistry, on and off the court, has been the overriding factor in UT's late-season run.

"I think for some teams, this time of year can become monotonous, when you're doing a lot of the same things in practice, and you've been working hard throughout the season," Martin said. "But the thing for us is that our guys really enjoy being around each other.

"The reason they don't want this season to end is they're out on the floor playing hard and having fun playing together."

While the Vols' streak of consecutive NCAA appearances is in jeopardy of ending at six seasons, UT can clinch a winning record Wednesday that would qualify the team for a bid to the NIT.

The NIT, like the RPI ratings index, does not count the Vols' win over Chaminade as a victory because of that program's status as a Division II school.

Whatever the scenario, UT fifth-year senior Cameron Tatum hasn't lost faith, even when the team dropped three of its first four SEC games.

"Even when times were tough, we said to ourselves it was a long season," Tatum said. "I knew we had talent and we could play with anybody. It was all about our team getting chemistry."

Sophomore Jordan McRae, who has come off the bench to score in double figures in six of the past nine games, said it was a matter of maturation and understanding.

"We've learned to play smarter," McRae said. "Everyone is learning each others' tendencies a lot more. We know who can hit what shots and from where."

Freshman Jarnell Stokes remembers the puzzled looks he drew from the media when, after enrolling midterm and joining the team in January, he said the Vols would make a postseason tournament.

From the outside, Tennessee's résumé was hardly appealing at the time. But inside the locker room, Stokes saw and heard good things happening.

"I saw things in the program when I came here, from both the coaches and the players," Stokes said. "Everyone was buying into Coach Martin and practicing hard. The guys had really bought into the defensive mindset."

Martin continues to challenge his players to focus — "We're playing about 75 percent as well as we can play on defense," he said — but Johnson sees a battled-tested team when he watches scouting tapes.

"Their mental and physical toughness has been very impressive throughout the year," Johnson said. "Coach Martin has done an exceptional job, in my opinion, in terms of implementing his philosophy. That group has done an exceptional job buying in, in terms of where they were projected to finish, what they lost and everything he inherited.

"This will probably be as physical of a group we will play all year."

Martin has his concerns about LSU's athleticism and toughness, too.

"It's a physical team, a talented team, and they play really well at home," Martin said. "They go inside-outside, score the ball and they can get out in transition. They seem to play at a faster pace at home.

"Their big guys can really crash the glass, so I think for us to be successful, we're going to have to focus on boxing out and play really good team defense."

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 39

pingkr62 writes:

I am by no means a fan of Mike Hamilton, but it looks as though his final hire was probably his best. G.B.O.!!!

ChrisUTvol writes:

in response to pingkr62:

I am by no means a fan of Mike Hamilton, but it looks as though his final hire was probably his best. G.B.O.!!!

agreed

wigmeister writes:

You definitely can see during the games how comfortable the players on the team are with each other. Cut down the turnovers and I like our chances.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

If only our football team could have this type of chemistry....But I guess with the coach allowing Da'Rick to dictate the teams chemistry we can expect the results we have gotten. Insubordination with a S&C coach, along with Coach Baggett,what the heck is going on over on the hill?

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

CCM is a class act and one heck of a hoops coach. Hope he's here for a LONG LONG time.

VOLKING writes:

I honestly think we have to win the SEC tourney to go to the Big dance...and that ain't gonna happen with Big Bad Blue in the way. But win at LSU and at home against Vandy, then win at least one in the tourney...and I think we deserve an NIT bid. I am looking forward to seeing this team next year. Coach has done a great job so far. However, somebody needs to buy him an orange bow-tie.

tovolny writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

If only our football team could have this type of chemistry....But I guess with the coach allowing Da'Rick to dictate the teams chemistry we can expect the results we have gotten. Insubordination with a S&C coach, along with Coach Baggett,what the heck is going on over on the hill?

So, you think now is a good time to slap Coach Dooley and the new coaches? Why not enjoy the round ball now and wait another month to bash the football team. I realize the coaches could care less about what you say...but to single out a player and interject HUBBLE JUBBLE seems a little out of line. But, if you are in the locker room and observing the team on a daily basis as they perform their workouts, then you might have some credibility.
My bet is that you probably have ZERO ties with any coaches or players. I am hoping you can respond and Stand up for yourself.

DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

If only our football team could have this type of chemistry....But I guess with the coach allowing Da'Rick to dictate the teams chemistry we can expect the results we have gotten. Insubordination with a S&C coach, along with Coach Baggett,what the heck is going on over on the hill?

C'mon man. I dislike Dooley as much as anyone else, but this article is about the AMAZING thing that Coach Martin is putting together. I'm not saying you are wrong, all I'm saying is don't rain on Martin's parade.

And don't worry about Dooley. I'm sure he'll give us all plenty to fret over after the orange and white game.

Dalton writes:

Watching the inspired teams in the tourney the last few years...even the super 8 Vols team lacked that team vibe we saw in VCU and Butler. Teams with less talent just meshing and feeding each other on the court. I was a big Pearl fan but as I also did in the past with Fulmer..I ignored the simple fact that my team got outcoached WAY TOO MUCH....not jumping the gun but those days may be over

Noogaorange writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Lighten up. No team has gone to the NIT since the NCAA took it over with a losing record. Who gives a damn what the word qualified means....anyone with a lick of sense understands what he meant. A wise man once said he who lives in glass house shouldn't cast stones! Good bet is you don't know everything just think you do, pretty obvious your not as smart as you think you are. Stupid post...give us all a break! GBO

BolivrBob writes:

Zo has closed a lot of pie holes this season

taylorsvolfan writes:

Got to win tonight boys !

shipperman#280095 writes:

in response to 10seVol85:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Don Devoe is on the NIT selection committee, and he said that NO team with a .500 record or below had ever been invited in the NIT since the NCAA took it over. get over yourself

buffnmayrville#1406894 writes:

Go Vols, beat the tigers.. All is well in the big Orange Nation in basketball and football.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to tovolny:

So, you think now is a good time to slap Coach Dooley and the new coaches? Why not enjoy the round ball now and wait another month to bash the football team. I realize the coaches could care less about what you say...but to single out a player and interject HUBBLE JUBBLE seems a little out of line. But, if you are in the locker room and observing the team on a daily basis as they perform their workouts, then you might have some credibility.
My bet is that you probably have ZERO ties with any coaches or players. I am hoping you can respond and Stand up for yourself.

Well, if we had a football thread I would write it in there. I brought it up 3 days ago and asked if anyone knew anyone had heard about it. I got the same stuff from a couple of folks I got from you. Just because you don't know about it doesn't mean it's not happenening. And this was out before the radio got word of it. When you have guys like Terry Fair publicly saying he thinks Da'Rick should be off the team doesn't mean anything does it? When players on the team privately say they can't stand him, I'm sure that shouldn't matter either. As for me being at workouts....AGAIN, perhaps you should worry about why Da'Rick hasn't been in workouts, not me. Insubordination of a S&C coach, along with Coach Baggett. But you're right. Maybe I should bury my head in the sand like you and ignore it, just act like nothing is happening.Yeah, maybe that's what I'll do.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to DwayneElizondoMountainDewHerbertCamacho:

C'mon man. I dislike Dooley as much as anyone else, but this article is about the AMAZING thing that Coach Martin is putting together. I'm not saying you are wrong, all I'm saying is don't rain on Martin's parade.

And don't worry about Dooley. I'm sure he'll give us all plenty to fret over after the orange and white game.

My bad man. If it helps, I did write something nice about Zo. I just didn't see a football thread other than the 12 articles about Lane Kiffin and Tee Martin. I just hear all this VFL and good character talk, while 1 baddle apple is hurting the team. Zo doesn't talk, he just gets it done. So even though it's football it did kind of apply to this. Interesting to see the chemestry this TEAM has built and how they have performed. IMO they have overachieved. Then on the other hand, to watch the football team who lacks TEAM chemestry because one inmate is running the entire asylum.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

I will say no more about the football team on this thread. Don't wanna cause mass suicides. Carry on folks.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

I will say no more about the football team on this thread. Don't wanna cause mass suicides. Carry on folks.

Witch Doctor say if you have CONFIRMED facts rather than silly rumors from the same people who always give us silly rumors...PLEASE let us know. Witch Doctor support your NOT posting silly stuff..Thanks
Bones never lie.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say if you have CONFIRMED facts rather than silly rumors from the same people who always give us silly rumors...PLEASE let us know. Witch Doctor support your NOT posting silly stuff..Thanks
Bones never lie.

OK Witchy, who just happens to be the king of posting silly stuff. I see you posting stupid stuff on Volnation then coming over here to post stuff. Never really do anything but sit back and comment on other's posts without really saying anything. As they said on the other site, Brent Hubbs is pretty well in the know. Ex- football players are currently in the know. Current football players are in the know. I think the thing that bothers you and a few others are that you are not in the know. And when someone does hear something doesn't always mean it's a rumor. When current players make comments along with ex-players, it's not rumors.

brod writes:

have not seen lsu much this year. 2-3 zones seem to cause problems for the vols on the road, so i'm guessing that is what johnson will be throwing at the vols at some point.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

OK Witchy, who just happens to be the king of posting silly stuff. I see you posting stupid stuff on Volnation then coming over here to post stuff. Never really do anything but sit back and comment on other's posts without really saying anything. As they said on the other site, Brent Hubbs is pretty well in the know. Ex- football players are currently in the know. Current football players are in the know. I think the thing that bothers you and a few others are that you are not in the know. And when someone does hear something doesn't always mean it's a rumor. When current players make comments along with ex-players, it's not rumors.

Witch Doctor not hating you. Witch Doctors request is very simple...

IF you say you are such an insider and know..

then let us know how you know..

Where were you when this happened?

what happened?

IF SOMEONE in the media said it..

post a link! Witch Doctor say if someone asking you to back up what you say makes you mad..not Witch Doctors fault.
Bones never lie.

BigOrangeFreak writes:

in response to Noogaorange:

Lighten up. No team has gone to the NIT since the NCAA took it over with a losing record. Who gives a damn what the word qualified means....anyone with a lick of sense understands what he meant. A wise man once said he who lives in glass house shouldn't cast stones! Good bet is you don't know everything just think you do, pretty obvious your not as smart as you think you are. Stupid post...give us all a break! GBO

Amen, and well said. To say they are qualified does not imply they will definitely be accepted, but those "in the know" know, that if the Vols finish with a winning record and are not selected as an NCAA Tourney team, the NIT would snatch them up!

Either way, Go Big Orange!

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor not hating you. Witch Doctors request is very simple...

IF you say you are such an insider and know..

then let us know how you know..

Where were you when this happened?

what happened?

IF SOMEONE in the media said it..

post a link! Witch Doctor say if someone asking you to back up what you say makes you mad..not Witch Doctors fault.
Bones never lie.

I've given you a private message.

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

I've given you a private message.

Witch Doctor say thanks, Witch Doctor again sorry you take this personal. lighten up!lol.
Bones never lie.

bvol1inSC writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

If only our football team could have this type of chemistry....But I guess with the coach allowing Da'Rick to dictate the teams chemistry we can expect the results we have gotten. Insubordination with a S&C coach, along with Coach Baggett,what the heck is going on over on the hill?

I agree completely Rich...please see a post I made toward the end of "Vols can still finish second in the SEC." This is Dooley's problem...doesn't have much to do with Xs and Os...but rather fundamental people and leadership skills required of ALL that are coaching at any level. That's where Dooley MUST improve...not being a micro-manager, and earning the trust and loyalty of the asst and position coaches and players by maintaining standards and discipline for ALL. Of course, your "star" players are going to be managed a little differently than others...the great coaches actually manage/lead each individual player according to their personalities and roles. This is a very difficult skill set to develop...much more based on personality than something that can be learned (holding to "standards" while giving the extra attention certain playaers need). But I have hope that Hart sees this weakness in Dooley - hence, all the veteran, player/people savvy coaches hired to surround him. Last, I believe CCM possesses these personality characteristics/skill sets in spades and I give him 75% of the credit for the chemistry on the team...with the other 25% being the willingness of the players to buy in to his system (which includes standards and discipline).

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say be a nice win tonight if we can get it! Witch Doctor say go Vols...go away Tornadoes in Middle Tn! lol
Bones never lie.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to VOLKING:

I honestly think we have to win the SEC tourney to go to the Big dance...and that ain't gonna happen with Big Bad Blue in the way. But win at LSU and at home against Vandy, then win at least one in the tourney...and I think we deserve an NIT bid. I am looking forward to seeing this team next year. Coach has done a great job so far. However, somebody needs to buy him an orange bow-tie.

The blue bow tie CCM wore recently was part of a national anti-cancer campaign, specifically prostate cancer among African-American men, who suffer disproportionately from it. Many coaches around the country were wearing the bow ties at the same time for the same reason. IIRC, he usually wears an orange tie. And I surely agree that he has done a great job and has Vol basketball on the right track.

SouthPaVol writes:

I give the Vols a better than 50% chance of beating LSU on their home court. LSU has a strong team, but UT is jelling at just the right time. Team chemistry seems to be above average.

Still don't know the details with Hall's suspension, but it seems to not be hindering the team play. Team chemistry is a hard thing to capture, and if Hall's actions were detrimental to the team, CCM made the move that was needed. I wasn't there, so gotta trust the man in charge. That's why we pay him the big bucks.

I like what CCM is doing for the Vols and see our players putting forth maximum effort. It's not an undefeated season or top 25 ranking, but we'll get there--if not this year, then next. Go Vols!

brokendownoldvol writes:

Regardless of what happens the rest of this season, I think TN has finally found a diamond in the rough in Coach Martin. There's nothing better to watch than a team that gets better as the season goes. I think he will be a fine recruiter too.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

I give the Vols a better than 50% chance of beating LSU on their home court. LSU has a strong team, but UT is jelling at just the right time. Team chemistry seems to be above average.

Still don't know the details with Hall's suspension, but it seems to not be hindering the team play. Team chemistry is a hard thing to capture, and if Hall's actions were detrimental to the team, CCM made the move that was needed. I wasn't there, so gotta trust the man in charge. That's why we pay him the big bucks.

I like what CCM is doing for the Vols and see our players putting forth maximum effort. It's not an undefeated season or top 25 ranking, but we'll get there--if not this year, then next. Go Vols!

Good post. You may be right about the team's chemistry right now, and I surely hope so, but chemistry is still a sometimes thing with this team. I will say that if a couple of outside shots go in early, and Maymon and Stokes stay out of early foul trouble, their chances of winning tonight will go up as the game goes on.

You may also have a point about Hall. None of us knows for sure what his problem was, and apparently still is, but Martin has given us enough grounds to think he had good reason to do what he did. The rest of the guys aren't visibly sulking about it, so maybe the rest of them agreed on the necessity.

I do see great hope for the team the rest of the way this year and certainly for next year. Martin's courage in dealing with Hall is not the least of the reasons for my optimism.

tovolny writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Well, if we had a football thread I would write it in there. I brought it up 3 days ago and asked if anyone knew anyone had heard about it. I got the same stuff from a couple of folks I got from you. Just because you don't know about it doesn't mean it's not happenening. And this was out before the radio got word of it. When you have guys like Terry Fair publicly saying he thinks Da'Rick should be off the team doesn't mean anything does it? When players on the team privately say they can't stand him, I'm sure that shouldn't matter either. As for me being at workouts....AGAIN, perhaps you should worry about why Da'Rick hasn't been in workouts, not me. Insubordination of a S&C coach, along with Coach Baggett. But you're right. Maybe I should bury my head in the sand like you and ignore it, just act like nothing is happening.Yeah, maybe that's what I'll do.

Looks like others, including the Witch Doctor,did not appreciate all of your SECOND HAND information. Witch Doctor is my favorite poster...he is always CONCISE and to the point. AT least you did try to defend yourself...just, you didn't do a very good job.SORRY.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to tovolny:

Looks like others, including the Witch Doctor,did not appreciate all of your SECOND HAND information. Witch Doctor is my favorite poster...he is always CONCISE and to the point. AT least you did try to defend yourself...just, you didn't do a very good job.SORRY.

Again, you keep making references as to where I heard this and that and don't have a clue where I heard everything from. You keep making it as if I'm just randomly making things up. I know what I know and you don't. Lets just leave it at that. You can call me whatever you want and try to make yourself look good. And in the eyes of many on here it will make you look good. But in reality I know what I know and I know the majority of it to be true. In fact EVERYONE on this site can say what they want to me, I'll not change my stance.

johnlg00 writes:

Well, I guess the Vols' latest experiment in on-the-road chemistry was a success! Stokes was a monster, Maymon was a warrior, and Golden a cold-blooded assassin at the line in crunch time. Great contributions from Tatum and McRae. Even Makanjuola had a couple of big buckets, since they're ALL big in an OT win. This team may not be pretty, but they are getting REALLY tough when they have to be. Now if they can all get rested up and Maymon's jammed fingers can heal a bit, they might be ready to turn the tables on the Commondores[sic] this Saturday. GREAT WORK, VOLS!!!

AtopTheHill06 writes:

So proud off the Vols tonight. Especially Cam, he could have folded, but he continued to work hard and showed up Big tonight.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Rich_Is_Re-born:

Again, you keep making references as to where I heard this and that and don't have a clue where I heard everything from. You keep making it as if I'm just randomly making things up. I know what I know and you don't. Lets just leave it at that. You can call me whatever you want and try to make yourself look good. And in the eyes of many on here it will make you look good. But in reality I know what I know and I know the majority of it to be true. In fact EVERYONE on this site can say what they want to me, I'll not change my stance.

I don't doubt you, Rich. What you are saying is right in line with much of what we have heard about Rogers since at least the end of the season. I hate it for the team and regard it as a MAJOR test of Dooley's ability to get control of this team. From the material and experience point of view, this team is primed for a breakout season; the main doubts revolve around--fittingly enough, given the subject of this article--leadership and team chemistry.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Well, I guess the Vols' latest experiment in on-the-road chemistry was a success! Stokes was a monster, Maymon was a warrior, and Golden a cold-blooded assassin at the line in crunch time. Great contributions from Tatum and McRae. Even Makanjuola had a couple of big buckets, since they're ALL big in an OT win. This team may not be pretty, but they are getting REALLY tough when they have to be. Now if they can all get rested up and Maymon's jammed fingers can heal a bit, they might be ready to turn the tables on the Commondores[sic] this Saturday. GREAT WORK, VOLS!!!

YES SIR! Do you know how many boards Stokes had? Just saw where he had 19 and 9-10fg. They turned it around in the second half. That's 2 games in a row where our 2nd half D has been SICK. Coach Zo is the truth. Anyone thinking different needs there head checked.

jt45 writes:

Whatever Coach Martin said in the locker room at the half must have been good or else he lit some fires under these boys, great win.

I hope professional handicapper bet the farm on his huge nod prediction that LSU would win by 6 once again proving how wrong he usually is.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to johnlg00:

I don't doubt you, Rich. What you are saying is right in line with much of what we have heard about Rogers since at least the end of the season. I hate it for the team and regard it as a MAJOR test of Dooley's ability to get control of this team. From the material and experience point of view, this team is primed for a breakout season; the main doubts revolve around--fittingly enough, given the subject of this article--leadership and team chemistry.

Yeah, I probably shouldn't have brought it up on this thread. I just didn't see another thread about football. KNS can report Swiperboy's dad's arrest, but can't report important happenings within the football program. Just trying to keep some up on what's going on as it comes to me. But some folks just don't wanna face reality. I hope DaRick has 1500yds and we win the NC. But in reality, if they don't get a grip on him we will have the same type of season as last yr. Some of the players are WAY over him. We need leaders on this team like BAAAAAD! Hope some step up.

Rich_Is_Re-born writes:

in response to jt45:

Whatever Coach Martin said in the locker room at the half must have been good or else he lit some fires under these boys, great win.

I hope professional handicapper bet the farm on his huge nod prediction that LSU would win by 6 once again proving how wrong he usually is.

LOL! I hope he lost his a double s on this game. I'm with you...Not only this game, but the SC game as well. The 2nd half of both games was some of the best D I've seen in sometime. Halftime adjustments are a real strong point of this staff.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features