The clock struck 3 o'clock Thursday and the nation's top recruits hit the courts. On the sidelines, bleachers were choked with thirsty Division I coaches. NCAA basketball's first live July recruiting period was officially underway.
The hunters went hunting.
Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin was just one of the hundreds of coaches trekking to nine major recruiting events splashed across the country.
Martin's first stop Thursday was Philadelphia for the Reebok Breakout Challenge. A pair of notable UT targets from Memphis — Austin Nichols, a 6-foot-9 power forward Briarcrest Christian School, and Robert Hubbs, a 6-5 guard from Dyer County — were both on-hand.
Scooting down I-95 on Friday, Martin visited Alexandria, Va., just outside Washington D.C., to peek at a current Vol and potential future Vol. Playing as a member of the Puerto Rican national team in the Nike Global U19 Challenge, Tennessee freshman Derek Reese scored 22 points and pulled 17 rebounds in a loss to Lithuania. Nick King, meanwhile, a 6-6 recruit from Memphis East, scored 14 points in USA Midwest's 87-77 win over USA West.
Saturday brought Martin back to gaze of messieurs Nichols and Hubbs in Philadelphia. At 4:21 p.m., Fox Sports national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels used Twitter to report, "Cuonzo Martin has been front and center for Austin Nichols & Robert Hubbs quite a bit this weekend. He's getting plenty of face time."
As of late Saturday, today's location was a toss-up for Martin. He was eyeing the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis, the Hardwood Classic in Atlanta or perhaps another day in Philadelphia or D.C.
In a text message to the News Sentinel, he said, "Tomorrow is undecided, it depends on tonight at all the other events."
UT assistant coaches Tracy Webster, Jon Harris and Kent Williams, filling the void where Martin couldn't be, spent the live period scattered throughout Philadelphia, D.C., Atlanta, Indianapolis and an additional event in South Carolina.
The live recruiting period closes at 5 p.m. today. The next one begins July 18 at 3 p.m. and runs through July 21. Then they do it all over again from July 25-29.
Paving The Recruiting Road To Memphis: Notice a trend among the three recruits listed above?
They're all from Memphis — forever a deep well of talent UT's arm couldn't quite reach into. The hometown Tigers always take first pick.
Memphis, though, didn't land Jarnell Stokes. (Correct, coach Josh Pastner didn't have an available scholarship, but Stokes, nonetheless, became a Vol.)
Now Stokes thinks his early successes in orange haven't gone unnoticed back home.
"I definitely think it will open up the door in Memphis," Stokes said Monday of UT's recruiting efforts. "For a lot of guys for a while, the city of Memphis was locked down to one school (Memphis) and it was definitely hard for guys to leave Memphis. I understand that situation, but they might not like leaving home, but it might be the best thing for them. That's just my advice to those guys."
Martin can only pray the city's well-stocked 2013 recruiting class is listening.