Cuonzo Martin taking his best SHOT

Program's goal to develop 'brand' in state

Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, center, teaches John McDonough, left, and Joseph Green how to dribble during a camp on Monday at  Baylor School gym in Chattanooga.

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse

Ashlee Culverhouse/Chattanooga Times Free Press Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin, center, teaches John McDonough, left, and Joseph Green how to dribble during a camp on Monday at Baylor School gym in Chattanooga.

CHATTANOOGA — As youngsters from kindergarten to sixth grade arched their necks upward toward the Baylor School rafters for instructions on Monday, Cuonzo Martin remembered back when he had to look up.

"I was always in awe of them," the University of Tennessee men's basketball coach said. "I identified with those older guys. If I didn't know their name, I knew their number. ... I wanted to be a part of that."

Growing up in East St. Louis in the 1970s, Martin idolized the high school ball players on the neighborhood blacktops. He didn't have the luxury of a Division I program setting up shop and conducting a clinic.

The wide-eyed youth at Baylor were given exactly that Monday. Approximately 60 children from the Chattanooga area worked for two hours alongside Martin, members of his coaching staff and a handful of UT players including Skylar McBee and Kenny Hall.

Drills were run. Fun was had.

"We're here to give back to the state of Tennessee," said Hall, a rising senior.

Monday marked the first of four camps dubbed the Volunteer SHOT Clinics (Statewide Hoops Outreach Tour). Martin says it's a chance for his basketball program to offer instruction and life lessons to children statewide.

On the surface, it's exactly that.

Peel back the tarp, though, and SHOT is a building block in Martin's long-term goals. Ultimately, his end game is to make himself the face of Tennessee basketball and fortify all angles of the Tennessee basketball brand.

"I think for us to take this a step further when it comes to men's basketball, the brand of Cuonzo Martin, of Tennessee basketball, or whatever that brand is, needs to be strong," Martin said. "It's really a lifestyle, day to day, of who I am. I think

the fans and the supporters identify with that and embrace it."

Martin's next clinic is scheduled for Wednesday in Nashville. Two more will follow in Greeneville on Friday and Memphis on June 27.

After a year as UT coach, Martin is battling to paint the edges of the state orange. Any program wanting to pull a recruit out of the state will have to go through UT first — a luxury long enjoyed by the University of Memphis inside its city limits.

That changed last season when freshman Jarnell Stokes cast aside Memphis allegiances and signed with the Vols.

If that was the first domino in Martin taking ownership of the state, it was a big one. He believes grassroots efforts like SHOT will nudge over some more.

"The most important thing is relationships and here we have 60 or so kids that want to be a part of our program," Martin said. "This is how it starts."

Amid a sea of boys draped in oversized UT basketball T-shirts, Mark Pancratz, the team's video coordinator, asked, "What did you learn during those drills?"

A high-pitch voice rang out, "The backboard is your friend."

Standing off to the side, Hall responded with two thumbs up.

"Yeah," he exclaimed, "that's what I taught him."

After the clinic wrapped up, Hall said players can have role models at any age. He hopes the campers look up to him the way he looks up to Boston Celtics star player Kevin Garnett.

"Kids want to look up to players and I want them to look up to me," said Hall, whose 6-foot-9 frame towered over the campers. "We can teach them. We can help them."

Asked how he wants young players in the state to view him, Martin offered this hypothetical response from a player, "I want to play for Coach Martin. I want to be in that program. I like what those guys are about."

Pointing out to the court covered in screeching sneakers, he added, "We want these guys to be a part of the Tennessee brand."

After the camp, Martin signed an autograph and posed for a picture with each camper. All of them looked up at him.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 31

GONAVY writes:

I like what Martin is doing...he is "branding" UT basketball within the state. It could pay dividends. One correction to the article, though: Stokes did not cast aside Memphis allegiances for UT; the fact remains UK and UM were out of scholarships...UT wasn't, and as a result Martin hooked a huge one. Hope to see him continue building the program.

wazzya69vol writes:

Good job Coach Martin. Just as important glad to see Hall getting his head on straight. GBO

VolzsFan writes:

in response to GONAVY:

I like what Martin is doing...he is "branding" UT basketball within the state. It could pay dividends. One correction to the article, though: Stokes did not cast aside Memphis allegiances for UT; the fact remains UK and UM were out of scholarships...UT wasn't, and as a result Martin hooked a huge one. Hope to see him continue building the program.

Actually Stokes was a silent commit to Pearl. Stokes has said as much publicly. Yes, Stokes could not play his Sr in high school, but he could have waited until after his Sr year of school and signed with either of those schools. He wanted to go to UT all along and when the opportunity came to come early he took it. UT was never Stokes' 2nd or 3rd choice. That is inaccurate if you are implying that.

give_him_6 writes:

That's good stuff! The more I see of Coach Martin..the more impressed I am. We really hit the jackpot with CM. I think our program is headed for new heights never seen around here!!

tovolny writes:

Yes, we have to keep each other straight.

It is nice having young men like Skylar McBee getting out amongst the state schools and representing UT Basketball. Stokes seems to have that extra something also. I don't know what Kenny Hall did to get suspended last year, but looks like Martin has handled the situation. I hear lots of good things about Hall these days. I still love Bruce Pearl, but Martin is coming across as a gentle giant. He is stern yet approachable and fair. Both Martin and Dooley make me proud to be a Tennessee Vol alumnus. What was once perceived has a curse is now welcomed as a blessing. Funny how the world turns, huh?

SCVFL writes:

I agree that Coach Martin and Coach Dooley are doing great at marketing the "TENNESSEE" brand.
I also believe they are trying to build moral fiber in BB and FB. I just hope both are given the time and support to turn these two programs into the elite they should be.
GO BIG RNG...VFL

SouthPaVol writes:

CCM said the other day that K Hall made the best progress of all the players in the short spring camp. I like our players to accept the position as role model--for I believe that college and pro players are role models, whether they admit it or not. CCM didn't give up on Hall, and next year we will reap the dividends.

A few young men have daddy plan their life, but most need a break to succeed. It's a good idea to use whatever natural ability one has to get a start in life. For some it's sports; some use academic gifts; for others, it's military service. I like CCM especially for his example that one can rise from poverty in East St Louis, to a position of high standing within our community. He displays character and carries himself with pride--I would send my son to his camp--notwithstanding the fact, he knows basketball

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

Great story, Brendan...we welcome you to KNS and GVX, and look forward to enjoying your many articles to come!

ktownvol writes:

Kudos to Coach Martin--we are so lucky to have such a hard working, dedicated man of character as our coach who expects his players to give back and be men of character themselves!! I was/am a HUGE Bruce Pearl fan--he was a master marketer, a huge personality that all were drawn to, and overall a good coach. But eventually he seemed to become bigger than the program and it was ultimately his downfall--don't think we'll ever have to worry about that with Coach Martin, he doesn't seek the limelight at all. The contrast of personalities between the two is HUGE so it was quite an adjustment for fans when Coach Martin was hired. I think he has proven himself in MANY ways and we should all be behind him--thanks Coach Martin for being the man/coach that you are, you make us all proud to be a Vol!! Go Big Orange!!

Bubba_Knows writes:

We are lucky to have Coach Martin. I have been very impressed with him on and off the court.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I love the responses to Martin on here today. PLUS a few good remarks about Dooley!! I'm a big believer in supporting our coaches. Regardless of the win loss records. The "powers that be" decide their futures anyhow.

I really do love the jobs both coaches are doing and believe in their coaching abilities. Their growth as coaches looks great.

OrangePride writes:

Whether this program ultimately results in Tennessee becoming the #1 destination for Tennessee youth will be determined later. In the meantime, this program is just the kind of thing that I hope Tennessee becomes known for....giving back to the great young kids of this state! The good that this program, and others like it, do for young kids is immeasurable and I applaud Coach Martin for his vision and caring attitude. The more I see of this coach, the more I think we made one of the best hires in recent UT history. And just for the record, I continue to have great hopes that Dooley will have a breakout season and we will see similar posts about him as we move forward. Great job Coach Martin!!

GerryOP writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I love the responses to Martin on here today. PLUS a few good remarks about Dooley!! I'm a big believer in supporting our coaches. Regardless of the win loss records. The "powers that be" decide their futures anyhow.

I really do love the jobs both coaches are doing and believe in their coaching abilities. Their growth as coaches looks great.

Well said, very well said. Both are growing as coaches and represent our university well.

luvmatersoup writes:

Great job coach Martin.....these young players will soon be sporting the Big Orange on the court!!! I told you guys, along with the new strength coach, this this is going to be a studd!

murrayvol writes:

in response to GerryOP:

Well said, very well said. Both are growing as coaches and represent our university well.

Indeed they do.

And The Silence of the Trolls is refreshingly deafening to this point in the thread.

PHAT_VOL writes:

Coach Martin another VOL getting it done.
We're on our way back.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

Wow!! A whole page without a troll! Very Refreshing.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Bubba_Knows:

We are lucky to have Coach Martin. I have been very impressed with him on and off the court.

We're lucky to have a university as grand as UT regardless who coaches the athletic teams..The future is bright ORANGE on the hill!!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to jhayes0926#638474:

Wow!! A whole page without a troll! Very Refreshing.

Maybe he was sick today. Of course, that has never stopped him before. I use the term "he" because it is hard to believe there is more than one of them, talking to himself through sock puppets.

FanNotSheep writes:

If Martin can get the keys to the city of Memphis the program will be at or near the top of the SEC every year. Add two or three great players from there to the four or five from Georgia and one or two from East Tennessee and you have a Tennessee basketball roster like you've never seen before!

RobbieT writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

We're lucky to have a university as grand as UT regardless who coaches the athletic teams..The future is bright ORANGE on the hill!!

Oh yeah, you said a mouth full there, Bear.

Theo writes:

in response to GONAVY:

I like what Martin is doing...he is "branding" UT basketball within the state. It could pay dividends. One correction to the article, though: Stokes did not cast aside Memphis allegiances for UT; the fact remains UK and UM were out of scholarships...UT wasn't, and as a result Martin hooked a huge one. Hope to see him continue building the program.

Not sure which year they were out of scholarships for - current or this coming year but regardless I think either school would have tossed someone aside for Jarnell for this coming year. He could have easily waited and gone anywhere he wanted. He chose UT and Coach Martin. I know you weren't criticizing but I do think there is another side to that coin.

RobbieT writes:

in response to Theo:

Not sure which year they were out of scholarships for - current or this coming year but regardless I think either school would have tossed someone aside for Jarnell for this coming year. He could have easily waited and gone anywhere he wanted. He chose UT and Coach Martin. I know you weren't criticizing but I do think there is another side to that coin.

A multisided coin, I'm afraid. The problem is, with so much hype surrounding these young athletic high school promises, aspirations of NBA $$ ring loudly within their audios. Something great has been lost in the arena of sports due to astronomical heights of wealth being offered through the NBA, NFL, MLB, etc. Kids are losing their senses of being that kid and enjoying life, sports, etc. I believe that is in big part as to why some young kids leave school earlier to follow that dream. It is hard to make it unless the name is there. It is very hard to make it unless you are a Rondo that played for the University of KY. So many kids gets lost on thier way. I hope this kid made the right decision, but I tend to agree with the GONAVY, I believe he would have easily gone to Memphis or KY if the calling had been there and UT would not be sitting with him here, right now.

Theo writes:

in response to RobbieT:

A multisided coin, I'm afraid. The problem is, with so much hype surrounding these young athletic high school promises, aspirations of NBA $$ ring loudly within their audios. Something great has been lost in the arena of sports due to astronomical heights of wealth being offered through the NBA, NFL, MLB, etc. Kids are losing their senses of being that kid and enjoying life, sports, etc. I believe that is in big part as to why some young kids leave school earlier to follow that dream. It is hard to make it unless the name is there. It is very hard to make it unless you are a Rondo that played for the University of KY. So many kids gets lost on thier way. I hope this kid made the right decision, but I tend to agree with the GONAVY, I believe he would have easily gone to Memphis or KY if the calling had been there and UT would not be sitting with him here, right now.

I understand - I think the NBA will be calling with big buckets of money regardless.
Regarding the rest of your post I was thinking the same thing the other day reading about Jarnell making the U18 USA and getting to travel abroad. I'm so glad he is getting a chance to be a college kid and to make memories and friendships while basketball is fun not a job.
I know the money will be amazing for him but I always go back to the book Tuesdays with Morrie - The secret to a happy life is making memories.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to GONAVY:

I like what Martin is doing...he is "branding" UT basketball within the state. It could pay dividends. One correction to the article, though: Stokes did not cast aside Memphis allegiances for UT; the fact remains UK and UM were out of scholarships...UT wasn't, and as a result Martin hooked a huge one. Hope to see him continue building the program.

Actually Jarnell was 95% headed to UT when Bruce was here....just trust me on that...but CM had to recruit him all over again....and in in the end...any way you paint it...he chose UT...

tennrich1 writes:

in response to ktownvol:

Kudos to Coach Martin--we are so lucky to have such a hard working, dedicated man of character as our coach who expects his players to give back and be men of character themselves!! I was/am a HUGE Bruce Pearl fan--he was a master marketer, a huge personality that all were drawn to, and overall a good coach. But eventually he seemed to become bigger than the program and it was ultimately his downfall--don't think we'll ever have to worry about that with Coach Martin, he doesn't seek the limelight at all. The contrast of personalities between the two is HUGE so it was quite an adjustment for fans when Coach Martin was hired. I think he has proven himself in MANY ways and we should all be behind him--thanks Coach Martin for being the man/coach that you are, you make us all proud to be a Vol!! Go Big Orange!!

You said it so I won't retype it...what you said!!!

tennrich1 writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

If Martin can get the keys to the city of Memphis the program will be at or near the top of the SEC every year. Add two or three great players from there to the four or five from Georgia and one or two from East Tennessee and you have a Tennessee basketball roster like you've never seen before!

I've said many times, and trust me I know, we dont want to get carried away recruiting the Memphis kid...Just too high a price to pay many times and generally speaking they carry a boatload of baggage....Yeah recruit a Jarnell Stokes but taking a kid out of Memphis because he's highly rank??? Not the right approach!

BigBadVol writes:

in response to SCVFL:

I agree that Coach Martin and Coach Dooley are doing great at marketing the "TENNESSEE" brand.
I also believe they are trying to build moral fiber in BB and FB. I just hope both are given the time and support to turn these two programs into the elite they should be.
GO BIG RNG...VFL

+1

BigBadVol writes:

in response to ktownvol:

Kudos to Coach Martin--we are so lucky to have such a hard working, dedicated man of character as our coach who expects his players to give back and be men of character themselves!! I was/am a HUGE Bruce Pearl fan--he was a master marketer, a huge personality that all were drawn to, and overall a good coach. But eventually he seemed to become bigger than the program and it was ultimately his downfall--don't think we'll ever have to worry about that with Coach Martin, he doesn't seek the limelight at all. The contrast of personalities between the two is HUGE so it was quite an adjustment for fans when Coach Martin was hired. I think he has proven himself in MANY ways and we should all be behind him--thanks Coach Martin for being the man/coach that you are, you make us all proud to be a Vol!! Go Big Orange!!

Another very good post!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to RobbieT:

A multisided coin, I'm afraid. The problem is, with so much hype surrounding these young athletic high school promises, aspirations of NBA $$ ring loudly within their audios. Something great has been lost in the arena of sports due to astronomical heights of wealth being offered through the NBA, NFL, MLB, etc. Kids are losing their senses of being that kid and enjoying life, sports, etc. I believe that is in big part as to why some young kids leave school earlier to follow that dream. It is hard to make it unless the name is there. It is very hard to make it unless you are a Rondo that played for the University of KY. So many kids gets lost on thier way. I hope this kid made the right decision, but I tend to agree with the GONAVY, I believe he would have easily gone to Memphis or KY if the calling had been there and UT would not be sitting with him here, right now.

How's tricks down Nooga way, and how's Jack doing these days?

RobbieT writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

How's tricks down Nooga way, and how's Jack doing these days?

Tricks are banging stronger than ever and so is the Nooga. Vols basketball coach Cuonzo Martin brought his camp to the area this past Monday for the S-H-O-T in the arm, which stands for Statewide Hoops Outreach Tour. So, this was an inspiration to the younger kids as they got to knock around with some of the favorite team members and ole Zo, himself. So, as you can see, 'Nooga just couldn't get any finer.

Jack's as usual, staying upon his 'own' kind as usual, but I'll certainly let him know you were asking. Later, bro.

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