Junior isn't a 'monster,' but Teen Wolf is a possibility
By Mike Griffith
Jeronne Maymon's chiseled 6-foot-7, 265-pound frame belies his gentle personality off the court.
How can Maymon play like such a beast, or "monster" as Tennessee men's basketball releases have tagged him, when deep, down inside there's a young man whose ultimate career goal is to aid in relationships?
"Have you ever seen that movie, where the guy changes into a wolf on the basketball court (Teen Wolf)?'' Maymon said Saturday. "Well, it's kind of like that.''
The Vols (19-14) hope Maymon will transform from injured spectator to starting power forward in time for the second round of the NIT on Monday (TV: ESPN, 7 p.m.) against Middle Tennessee State (26-6) at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Maymon was dressed but did not play in the NIT opener against Savannah State on Tuesday on account of a bruised knee suffered in a overtime win at LSU on Feb. 29.
"I've just been trying to stay around the team and encourage them,'' said Maymon, whose status
against MTSU remains questionable. "I was able to get some shots today, moved around a little bit.''
When healthy, Maymon has been UT's most consistent player, scoring at least 11 points in every SEC contest and accruing the most double-doubles in a season (nine) since Steve Hamer accomplished the feat in 1996.
Maymon also leads the team in a couple of categories not normally paced by big men; charges drawn (18) and steals (32).
That effort has led first-year UT coach Cuonzo Martin to refer to Maymon as the team leader.
"He's a guy who does a really good job facilitating the offense, kind of a point-forward type of guy,'' Martin said. "He can go off the dribble and make plays, pick and pop, attack the rim, get some big rebounds. He's physical, a really good defender.''
Freshman center Yemi Makanjuola made his first career start in place of Maymon against Savannah State. Makanjuola performed admirably, but the Vols clearly missed Maymon's ability.
"You can't expect guys who haven't played a lot to step up and be Jeronne Maymon,'' Martin said. "It just doesn't happen.''
There aren't many players like Maymon off the court, either.
"I remember going to a job fair back in middle school, and becoming a marriage counselor came to my attention,'' Maymon said. "I kinda kept it close to me until college, and then I wanted to explore it more.''
Maymon is majoring in psychology, and giving relationship advice to those who ask him.
"I have a lot of friends, and friends of friends, and I'm a people person who likes to talk about a lot of things,'' said Maymon, who was Wisconsin's high school two-time player of the year coming out of Madison. "I just realized I was giving a lot of advice, and I saw it was working for people.''
Maymon, however, remains happily single, despite his relationship expertise.
"It has helped me; I've learned ways to handle things and cope,'' Maymon said. "But I'm not in a relationship; I'm focusing on basketball.''
Maymon's performances have drawn the attention of NBA scouts, though when told of the positive reviews, Maymon's response was: "I really don't want to hear those things right now.''
Simplicity has been Maymon's secret to success. He does what Martin tells him as well as possible, and he believes the rest will fall into place.
That's why Maymon hasn't given a lot of thought to what might have been had he stayed at Marquette, a No. 3 seed in this season's NCAA tournament.
"I think everything happens for a reason, and I left there for a reason,'' said Maymon, who transferred to UT two years ago. "God put me in this position to have Coach Martin in my life and as my head coach, and he's the reason I'm playing like I'm playing.
"You do what he tells you to do, and good things are going to happen for you.''
Maymon's attitude was key when five-star freshman Jarnell Stokes enrolled mid-term and immediately began playing.
Stokes received a great deal of fanfare, to the point Maymon's consistent efforts were at times overshadowed.
Maymon wasn't fazed, and in fact, he also heaped praise on Stokes while tutoring him on and off the court.
"How could you be envious of a teammate? If you are, you're not a real teammate,'' Maymon said. "You are supposed to want success for your teammates.
"Jarnell is built a lot like me, so helping him is easy. I just want to get him up to speed on the game, how things work, and make him aware of everything going on out there.''
Maymon and Stokes work so well in tandem that Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy likened them to the so-called "Bruise Brothers''.
"Maymon and Stokes are as good a combo as there is,'' Kennedy said. "They're like the Bruise Brothers; remember the old Washington Bullets, Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland?
"They're punishing physically, and anything that comes below the rim, they just scoff up.''
Maymon makes no secret of his desire to help the Vols get to New York City for the NIT semifinals (March 27) and finals (March 29). Though the team won the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden last season, Maymon didn't make the trip.
"I know this game is really hyped up, and I know they (MTSU) are a really good team,'' Maymon said. "It was tough sitting on the bench (Tuesday) watching the guys play, not being able to be out there to battle. I wanted to be out there and fight with my team.
"If I can play, I'll play.''
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitterhttpcom/MikeGriffith32