Mike Strange: A different kind of defense is being played at Thompson-Boling Arena

Mike Strange
AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee's Yemi Makanjuola reaches for a rebound with Victory's Nathan Guess during an exhibition game at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

AMY SMOTHERMAN BURGESS/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee's Yemi Makanjuola reaches for a rebound with Victory's Nathan Guess during an exhibition game at Thompson-Boling Arena on Monday.

Men's basketball arrived Monday night and in the nick of time.

I needed a defense fix.

Defense has been a sore subject on campus the past couple of months. A lot of yards and points surrendered over at the football stadium have led to a lot of hand wringing.

You want defense, come to Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday night when Cuonzo Martin's Tennessee hoopsters open the season against Kennesaw State.

We got a taste Monday night in a 99-57 win over some team allegedly from Memphis named Victory University.

It was only an exhibition, but you couldn't tell it, judging from the sweat factor.

"Any SEC point guard will tell you,'' said UT guard Trae Golden, "you come to Tennessee, whether you play in the post or on the perimeter, we're gonna bring it every time.

"We're gonna play hard. That's our M.O.''

I got a first-hand look at how hard.

With 6 minutes, 36 seconds to play in what was then an 80-46 game, Yemi Makanjuola, all 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds of him, chased a loose ball like it was a fumble at the goal line in the Super Bowl.

He crashed head-long under the baseline table where a couple of us media types were sitting. Another foot and I would have been out for the year, or at least walking on a cane like Derek Dooley.

With 1:36 on the clock, freshman guard Armani Moore rejected a 3-point shot into the side-court big-spender seats. He wasn't conceding an inch, no matter the clock or the score.

This is what you can expect from Martin's teams: a bunch of arms flying, hands reaching and hips banging.

Now they haven't exactly achieved perfection yet. There were times when the Vols were downright bad defensively last year in Martin's first season. The last five or six minutes of that MTSU loss in the NIT come to mind.

But on the whole, hard-nosed defense and rebounding are going to carry the Vols to wherever it is they're heading.

With opening night bearing down, they know it. There's no uncertainty.

They've had a full season and an offseason to understand what Martin's preaching.

Martin's second team, in stark contrast to his first, returns 83 percent of its scoring and, more importantly, 78 percent of the minutes played.

Subtract Cam Tatum, a starter, and Renaldo Woolridge's occasional contributions and virtually everyone else is back.

I asked a couple of the guys how this team might differ from last year's and got the same answer.

"It's different because we're older now,'' Golden said. "Last year, even Cam was young because we didn't know Coach Martin.

"Even the new guys can look to us 'cause we know what Coach Martin wants.''

And you, Jordan McRae?

"I don't think this game showed it,'' said McRae, "but in practice you can tell it's a way different team.

"We just know each other. We know what Coach Martin wants now.''

Said Golden, in summation, "It makes it easier.''

The aforementioned new guys all appear to be very consistent with Martin's image. They knew what they were signing on for.

D'Montre Edwards, the juco transfer, Armani Moore, the true freshman, and Quinton Chievous, the redshirt freshman have varying degrees of experience. The thing they have in common is being hard-nosed.

Moore brings more to the table than last year's freshman point guard, Wes Washpun, who has since left the program.

Chievous was a rebound away from a double-double. Edwards had a rough night shooting but he was active.

All three had three steals. Coincidence? Maybe not.

This team will be better — and tougher — whenever Jeronne Maymon gets back from his mysterious knee situation.

I don't know that they're a threat to lead the SEC in 3-point shooting or free-throw shooting.

But if it would make you feel better to see a team with Tennessee on its shirt get in somebody's face and defend them like their life depended on it, these are your guys.

Follow Mike Strange at http://twitter.com/strangemike44

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 » 22

ralphie writes:

looking forward to college hoops. good article mr strange

69grad writes:

I think we've become a basketball school (ala Kentucky) and that's fine with me, although I love the football team. They just need better coaching...defense.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I LOVE DEFENSE!

GBO GO VOLS.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Wonder if Coach Martin could serve as defensive coordinator for the football team. Just for the next three weeks. They need him.

papavol writes:

Awesome way to start the morning MS.. Thanks for the great read.

GreerVol22 writes:

Nice shot across the bow Mike! I like it!

Although I'm not sure there is anyone on the football staff that would understand the gist of your story. The word defense isn't in their vocabulary. :)

arkyvol writes:

in response to 69grad:

I think we've become a basketball school (ala Kentucky) and that's fine with me, although I love the football team. They just need better coaching...defense.

until we occasionally beat kentucky, we'll never be a 'basketball school'--just a mediocrity in both sports.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

MEDIOCRITY. A neat word. Where'd you learn it?
Well I've enjoyed the "mediocrity" the past year in basketball. Beating Florida twice was fun. I'm not certain we can classify ourselves better than that word but I don't see UT in any sport as mediocre. IN BOTH sports we are and have been one of the best in the country. a few down year does not put us in the mediocre class. Of course my eyes are orange. IF I was a Kentucky fan or some other school's fan then I'd have to agree.

Martin most definitely is not a mediocre person. We don't know as for as his coaching maybe?? But he's won battles where others have too often failed. Plus...second(even tied) is a great first year) These "trolls" know this but I sometimes have to remind them.

maciste54 writes:

Wish someone would clarify what's going on with Maymon's knees and when he can come back. The Vols will be pretty awesome with him healthy and playing.

mancell1871 writes:

in response to 69grad:

I think we've become a basketball school (ala Kentucky) and that's fine with me, although I love the football team. They just need better coaching...defense.

Don't you think it very telling that Donavan is more scared of UT than UK. Not saying we are world beaters but it is a very telling statement.

1vavolfan writes:

Worried about Maymon's mysterious knee injury. UT can be awesome this year but without Maymon they won't be. We can't afford another Austin Peay or Oakland type game that we may get early without him. Wish CCM would just come out and say what is up, the Volnation should be concerned.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to arkyvol:

until we occasionally beat kentucky, we'll never be a 'basketball school'--just a mediocrity in both sports.

"we".....hahahahahahah....I disagree....think we've had some pretty impressive wins the last 6 or 7 years....but maybe thats just me!!!

SouthPaVol writes:

I watched KY in their exhibition game and they are not even close to the teams of the last two years. Last year from their first game, it was obvious those two guys inside would dominate. This year, not so much.

My left handed comment: The Vols beat KY in Rupp arena this year, first time in ages. We may sweep the series. My desire: meet them in the SEC tourney and beat them three times in one season. It could happen. Go Vols!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

Worried about Maymon's mysterious knee injury. UT can be awesome this year but without Maymon they won't be. We can't afford another Austin Peay or Oakland type game that we may get early without him. Wish CCM would just come out and say what is up, the Volnation should be concerned.

First, I would just say that the Vols lost to APSU and Oakland WITH Maymon last year. Second, why would you want Martin to tell all our opponents just what was up with Maymon? As it is, they don't know whether to prepare for him or not. It looked like the team that played the scrimmage last night should be much quicker than it would be with both Maymon and Stokes playing a lot together, though of course I would prefer to have them both available. Finally, it may be that his injuries are bad enough that they may try to get a medical redshirt year for him, since the Vols are going to lose a LOT of size after this season. On the face of it, the Vols don't seem as strong without him, but he is not the difference between a championship and total oblivion. They will still be a handful for all opponents.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

I watched KY in their exhibition game and they are not even close to the teams of the last two years. Last year from their first game, it was obvious those two guys inside would dominate. This year, not so much.

My left handed comment: The Vols beat KY in Rupp arena this year, first time in ages. We may sweep the series. My desire: meet them in the SEC tourney and beat them three times in one season. It could happen. Go Vols!

I love your optimism, but I wouldn't put too much stock in an exhibition against an opponent no stronger than UT's last night. When most of your team turns over every year, it usually takes awhile to get all the roles and minutes sorted out. I would be surprised if this bunch is as good as last year's, but until they prove different, they are still Kentucky and it would be a major accomplishment for the Vols or anybody else to beat them at Rupp. Besides, we won't know how good the Vols are this year until the Maymon injury situation is clarified.

1vavolfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

First, I would just say that the Vols lost to APSU and Oakland WITH Maymon last year. Second, why would you want Martin to tell all our opponents just what was up with Maymon? As it is, they don't know whether to prepare for him or not. It looked like the team that played the scrimmage last night should be much quicker than it would be with both Maymon and Stokes playing a lot together, though of course I would prefer to have them both available. Finally, it may be that his injuries are bad enough that they may try to get a medical redshirt year for him, since the Vols are going to lose a LOT of size after this season. On the face of it, the Vols don't seem as strong without him, but he is not the difference between a championship and total oblivion. They will still be a handful for all opponents.

The way the injury is being handled is odd is all I am saying and anyone who watches sports regularly will know this. Also, to suggest that losing Maymon is not a big deal is absurd. UT can compete at the top of the SEC with him, without him the chances are far less likely, UT will still be good but not a serious threat to UK and UF. Comparing this season to last season is apples to oranges, this is a team with more experience, new players, and Jarnell Stokes all season.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

The way the injury is being handled is odd is all I am saying and anyone who watches sports regularly will know this. Also, to suggest that losing Maymon is not a big deal is absurd. UT can compete at the top of the SEC with him, without him the chances are far less likely, UT will still be good but not a serious threat to UK and UF. Comparing this season to last season is apples to oranges, this is a team with more experience, new players, and Jarnell Stokes all season.

You seem to have contradicted yourself a little with the last sentence... but You make some good points. Losing Maymon might be a big deal. We just don't really know how we'll respond to that as a team. Also we don't even know for sure we'll have to respond.

Kentucky will be awesome I suspect and I'm actually looking forward to how they'll play as freshmen. I hope they play great and still lose to the Vols.hehe

I'd like to believe Martin has someone in his pocket in case Stokes leaves or Hubbs reneges. I really like Makanjuola's natural ability but to think he'll replace Maymon may be wishful thinking. Again we just don't know at this point.
That said I think we'll be fine against anybody even if Maymon doesn't heal and come back. maybe. But Hall will be better. Yemi may come around. Who knows what Miller can do? AND the Q is looking good.

Let's be a little positive here. You're fine I just like that word positive. It's so weeelll fine.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

The way the injury is being handled is odd is all I am saying and anyone who watches sports regularly will know this. Also, to suggest that losing Maymon is not a big deal is absurd. UT can compete at the top of the SEC with him, without him the chances are far less likely, UT will still be good but not a serious threat to UK and UF. Comparing this season to last season is apples to oranges, this is a team with more experience, new players, and Jarnell Stokes all season.

Can't say this injury situation is exactly like any other I know of, either. And I certainly didn't say losing Maymon is no big deal. I just suggested a couple of possible reasons why we aren't getting the full story yet, but I don't know any more than anybody else. Looked at one way, it doesn't MATTER why Maymon isn't playing now, it only matters how the Vols will adjust their play to deal with it. They may not be able to beat the better teams the SAME WAY they might with a fully-healthy Maymon, but it just could be that a faster pace with more defensive pressure might ALSO yield good results. In any case, the Vols will just have to play the hand they are dealt and we fans have to stay positive and that is ALL they and we can do. GBO!!! GO ZO!!!

Ironcity writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Can't say this injury situation is exactly like any other I know of, either. And I certainly didn't say losing Maymon is no big deal. I just suggested a couple of possible reasons why we aren't getting the full story yet, but I don't know any more than anybody else. Looked at one way, it doesn't MATTER why Maymon isn't playing now, it only matters how the Vols will adjust their play to deal with it. They may not be able to beat the better teams the SAME WAY they might with a fully-healthy Maymon, but it just could be that a faster pace with more defensive pressure might ALSO yield good results. In any case, the Vols will just have to play the hand they are dealt and we fans have to stay positive and that is ALL they and we can do. GBO!!! GO ZO!!!

The positive is that the Vols have had 7 months to adjust to life without Maymann. The reason no one is saying anything about the injury is because its against the law to share healthcare issues without written consent of the injured party (Maymann). I do think the injury may be a little more severe then initially thought but anytime you have both knees operated on their is a good chance you are going to have problems.

What I took from last nights game is the team certainly will scrap for the ball. Mac looks better, Hall looks the same (had tho laugh when his first shoot was a slam off the back of the rim). Chavious plays hard, Edwards plays hard. Mcbees and Mcraes shots are tighter then before. This team doesn't handle the ball very good and we will be in big trouble if Golden gets hurt.

All in all I was pleased. Looking forward to Friday night and the season.

iowavol writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

Worried about Maymon's mysterious knee injury. UT can be awesome this year but without Maymon they won't be. We can't afford another Austin Peay or Oakland type game that we may get early without him. Wish CCM would just come out and say what is up, the Volnation should be concerned.

Without Maymon is a chance for others to step up and play ball. That's what Martin should be coaching. Looking forward to good defense - amen.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Ironcity:

The positive is that the Vols have had 7 months to adjust to life without Maymann. The reason no one is saying anything about the injury is because its against the law to share healthcare issues without written consent of the injured party (Maymann). I do think the injury may be a little more severe then initially thought but anytime you have both knees operated on their is a good chance you are going to have problems.

What I took from last nights game is the team certainly will scrap for the ball. Mac looks better, Hall looks the same (had tho laugh when his first shoot was a slam off the back of the rim). Chavious plays hard, Edwards plays hard. Mcbees and Mcraes shots are tighter then before. This team doesn't handle the ball very good and we will be in big trouble if Golden gets hurt.

All in all I was pleased. Looking forward to Friday night and the season.

I agree with every part of that except maybe the bit about how "this team doesn't handle the ball very good." They had 24 assists on 38 made baskets and only EIGHT turnovers in the whole game! Tell me they will do that every night, and I will pencil them into the Final Four right now. Golden had NO turnovers and eight assists. I don't know Moore's breakdown, but I surely didn't have the impression that he was being sloppy with the ball. In fact, most of the turnovers I remember were on mishandled post passes that were pretty much thrown where they were supposed to be.

You know I respect your opinions, Iron, but reading your post, I thought we were looking at different games! I thought the ball-handling overall was surprisingly good for an early exhibition game and at least three new players getting major minutes. Oh, well! It should be interesting the rest of the way.

johnlg00 writes:

PS: I thought your comment about how they have had seven months to get used to playing without Maymon was very well-taken. That of course includes all the extra practices they had for the Italy trip and the trip itself. I'm sure they would all rather have Maymon with them, but I'm sure the ones who played with him would like to have had Harris back, too!

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