SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Following a slight mix-up in what gym it would call home on Tuesday afternoon, the Tennessee men's basketball team took to the floor in San Juan for practice in preparation of the Puerto Rico Tip-off beginning Thursday.
A day of travel Tuesday served as a springboard to what will amount to a three-game in four-day proving ground for the Vols.
Tennessee will face UNC Asheville, a program located 117 miles outside of Knoxville, approximately 1,625 miles from the UT campus on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
Having practiced at Coliseo Mario Quijote Morales in Guaynabo on Tuesday, the Vols will get their first look at Coliseo Rodriquez, the tournament's home, at an 11:15 a.m. EST practice today.
Awaiting their meeting on the floor, the Vols and Bulldogs crossed paths in the baggage claim area of Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport on Tuesday. The two landed within moments of each other in Puerto Rico with UT arriving via Atlanta and Asheville coming via Charlotte.
No sparks flew upon the confrontation.
Maymon With Team: Injured Tennessee senior Jeronne Maymon (knee) made the trip to Puerto Rico with the Vols and is no longer on crutches. He will not play in the tournament.
Even on the Island vs. Even Asheville: Tennessee basketball is making its third appearance in Puerto Rico and holds a 3-3 overall record on the island. The Vols went 2-1 in the 1999 Puerto Rico Holiday Classic and 1-2 in the 1991 San Juan Shootout. Asheville is 1-1 this season, having most recently dropped a 67-59 tilt at UNC Wilmington. The loss followed a 10-point victory against Western Carolina in its season opener.
Making an Attempt for Stokes: A stat of concern to keep an eye on in Thursday's game is Jarnell Stokes' offensive output. Not in terms of point total, but his field-goal attempts. In a season-opening victory over Kennesaw State last Friday, the junior power forward scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
Seven shots aren't remotely enough, especially with Maymon out of the lineup, Stokes said.
"Coach definitely wants me to put up more shots," Stokes said before leaving for the trip. "Even if they're bad shots, I don't think he'd really even complain about it."
After the victory against Kennesaw, Martin praised Stokes' ability to pass from the blocks. What needs to be found, though, is a happy balance of attacking the rim and kicking the ball to an open man.
"He says sometimes I'm too unselfish," Stokes said. "I was OK with taking seven field goals, but I think for the team to be better everyone wants me to take more shots."
True Tournament: Unlike some of the other early season tournaments on the college basketball landscape that are round-robin or don't crown a true champion, the Puerto Rico Tip-Off is a true tournament with a winner's bracket and a loser's bracket. After the semifinals on Friday, the championship game will be played on Sunday after an off day on Saturday.
The Vols have said the tournament-style feel will pay dividends.
"The stakes are high down there so we're playing with a little bit of pressure real early in the year," said sophomore Josh Richardson.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Twitter.com/BFQuinn
Puerto Rico Tip-Off schedule
10:30 a.m. — Akron vs. Oklahoma State (ESPNU)
12:30 — UNC Asheville vs. Tennessee (ESPNU)
5 — N.C. State vs. Penn State (ESPN2)
7:30 — Providence vs. Massachusetts (ESPNU)
10:30 a.m. — Semifinal 1 (ESPNU)
1 — Consolation 1 (ESPN3.com)
5 — Semifinal 2 (ESPN2 or ESPNU)
7:30 — Consolation 2 (ESPN3.com)
11 a.m. — Seventh place (ESPN3.com)
1:30 — Fifth place (ESPNU)
3:30 — Third place (ESPNU)
6:30 — Championship (ESPN2)