Derek Reese has been writing.
He writes to forget. He writes to remember. He writes to heal.
In the weeks leading up to Tennessee basketball's summer expedition to Italy, the freshman suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder — his shooting arm.
Reese, seeing his first season as a Vol turn into a question mark, was devastated.
So UT coach Cuonzo Martin told him to write.
"I want to remember this feeling and use it to hunger myself," Reese said. "He said to write down everything that I'm feeling and when I get back, use that journal as motivation."
Reese, a 6-foot-8 guard from Orlando, Fla., could potentially redshirt his freshman year. Labrum tears are no small matter. Following surgery in late August, UT associate director of sports medicine Chad Newman estimated the recovery time to be approximately six months.
"You're either going to come out stronger than you were before the injury or you can end up weaker," Reese said. "It's all about your mindset."
Martin was on the road recruiting in the days after the surgery. He received a handful of phone calls from Reese's mom and a others close to him. They were concerned. His spirit was fractured.
"It was tough on him," Martin recalled. "First of all, you're away from home and you're not playing. When you're injured, you're really not a part of the team. It's a tough deal."
But one that Reese is now handling well.
He's no longer wearing a sling. He's able to dribble the ball and feels more involved with the team.
How much time he misses remains to be seen.
"He's excited about it because he's starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," Martin said.
Q: Is there a nickname Knoxville should be aware of?
A: D. Reese.
Q: Tell me something most people don't know about you.
A: I always fight to get where I'm at. People never gave me what I needed to get here. It was a fight. Nothing came easy.
Q: In what way?
A: People doubted me. People always doubted me. I fought to prove them wrong. My freshman year I got maybe one letter. But I worked and I worked and I got better and better. By my senior year, I had over 30 scholarship offers.
Q: You visited UT for a football game, what's it like going to games now that you're a Vol?
A: The Florida game was amazing. We went to game day, hung out with fans, took pictures. They weren't sure who I was, but were saying, "Oh is that a basketball player?" It was a really good time.
Q: What's an embarrassing trait or habit you learned about a teammate in Italy?
A: Man, I don't want to say anything bad. Let's just say, though, one player, and I'm not naming any names, but after a game one player went right to bed without a taking a shower or nothing. That's all I'm going to say.
Q: If you could have dinner with any two people in history, who and why?
One, for sure, is Barack Obama. That'd be a good conversation. And the other, I'll go with my favorite athlete — Kobe Bryant.
Q: That slightly answers the next question. Kobe, Lebron or Jordan. Who do you have?
A: Definitely not Lebron. But you know what? I'll go with Jordan.
Q: What's your favorite class thus far?
A: Psychology. It's just really interesting to learn about people and how they interact with others, how the mind works, why people act the way they do. Plus it's interesting to learn about yourself.
Q: What's your biggest fear?
A: Well, it's something I'm going through right now. Not being able to do something I love — playing basketball. I know the day is going to come when I'm not going to be able to play anymore. Right now, though, I'm young. I can't even think about not playing basketball.
Q: Your older brother, Michael, played baseball at a Division II college and played some pro ball. Who is the better athlete.
A: I guess I am. We always fight about that. I mess with him because he's really short. I call him my little big brother.
Q: And your sister is a dancer for the Orlando Magic. Who is the better dancer?
A: Oh I'll have to go with her on that. Just by a little bit.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn