Cuonzo Martin's message: 'you've got to fight'

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin gestures to his players in the game against Xavier in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee defeated Xavier 51-47. (Chad Greene - Knoxville News Sentinel)

Photo by Chad Greene, 2010, 2012

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin gestures to his players in the game against Xavier in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee defeated Xavier 51-47. (Chad Greene - Knoxville News Sentinel)

In a year and half on the Tennessee men's basketball sideline, coach Cuonzo Martin has never been sheepish about benching a starter or two.

Each time, he has dutifully said there's no message being sent.

After four starters — seniors Skylar McBee and Kenny Hall, junior Trae Golden and sophomore Jarnell Stokes — played under their season average in minutes during last Friday's win over Xavier, Martin noted, "I just think that first unit didn't play as hard as we needed them to play, most importantly. Sometimes that happens, but you've got to put forth a little more effort. You've got to care a little more and you've got to fight."

Actions, in this case, most definitely speak louder than those words. If a message wasn't decidedly being sent, it doesn't mean one wasn't necessarily being received.

"(Martin) sort of benched a couple of guys, if that's what you want to call it, and rightfully so because those guys (replacements) were playing well at the time," Stokes said Tuesday.

Set to face Memphis (9-3) on Friday (TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m.) at Thompson-Boling Arena, Tennessee (8-3) can ill-afford another forgettable performance by its catalysts.

The Vols got away with it against Xavier. Freshman Derek Reese scored seven points, including two huge 3-pointers, in his first collegiate game. Backup center Yemi Makanjuola pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Walk-on point guard Brandon Lopez played a career-high 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, on the bench, Stokes and company watched on.

"I definitely took (something from it)," he said. "Watching how Yem played defense was great. I don't purposely try to play defense badly, but the way he was playing defense against their best post men was amazing. I took that from it — even though I'm one of the better offensive players, I have to play better defense."

Stokes said playing nine second-half minutes was "disappointing" and added, "I hope it never happens again."

Prior to an open practice Tuesday, Martin was asked how the benched starters responded since Saturday's game. He glanced over to the Pratt Pavilion court where players were stretching, looked back, shrugged, and said, "You win ballgames, you move forward."

Martin is not expected to alter his lineup against Memphis. Golden, playing with a heavy wrap on a bruised left (non-shooting) shoulder, will play. The junior point guard has made one of his last 14 field-goal attempts and committed four turnovers against Xavier.

Seeing Orange: Martin and the UT players have called for an "Orange-Out" against Memphis, encouraging all fans to wear orange.

The idea was born prior to Sunday's practice, when some players approached Martin. That night he tweeted, "The players said they want an 'Orange-Out' Friday. I like it. Vol Nation, let's do it!"

Seats Available: According to Chris Fuller, UT's associate athletics director for development and external operations, more than 2,000 tickets remain unsold for Friday's game. Fuller said a sellout is still possible, but having students on holiday break makes it difficult to gauge.

The first 500 UT students through the gates will receive a Tennessee headband — similar to that worn by Stokes.

Making a Difference: The Vols split up Wednesday, with half the team traveling to the East Tennessee Children's Hospital for a surprise visit and the rest dropping by the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center.

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

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Comments » 28

eduardo writes:

How bout a little less fighting and a lot more of hitting wide open shots! Good grief I miss BP!

movol53 writes:

Why do you miss BP??? He never took a shot!!!
NO COACH can take and make a shot for the players; Coach K is good but even he can't do that.

CoverOrange writes:

Stokes is one of the better offensive players on this team? Well, okay, yeah, but that isn't saying much.

murrayvol writes:

in response to movol53:

Why do you miss BP??? He never took a shot!!!
NO COACH can take and make a shot for the players; Coach K is good but even he can't do that.

No coach can take a shot but he can recruit players who can.

Cuonzo needs to do that.

87Volforlife writes:

in response to murrayvol:

No coach can take a shot but he can recruit players who can.

Cuonzo needs to do that.

CCM has done that. This season players recruited by CBP are shooting a combined 38.9% while players recruited by CCM are shooting a combined 46.5%. I thought CPB was awesome, I think CCM is too. We are lucky to have or have had each. Kiffin and Dooley, not so much.

FeelVol writes:

That's one thing i like about Coach Martin it doesn't matter who you are if you aren't playing with great effort you sit. Thanks Coach,and Go Big Orange!!!

SouthPaVol writes:

We have four (4) players shooting better than 50% from the floor. Stokes is currently carrying the best percentage, and he also leads in rebounding. Stokes is our best player, but at the same time I salute CCM for giving Yemi the PT last game--he played the stud and earned it.

Players earn PT with CCM through strong D. But if a player is on the floor, we gotta play through him. We would only have two losses if the ball had been pushed inside to a wide open Hall, who also shoots over 50% from the floor. Stokes was our first option for that critical last-second play, but not the ONLY option.

After one game, Reese is second in 3-point shooting percentage. Reese is a stud and hope to see his first (of many) flying dunks off the break against Memphis.

Edwards is first statistically shooting the "3" and the only player over 40%, but where are his minutes? Hope he gets the rest of his game in order; we need somebody/anybody on the floor that can hit a shot! Until then, would like to see less 3's and more drive to the basket. More lobs, more dunks. Go Vols!

John_10065 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

No coach can take a shot but he can recruit players who can.

Cuonzo needs to do that.

It seeems to me that he is playing Pearl recruits right now.

The truth is we don't know what a team of Martin recruited players would look like. Maybe all you Pearl apologists need to remember that.

brod writes:

in response to eduardo:

How bout a little less fighting and a lot more of hitting wide open shots! Good grief I miss BP!

amen. don't care who is coaching but somebody start knocking down some buckets.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Tiger High! It's time to go down in flames!

jt45 writes:

There has not been a pure shooter at UT since Loften. I dont understand why the Vols dont add at least one good shooter to their roster. Look at Duke, they have been successful for many years using shooting teams. I understand the need for fast athletic type players but not having a real outside threat doesnt make any sense when you have the resources UT has.

hikerdude writes:

in response to eduardo:

How bout a little less fighting and a lot more of hitting wide open shots! Good grief I miss BP!

I agree 100%. I'm trying to like CCM and his brand of b'ball, but both are pretty boring.

ball1523 writes:

CCM needs to go over to Karns and get in on the Sibley kid. Hes the real deal and shoot it off the dribble or from a spot up. He can also get to the rack. Hes still just a junior so he has another year to improve. Its time that ut starts recruiting kids that can shoot the ball. 6 6 athletic guys are great but you need guys that can stretch the defense and knock down some shots. Devin Sibley can do that.

underthehill writes:

in response to jt45:

There has not been a pure shooter at UT since Loften. I dont understand why the Vols dont add at least one good shooter to their roster. Look at Duke, they have been successful for many years using shooting teams. I understand the need for fast athletic type players but not having a real outside threat doesnt make any sense when you have the resources UT has.

Hubbs..next year..may be the pure shooter needed..Duke recruiting him is a good sign Hubbs is an outstanding prospect..

bosscat writes:

The last paragraph in this article speaks (quietly) volumes. Having the players take time to visit a hospital and rehab center is a wonderful statement as to life priorities. Almost every time a player is interviewed, one of their comments is that CCM is not just preparing them to be a good bb player, but preparing them for life.

D60 writes:

Should be exciting I think I'll set on my deck and watch the bermuda grass grow

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Stokes is one of the better offensive players on this team? Well, okay, yeah, but that isn't saying much.

He is certainly one of the most IMPORTANT offensive players on the team, but his recent production has failed to substantiate that. As I have said repeatedly, it is not all his own fault, but he really does need to get a little more fire into his game if he is to get the production the team needs from him.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to D60:

Should be exciting I think I'll set on my deck and watch the bermuda grass grow

Knock yourself out. Hope the excitement isn't too much for you.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to ball1523:

CCM needs to go over to Karns and get in on the Sibley kid. Hes the real deal and shoot it off the dribble or from a spot up. He can also get to the rack. Hes still just a junior so he has another year to improve. Its time that ut starts recruiting kids that can shoot the ball. 6 6 athletic guys are great but you need guys that can stretch the defense and knock down some shots. Devin Sibley can do that.

I agree completely and have said so for years. Coaches these days seem to fall in love with natural athleticism and convince themselves they can teach those athletes proper skills and fundamentals. The fact is that kids learn how to dribble without looking at the ball and how to shoot accurately mostly on their own. Even youth-league coaches seem to care more about winning than about instilling good fundamentals. The more natural physical gifts a player has, the more AAU type ball he plays and the less time he has in the "off-season" to work on his fundamental weaknesses, since those teams are constantly playing games and don't practice that much anyway. Because of NCAA restrictions, college coaches don't have team time to spend on correcting individual deficiencies in fundamentals, and by the time a kid gets to college, he has already put 10 or more years into reinforcing all his bad habits. Martin's emphasis on physical defense is entirely understandable and laudable, but it may prevent him and other coaches like him from giving attention to guys who may not be able to play that kind of defense but are dead-eye shooters.

HtownVol writes:

I do love having Cuonzo, I think he is a great coach but...

He has signed 6 recruits since coming to UT, only TWO of them are top recruits (Stokes, Hubbs).

Do not say this dont matter because those recruits get those stars when more times than not they can score. UT can clearly not score right now.

I just see UT being SO GOOD if they would recruit more top talent.

Also, am I the only one who thinks Reese has a funny looking shot. He seems to attempt to do the splits when taking a jumper. I guess its fine, I am a Bulls fan and Joakim Noah has the ugliest shot ever but it is better than most Centers in the NBA.

GO VOLS

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

CCM Leron Black has decomitted from Baylor. Please get after this guy as this team desperately needs offensively skilled players.

wayoutwill writes:

in response to HtownVol:

I do love having Cuonzo, I think he is a great coach but...

He has signed 6 recruits since coming to UT, only TWO of them are top recruits (Stokes, Hubbs).

Do not say this dont matter because those recruits get those stars when more times than not they can score. UT can clearly not score right now.

I just see UT being SO GOOD if they would recruit more top talent.

Also, am I the only one who thinks Reese has a funny looking shot. He seems to attempt to do the splits when taking a jumper. I guess its fine, I am a Bulls fan and Joakim Noah has the ugliest shot ever but it is better than most Centers in the NBA.

GO VOLS

I won't say it don't matter,but it does not mean that the Vols can't compete with the talent they have this year,IF Coach Martin can get his players to truly buy in to the system he is teaching,the Vols have the talent they need to make a deep run into the Tourney and they have a real shot to win the SEC this year.I can gurantee you this much,they will buy in or they will sit,the Vols are loaded at the one position that means everything in the NCAA Basketball League,a great man at the helm,I can't imagine any young man with his head screwed on strait that wouldn't want to play for the man! The Vols are here to stay as long as coach martin is here to stay! We just better hope that his alma mater don't come courting,cause we will lose him,I doubt there lil' chance that he won't accept that call,so I pray that the fighting Keady's are revelant and in the mix every year and have no desire to make a change at head coach!

John_10065 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

I do love having Cuonzo, I think he is a great coach but...

He has signed 6 recruits since coming to UT, only TWO of them are top recruits (Stokes, Hubbs).

Do not say this dont matter because those recruits get those stars when more times than not they can score. UT can clearly not score right now.

I just see UT being SO GOOD if they would recruit more top talent.

Also, am I the only one who thinks Reese has a funny looking shot. He seems to attempt to do the splits when taking a jumper. I guess its fine, I am a Bulls fan and Joakim Noah has the ugliest shot ever but it is better than most Centers in the NBA.

GO VOLS

Teams full of journeymen have won championships. It isn't the norm but it does happen.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Go Fight Win!! Beat the Kitty Kats from Missouri!!

Wait who we playin'?? They said Tigers didn't they? Only other Tigers are from Louisiana. OH wait Ain't Auburn Kitty katz too? Well Kentucky's gots some little kitty cats. But theirs are spelled with a c. C A T cat not Tiger tiggers. So which team is it? I can't think of a team from Tennessee that's a tiger team. But we are surrounded by cats. and I'm not afraid. we got us a hound dog or two to protect us.

go Vols beat any thing blue or red.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to wayoutwill:

I won't say it don't matter,but it does not mean that the Vols can't compete with the talent they have this year,IF Coach Martin can get his players to truly buy in to the system he is teaching,the Vols have the talent they need to make a deep run into the Tourney and they have a real shot to win the SEC this year.I can gurantee you this much,they will buy in or they will sit,the Vols are loaded at the one position that means everything in the NCAA Basketball League,a great man at the helm,I can't imagine any young man with his head screwed on strait that wouldn't want to play for the man! The Vols are here to stay as long as coach martin is here to stay! We just better hope that his alma mater don't come courting,cause we will lose him,I doubt there lil' chance that he won't accept that call,so I pray that the fighting Keady's are revelant and in the mix every year and have no desire to make a change at head coach!

Hmmm UT or UTC. where would I rather coach? I know UTC isn't Purdue? usually anyhow. But I can see UT out bidding Purdue.

I guess that's for another day though. 'cause right now we just need to win game next.

Beat Memphis.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

I do love having Cuonzo, I think he is a great coach but...

He has signed 6 recruits since coming to UT, only TWO of them are top recruits (Stokes, Hubbs).

Do not say this dont matter because those recruits get those stars when more times than not they can score. UT can clearly not score right now.

I just see UT being SO GOOD if they would recruit more top talent.

Also, am I the only one who thinks Reese has a funny looking shot. He seems to attempt to do the splits when taking a jumper. I guess its fine, I am a Bulls fan and Joakim Noah has the ugliest shot ever but it is better than most Centers in the NBA.

GO VOLS

I can sort of agree that the jury is still out on CCM's ability to recruit the flashy, high-profile recruits, and we could clearly use more pure shooters, but I think we will be fully satisfied with the competitiveness and success that he will have when, as another poster says, he has a whole team that he recruited and indoctrinated into his system. I do think that modern coaches in general don't value fundamental skills enough compared to sheer athletic potential. As for Reese's shot, I didn't notice what you said about his legs, so I will look closer the next time I see him play. However, he seems to have his hands and arms in the right positions and his motion at the top is smooth and consistent. I expect big things out of him going forward.

kyvol98 writes:

in response to HtownVol:

I do love having Cuonzo, I think he is a great coach but...

He has signed 6 recruits since coming to UT, only TWO of them are top recruits (Stokes, Hubbs).

Do not say this dont matter because those recruits get those stars when more times than not they can score. UT can clearly not score right now.

I just see UT being SO GOOD if they would recruit more top talent.

Also, am I the only one who thinks Reese has a funny looking shot. He seems to attempt to do the splits when taking a jumper. I guess its fine, I am a Bulls fan and Joakim Noah has the ugliest shot ever but it is better than most Centers in the NBA.

GO VOLS

Maybe by the time Reese is finished at UT, he will be known as the "Jim Furyk" of college basketball, including a major championship on his resume.
Kind of looks like a set-shot jumper, but as long as it falls, who cares!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to kyvol98:

Maybe by the time Reese is finished at UT, he will be known as the "Jim Furyk" of college basketball, including a major championship on his resume.
Kind of looks like a set-shot jumper, but as long as it falls, who cares!

Good one! As many good golf instructors say, it doesn't matter what your swing looks like as long as you generate clubhead speed and make square, consistent contact with the club face. Although I a big fan of "proper" shooting motion, I have seen all kinds of quirky but still effective strokes. If a guy can make them regularly, it doesn't really matter what his stroke looks like, but if he DOESN'T make them regularly with a weird stroke, he should try to do it the way MOST good shooters do it.

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