Cuonzo Martin talks about his team's personal growth
Cuonzo Martin speaks to the Big Orange Tipoff Club
Cuonzo Martin’s rain-soaked Wednesday afternoon started with a discourse, but didn’t end with a diagnosis.
Instead, Golden only underwent a MRI, forcing Martin and the Vols to wait until today for results.
Golden is doubtful for Saturday’s game at Arkansas.
The injury occurred late in the first half of Tuesday’s 58-57 win over Vanderbilt. Crashing into a gathering of big men in the lane, Golden came up lame, immediately reaching for his leg. After hobbling to the bench, he was promptly ushered into the locker room.
In Golden’s absence, walk-on point guard Brandon Lopez played 10 crucial second-half minutes. The sophomore hadn’t played in five games. Unfazed, he had three assists and didn’t commit a turnover.
Martin praised him Wednesday, noting Lopez barely gets live action in practices, let alone games.
“For him to come into that game without a lot of reps under his belt was just tremendous to see,” he said.
Asked how he’ll handle Golden’s absence, Martin said “Lots of Lopez.”
Freshman Armani Moore, who has seen time at point guard, barely played in Tuesday’s second half, likely a result of him struggling defensively against Vandy’s Princeton-style offense. He’ll likely see additional playing time against Arkansas (12-7, 3-3 SEC).
During his speech to the TipOff Club, Martin focused on the Vols (11-8, 3-4) coming together as a team, his job as “a molder of young men,” and his players’ handling of their own hype.
Martin noted that a “high school basketball coach I really respect” called him Wednesday morning, sharing his thoughts on the game.
“He said it really seems like the team is developing a bond among each other,” Martin recounted. “That meant a lot to me. That’s what you want to see.”
Martin explained that the level of fan support at Tennessee — a program ranked in the top five nationally in attendance each of the last seven years — has its shades of good and bad. The support, he said, is the staple of the program. The downside, though, is when players get lost in the praise.
“Then you have some struggles and all the sudden, that Twitter account isn’t so friendly anymore,” Martin quipped.
The ill effects are hard to miss on the court.
“I see some of our guys, I don’t want to say any names, but I see some guys and they grow, their minutes grow, and all the sudden they change and become individuals,” Martin said. “Then they lose sight of who they were moving forward. Then all the sudden they have struggles, and that brings them back down.”
Before fielding 20 minutes of questions from UT fans, Martin ended his 10-minute opening statement by saying, “The thing I tell our guys, anytime I think they’re getting off-kilter is, ‘Remember, they didn’t come to see you play, they came to see the University of Tennessee.’ ”
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn