Classy gesture

Two Maymons were on hand when Tennessee faced Pitt at the Consol Energy Center last Saturday but, unfortunately for the Vols, neither of them was named Jeronne.

Although their son was not yet eligible to travel with the Big Orange due to NCAA transfer rules, Tim and LaTonya Maymon made the trip from Madison, Wisconsin to Pittsburgh to watch their son's teammates in action. That classy gesture gave Jeronne an emotional lift, even though he had to watch the game on TV back in Knoxville.

"My parents still came," he recalled. "Even after they found out I couldn't play, they came down and supported my team. I actually saw them on TV. They were still cheering real loudly, and I felt really good about that."

Although Jeronne says he passed all of his fall-semester classes, not all of his grades have been posted. As a result, he was not cleared academically in time to board the Vols' charter plane to Pittsburgh last Friday. As a result, his parents wound up seeing their son's team play before seeing their son play. Still, Jeronne insists that's no big deal.

"It's cool. I'm not really dwelling on that," he said. "They'll come down here and see my games, and there's many more to come."

Vol head coach Bruce Pearl is not quite so philosophical. Asked Sunday night if there is any news regarding Maymon's eligibility, the coach responded with a shake of his head, a bewildered expression and an audible sigh.

"We've got to prepare without him; we've got to prepare with him," the coach finally said.

At 6-7 and 258 pounds, Maymon's bulk and toughness should upgrade Tennessee's interior defense and rebounding.

"Jeronne is a physical player, a productive inside/out player," Pearl said. "He's got an element to his game that could elevate us, bring us some energy because he does play with great energy and he's a mismatch. We'll look to try and go to it."

Although he expected to make his Vol debut vs. third-ranked Pittsburgh, Maymon hopes to be cleared in time for Tuesday's 7 p.m. home tip-off against Oakland.

"I'm still pretty excited, even though I didn't get to travel to Pittsburgh with my team and be part of the victory," he said. "I'm still excited, still waiting on my turn."

Because he hasn't suited up for a real game in a full year, Maymon understandably is experiencing a few butterflies.

"Oh, yeah. I'm nervous before any game - little game, big game," he said. "I'm a little nervous right now just to see how I'm going to respond to the pace of the game after being out for a year. I'm real excited to see how I'm going to do."

In spite of the long layoff, Maymon believes he's a much more polished player now than he was as a freshman at Marquette 13 months ago.

"Actually, I got better," he said. "I worked on my jump shot during the offseason. It's more fluid. I'm releasing it more above my head, and it's more consistent. I've got more quickness off the bounce and I think my defense got better. I just feel real good about my game right now. I'm real excited to get started."

Pearl is excited for him to get started, as well. Although Maymon has the perimeter skills to play small forward, he is an even better fit for power forward because of his heft.

"I actually slimmed down a little bit," he said. "My weight is compact. I weigh 258 but I don't look it. I do need more work on my conditioning; I have trouble going for long periods of time but when I catch my second wind it's like I can be out there all day."

Maymon's stamina will be challenged by a Vol system that relies on high energy and a brisk tempo. That's OK, he says.

"I'm pretty excited about the new style," he said. "This style fits me better. The up-and-down style is more my type of game. The 4 has the ball a lot, does a lot of things, so I feel really good about this year."

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