Practice tips off in Thompson-Boling

Sign in or sign up to see this Tennessee Volunteers basketball practice report as new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the Vols got practice started Friday night in Thompson-Boling arena.

Preparations for the 2011-12 Tennessee basketball season officially got underway as new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the BasketVols stepped onto the court in Thompson-Boling Arena Friday evening.

For Tennessee's new head coach all the emphasis was on the defensive side of the ball and the effort his players put forth on the first day of practice.

"I thought they had the energy, the effort was there, the enthusiasm, we competed, dove on the floor for loose balls, took a couple charges," Martin said. "I thought they played hard for the most part."

For Martin, with not a lot of offensive sets put into action, he was looking for tough, hard-nosed basketball, which seems to be the brand of roundball that the new head coach wants to bring to Rocky Top.

"I think the biggest key is really to play hard and compete at a high level because we really haven't put a lot of offensive sets in, so the offense is rusty and for me that is fine," Martin said. "I want to see the effort on the defensive side of the ball and see the guys really competing, boxing out, rebounding and playing a physical brand of basketball."

Senior guard Cameron Tatum felt that the energy level was high for the Vols first practice, but now the challenge becomes sustaining that effort each and every practice.

"The energy was there," Tatum said. "I think everyone competed and played hard. I think it is what Coach Martin wanted it to be in the first practice. Now we just have to make sure it stays consistent for the rest of the year because that's what we need."

As a leader for the team, Tatum says he will use the experience he has gained over the years in the Orange and White to help guide the young Vols basketball team along with the help of his teammates.

"Just doing what I have been taught over the years," Tatum said. "I have had experience in practices getting high and being low. I have seen the reasons why practices have been low and things like that.

"That comes from the leaders and getting guys ready for the first moment we are stretching and things like that. There are different ways to get guys ready and that is going to be my job and guys like Renaldo (Woolridge) as well."

It is not abnormal for players to have bad practices, what the Vols have to avoid is the roster having bad practices.

"We talk about having ups and downs, but we have to be even keeled as a unit because one or two guys can have a bad day, but you can't have a whole roster full of bad days," Martin said. "It is our job as coaches to put the drills in place for those guys to peak and have high-level performance."

As the Vols went through nearly a three-hour practice, the coaches harped throughout on communication, something Martin says is crucial to his team's success.

"I thought they did a good job for the first day," Martin said of the team's vocals. "We talk about communication, it is very important, especially in our transition defense – a lot of communication, rebounding and the weak-side defense has to be really good and just pressure on the ball."

With a roster filled with newcomers, one of the Vols biggest challenges will be team chemistry, something the will undoubtedly just take time.

"I think the chemistry level was alright," said Tatum. "We had a couple turnovers, but that comes with time and I think over the next couple of practices when we start putting plays in and getting sets in then people will start getting a real feel for where our weaknesses are at and everyone will get a better feel for each other and starting pulling it together."

Martin and the Vols will open their preseason schedule with Carson-Newman College of November 3 at 7 p.m. The coaching staff will play host to Jaquan Lyle, 15-year-old basketball star who is rated the No. 2 shooting guard for the Class of 2014 by Scout.com, who is making an official visit to Tennessee Saturday during the LSU-Tennessee football game.


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