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Cuonzo Martin's Media Day Press Conference



Oct. 12, 2011

The Vols basketball team held their annual media day on Wednesday. Check out Cuonzo Martin's press conference where he discussed his outlook for 2011-12.

Opening Statement
"Thank you all for being here. I think when we started the workouts in August, the things we were looking for as a staff was that we wanted the effort to be consistent, and have the team togetherness, the team toughness. The last thing was discipline behind what we're doing. The thing we try to explain to our guys to make young guys understand is that it's another way of showing love, to help our guys adapt to it, to adjust to it because of the things we demand. You have to have a great attitude in what we're trying to do. You've got to buy what we're selling, and you have to be totally committed to be successful.

"I think thus far the team has made the necessary adjustments for us to be successful. I think the focus for us and our workouts has been 80 percent on the defensive side of the ball. We spend a little time with skill workouts. The last two-hour workouts yesterday and this morning has been all skill, running some set plays to get our guys adjusted to what we're trying to do. I think the biggest keys for us on the offensive side is setting good screens and coming off screens aggressively. That's back screens, down screens, cross screens, all types of screens. When you run a motion offense, you have to adapt to make adjustments during games, running ball screens, guard-on-guard ball screens. Not a lot of teams do that, but we're trying to make those adjustments. With big guards like Jordan McRae and Cameron Tatum, you can do that. Even with Renaldo (Woolridge) in certain situations.

 

 

"We've got to be able to make shots offensively. We spend a lot of time shooting the ball. Not as much time as we need to, because really our workouts have been with a 10-pound weight vest. It's hard to really get shots at the level to you need to get them at, but that hasn't been our focus. It was really to get the guys mentally tough as well as physically.

"I think the guys have really competed in practice, really played hard. I think the adjustment for us now -- I talked to the guys about this -- we have to do a good job at battling against each other. What I mean by that is that we have to fight in practice amongst each other to solidify a starting five, so to speak. I think right now, our guys are playing hard, but I don't know if there's been a five that's really stood out from a standpoint of "that's our starting five right now." Granted, they're just workouts, but we really need guys to battle and compete amongst each other as opposed to just playing hard, and there's a big difference. You're getting effort, but now someone needs to step up as a starting guy and solidify this position, and that's the biggest key. I think we'll hopefully start to see more of that Friday.

"We have to be a really good rebounding team I think for us to have advantage in game situations. All five of our guys need to box out and rebound. We want our point guard to be a really good rebounder in order for us to be successful. Our point guard needs to get the rebound and get out on the break. Kenny Hall, Jeronne (Maymon) and Dwight (Miller) and Renaldo (Woolridge), all those guys can run transition so we can get easy baskets. When we get easy baskets, it makes our job easier on offense. You don't have to set up plays and run motion as much, because I like to run motion 20 percent of the time as opposed to 70 percent of the time. We do a lot of ball screens on offense.

"The other thing we're looking for is post production. We have big guys who can face up and make plays. For us, we need back to the basket production, where guys can pound inside and get to the free throw line whether or not they're making or missing shots. We have to get production out of the paint. It's not so much penetration and drives into the paint, but it's where you can throw inside to a big guy so he can make plays. I think that's very important for us. We've spent a long time the last two days in practice working on that. Not that we can't do it, but we have guys that are more face up off the blocks at 15 or 17 feet as opposed to getting under the basket and scoring the ball because we've got to get to the free throw line to be successful.

"I think the energy is definitely there. The enthusiasm is there. We'll how that goes once we start hitting it three hours a day. We'll see if the energy stays up, but it's been there thus far, and that's been a fun thing, a pleasant thing to see for our staff. Another thing that has helped our guys have been the multiple guys at 5 or 6 in the morning getting shots up, and that's impressive. The more guys you have doing that, the better chance you have to be successful as a team."

On players adjusting to the motion offense
"Well, I think it's a huge adjustment if you've never played motion before. The key for us is that we've simplified it somewhat. We do a lot of down screens and back screens because those are just as effective. Now the difference is there's the down screens, the back screens, the flare screens, the ball screens, the cross screens, and that's a lot of action. It takes time to read it. If we do it now, this team will be very successful next year with the motion offense. That's not to say we can't be successful now, but you want to simplify things so to speak with the tight curls and back screens. Those things we'll stick with, then we'll incorporate the ball screens because most guards like the ball screens. Now you can turn the corner and it's an advantage because you have big guys who can run.

"It's not easy. It's not easy teaching a motion offense. You have to have four-year guys who are committed. As a coach you have to be committed to it because it can be frustrating sometimes because it can be ugly in practice running the motion offense, but you have to stick with it. I think we have the personnel to really be good in motion, as far as curling in the lane and attacking off the dribble. I think we could be really good at that."

On the responsibility of the point guard in the offense
"For us, I want our point guard to score the ball, be a ball player. So for Trey (Golden) and Wes (Washpun), the first thing they look to do is attack the basket coming off a ball screen. Then what happens is that the defense plays how you dictate from there, but their first instinct is to score the ball. In order for our defense to be really good, our point guard has to be a good on-the-ball defender. If we can stop the initial contact up front with our point guard, we have a chance to be pretty good. Now we need to stop 3s, 4s and 5s from crashing the offensive glass. When that happens, our point guard has to stop the bleeding. That ball is coming up the court. We can't have those guys crash and all of a sudden their dribbling they're dribbling it down our backs. More than anything, we need for him to be a really good defender."

On using the press defense
"I studied for the press for about two years and the 1-3-1 defense for about two years. I never put it in. Just didn't feel comfortable using it, but two of our best players at Missouri State, guys who were probably starters as sophomores this past year, one was in a car accident and one blew his knee out, so they didn't play. We didn't do the press mainly because those two would have been good in a press situation. We studied for about two years, but we didn't put it in game situations."

On the roster rotation and depth
"I think we have the pieces to be successful, just now we have see where we get point production from. I think we'll be solid defensively. But you know how defense is: if you're not scoring basket all of a sudden, defending becomes tougher. For us, it's a matter of who can score the ball. We can put guys in a position to score, but they need to make plays. I think we have an eight-player rotation. I think maybe we have a nine. I don't know if we'll go any further than nine -- that's usually foul trouble situation. In exhibitions, you try different guys just to get a feel for lineups.

"We have a solid core of guys who could be starters, but they have to be consistent."

On multiple freshmen on the roster getting used to college basketball
"I think our freshmen are tough enough to play at this level. Now it's just a matter of going through the fire. I though when I got to college that I was tough enough, but skill-wise, I wasn't ready. I've dealt with JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel, those guys played as freshmen out of the gate (at Purdue) and I think they finished 15-3 in the Big Ten as freshmen. So if you have it in you, you can get it done."

On first priority on defense, from a teaching standpoint
"The most important things for us is transition defense, to be able to box out on defense and putting pressure on the ball-handler, which I think starts with our point guards. We say all the time, the toughest guy on the team is the point guard because he has to guard that ball. You talk about full court for 40 minutes. Regardless of how many minutes a guy plays, that's a tough thing to do to consistently put pressure on the ball during the game. What happens is that is allows our wing guys to really put pressure on the wings and defend how we want to defend the ball.

"When we start practicing, it'll be rebounding and defending in transition and weak-side defense, I think that's just as important, and also post defense side. It'll be a lot of team defense things as opposed to individual one-on-one defense."

On Big Ten Style vs. SEC Style
"I think ballplayers are ballplayers wherever you go. I just think that the Big Ten -- it's hard for me to say that it's more physical game -- but it has more of a reputation of a grind-out league and a physical brand of basketball. This league is just as physical, and I think this league just gets up and down more. Both of them are physical leagues. It just has more to do with what you preach as coaches than anything.

"For us, I think it's all the same. Players are players and both leagues are physical."

On the toughness of the returning players compared to the newcomers
"Well, those young guys came in with a level of toughness. Obviously, they have to get better and learn to play at this level and compete. I think our veteran guys have to go through the fire somewhat, and I think they have the potential and the toughness level. Are they where they need to be? I wouldn't say so right now. You have to be physically and mentally tough to play at this level, but you also have talented veterans who are somewhat unproven outside of Cam Tatum.

On Jordan McRae's Future
"He's done a good job. We actually talked about this as a staff yesterday that his approach is really good. Even this morning, he did a good job. He's a talented young man and competes at a high level. He wants to win. He wants to be successful. He was in the gym at 5:30 in the morning and got shots. He game back at 2 o'clock and got more shots. He wants to be good. It's just a matter of him getting in there and proving it."

On Trae Golden's offensive and defensive responsibilities
"I just think we talked about it at that position. So if you're in the position, this is what we need you to do to be successful, whether it's Trae, Josh or Wes. When you're defending, it doesn't take away from the fact that we need you to score the ball. I want you to score. We like to score a lot of points, but I think for us to be successful as a unit, we have to defend."

On impressions of staff in putting the team together
"As far as the staff goes, they've done a good job. These are guys I'm familiar with outside of Mark (Pancratz) and Houston (Fancher). Those guys have done a great job. They've been in the trenches and I've known these guys for a while. I think that's part of it. You have to have guys on the same page that understand what you're trying to do to be successful. We have guys who are genuine guys who have an interest in helping these young men be successful. Whether they're professional athletes or not, we want to see them be successful.

"We just happen to be basketball coaches doing what we do. That's the biggest key. We want them to go to class on a consistent basis, not just to pass the class but be successful in the classroom. Sometimes it's hard for young men to understand that until they truly buy into what you're selling, until they truly believe in you. Until you show them some sign that you genuinely care, and that's part of it.

On returning players "buying into" the program
"I'm happy about it. One thing as a coach is that I don't take a lot of things for granted. I appreciate the fact that they do listen because they don't have to. Once again, we have to make adjustments when they don't, but I appreciate the fact that they listen. Also I said to those guys when I took over the program is that you're more than welcome to do what you need to do if you're not happy with what you're trying to do. I also gave that same speech in July before they came back in August. But the guys are committed to it.

"As a ballplayer, you want to be successful. `Just give me a blueprint, coach. I might not like doing it, but if that's the blueprint for me to be successful, then I'm all for it.' I think that's the thing for most young men when they want to be successful."

On free throws
"I know Kenny Hall has been doing a good job of making free throws. We put them on the line at the end of practice, and if they miss a free throw, the team has to run for it. He's done a good job at that. We haven't spent a lot of time as a team with free throws. With how we practice, you don't have a lot of time to work on free throws, so we tell them to come in on their own to shoot. Once practice starts and we have two or three hours a day, we'll work on it."

On the team makeup
"I think the sense that I have is that we need to get guys with a level of confidence. I don't think that they're as confident as I'd like them to be. The thing I try to tell guys is let me do the thinking. They just do the playing. That's what I'd like them to understand: just go out and play some basketball. We'll equip them with the necessary tools to be successful. Just go out there and play. Don't ask a lot of questions, just play basketball."

On team leadership, particularly from non-seniors
"I think the two younger guys, Jordan McRae and Kenny Hall, those guys have done a good job to try to be leaders, and that's not an easy thing to do when you've got a situation when you're friends with everybody. The thing I try to explain to those guys is you can still be friends and be a leader but you can't compromise right and wrong in that locker room. We have to get those guys in the locker room saying the same things I'm saying on the floor. When we get that done, we've got a chance to be successful."

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