Oct. 12, 2012
The Tennessee basketball team conducted its first official preseason practice Friday, making the most of an efficient two-hour workout at Pratt Pavilion. The Volunteers' second season under head coach Cuonzo Martin is highly anticipated throughout Big Orange Country, as UT returns four starters from last year's squad, which finished second in the rugged Southeastern Conference.
While the Vols must replace the veteran leadership of departed starting wing and 1,000-point scorer Cameron Tatum, 83 percent of Tennessee's scoring returns. The Vols also bring back 73 percent of last season's rebounding and 78 percent of the team's minutes played.
Regardless, player development is a 24/7/365 task in the current era of Tennessee basketball, and that includes focusing on fundamentals.
As such, significant portions of Friday's workout were spent on individual skill development. The staff also spent time refreshing offensive and defensive terminology. As is customary of any team activity supervised by Martin, not a second was wasted. Efficiency is demanded throughout all aspects of his program.
"The guys did a good job today. The focus was there, so we were able to make efficient use of our time," Martin said. "We did a lot of review and installation today. This weekend we'll make everything live, and it will really be coming at them quickly. The guys will have to make quick decisions and communicate with one another at a high level. Defensively, I want us to turn it up a notch from last year."
The Vols coaching staff had 13 of the team's 15 players at their disposal for the duration of Friday's drills. Returning All-SEC forward Jeronne Maymon was held out of action. That was no surprise, however, as the staff has been cautiously conservative with the senior, who is coming off off-season knee surgery.
Fellow senior forward Dwight Miller (knee) and freshman guard Derek Reese (shoulder) were limited mostly to conditioning and drill work.
EMPHASIS OF THE DAY
Friday's "Emphasis of the Day" - daily midcourt talking points spearheaded by Martin prior to each practice - was three-pronged.
Every man has to do his part.
When someone does well, we all do well.
When someone makes a mistake, we all make the mistake.
BIG-LEAGUE CLOSER AT THE OPENER
While Tennessee's first practice of the 2012-13 season was closed to the media and public, one special guest did observe from the balcony overlooking the court - Texas Rangers right-handed closer and five-time MLB All-Star Joe Nathan.
Nathan, who resides in Knoxville and trains at UT during the MLB off-season, brought his son (sporting an orange No. 11 Tennessee football jersey) and nephew to practice.