Oct. 25, 2012
(On Billy Donovan saying Tennessee could be the best team in the conference)
"Obviously you're humbled by it because that means your guys have put themselves in a position and have done the right things in the previous season. But I think that credit he gave is based off of what Jarnell Stokes, Jeronne Maymon, Trae Golden, and the other guys have done and the work that they have put in to prepare. I'm humbled by it and really appreciative of Billy saying great things about us but there are plenty of work to be done."
(Billy Donovan continued...)
"I think we have really good pieces, but there is a lot of work to be done. We have a tough season. The SEC is a grind within itself and we have a great preseason schedule. So for us, we have to make it as simple as possible, one game at a time. We have to protect our home court, which is very important. We have to find ways to steal games on the road and I think you have to do that. But for us, it's one game at a time. Once again, I'm humbled by Billy's words but there is a lot of work to be done."
(On being picked 11th last year versus 4th this year)
"Well I think the guys did a great job of fighting and competing. We struggled early trying to implement a system, but you are also trying to get guys who didn't play a prominent role in the previous season and the new guys to gel and play well together. That's not an easy thing to do coming out of the gate, especially at the level we were trying to play at and how we were trying to compete. We had a tough preseason schedule, but I thought our guys did a good job. I think the Florida game at home really propelled our team to have success. I think that and the addition of Jarnell Stokes. When you combine those two things, I think we got off and running at that point."
(On the trip to Italy)
"Well I thought the trip was great from a standpoint of the comradery of the team being together. The challenge level wasn't great. We played four games. One and a half of those games were pretty good, but I think the biggest thing we were trying to get out of that trip was comradery and team togetherness. I thought we definitely established those things. I thought our guys did a great job of being around each other, having fun, and developing genuine relationships."
(On team strengths)
"I always like to think it's playing hard and defending at a high level, because offense is always based off of your personal. If you have guys that can score and you have guys that can shoot and you may have guys that are really good post players, whatever the case may be, you might score 80 points but you always have to defend at a high level. I think for us, that's a mainstay. I want to score the ball. When I was a player, I shot a lot of balls and had fun shooting balls. I was a guy that shot 3-on-1 breaks on offense so I like offense. If you can make shots, shoot them. But we have to defend all the time because it gives us a chance to win games."
(On Jarnell Stokes)
"He is fun to watch right now. You talk about a guy that's 265 to 270 pounds and eight percent body fat, that's quicker and more explosive with running, jumping and lateral quickness. He really improved his ability to attack off the dribble. He's attacking off the dribble like a wing player. I'm very impressed with him. He is probably one of our better passers and decision makers when he has the ball in his hands."
(Jarnell Stokes continued...)
"I think he wants to be the best first and foremost. He knows what he has to do to be the best that he can be. He works extremely hard at his craft. He has really developed his body from a standpoint of chiseling down but also maintaining the muscle. He has 8% body fat. He has really improved his skills, ball handling, attacking off the dribble, his postgame is strong and improved his defense. So I think his overall game speaks for itself and he'll be fun to watch."
(On the orange jacket)
"I've had it on twice now and we won one and lost one. So I guess I'm 50%."
(On the value of playing a tough preseason schedule and if it adds urgency)
"I think so. I think we are built to do it more than anything. We have tough teams. You can't overlook those teams like Oakland, Wichita State and Xavier. They are all very talented programs. We have road games at Virginia and at Georgetown. The schedule just speaks for itself. We have our work cut out for us, but I think we are built to do it."
(On how much further ahead Tennessee is this year versus last year)
"I think we're where we need to be. From a personal standpoint, we have the pieces in place. I think more than the guys development, they are more familiar with what we want as a coaching staff, which I think really helps. When you have guys healthy and playing hard and competing, anything can happen. I think one thing we are doing this year that we weren't doing last year is we are defending at a higher level, playing extremely hard and guys are understanding what we are trying to do."
(On the Vols taking on Coach Martin's personality)
"I guess I'd have to find out what they said first, but I guess it's just a level of toughness more than anything. But it's efficient, too. It's not tough and wild and out of control. You have to be smart with toughness. You can't get in foul trouble. You have to be able to box out. It's a hard brand of basketball. It has to be good tough, though. It can't be wild and out of control. We don't play dirty. We don't undercut. We don't do anything like that. We have to play with a smart level of toughness."
(On the top teams in the league)
"The three teams ahead of us are very talented teams and well coached. But you know as well as I do, those standings can get flip-flopped. The team that's picked ninth can finish at the top of this league. This is one of the best leagues in the country. Even as a player, I never got caught up in the rankings. Unless we were ranked #1, I liked that. But other than that, those are just numbers."
(On league expansion)
"If you just look at the league, the coaches in this league and the level of talent in this league, you are probably talking about seven teams off the top for tournament bids. This is a great league with the addition of A&M and Mizzou. Two very talented programs and two well coached programs. So I only think it enhances the leagues profile."
(Thoughts on Tennessee fans)
"I thought they were great, especially with the last game against Vanderbilt. I thought the fans were tremendous. When you talk about seven straight years being in the top five of attendance from a fan base... that speaks for itself. You have a lot of great programs out here that don't get that level of attendance. So for us, it was a great thing to see. When you talk about recruiting and your current players and they see that, they want to play for that. They look forward to playing in that environment. I think our fans need to know and understand that we appreciate what they do. When you get support like that, it really helps the players get over the hump in certain games."
(On the buzz surrounding this year's team versus last year's)
"I think for me, it never changes. The blueprint remains the same. You have to work extremely hard and put yourself in a position to be successful. For our guys, you are a part of the social media and you read the newspaper, you just have to have a level of humility and take it one game at a time. I just tell our guys we have to stay on the hunt. We haven't done anything yet. We are trying to be an NCAA tournament team, which we weren't last year. So we have to stay hunting at all times."
(On this season being more comfortable)
"It's never comfortable. It's just a case of knowing your personal. I think as coaching when we do a scouting report on opposing teams, we have a mental scouting report of opposing coaching because now you know the environments you're going into and the coaches you are coaching against. So that's just as valuable as the personal you're playing against. Also, knowing your own personal is key."