Tennessee basketball hosts annual media day

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT Release) - The Tennessee men’s basketball program hosted its annual Media Day Thursday at Pratt Pavilion. The Volunteers, led by second-year head coach Cuonzo Martin, will conduct their first official preseason practice Friday afternoon.

Tennessee hosts Victory University in exhibition play Nov. 5 at Thompson-Boling Arena, and UT’s regular-season tips off Nov. 9, when the Vols host Kennesaw State.

A complete transcript of Martin’s Media Day press conference follows:

(Opening Statement)
"Thank you for being here. It is certainly an honor for us to have you guys here. When I came to Knoxville I didn't understand the magnitude of the media and the press, but you all do a tremendous job of covering our sport and we really appreciate that. As far as our guys are concerned, I like where we are headed as a program, I like what our guys are doing. From a physical standpoint I give a lot of credit to Nicodemus Christopher. He has done a tremendous job with our guys in their physical development, the athleticism and the quickness of guys. Jarnell is quicker. He made two great moves yesterday off the dribble, moves he didn't make a year ago. But big time moves. That is just a credit to Nicodemus and Jarnell (Stokes) working together, explosiveness and his quickness. Yemi (Makanjuola) is a guy who is dunking the ball left and right hand easily. I am excited about that part. Trae Golden is explosive, he is quick, he is attacking the rim. He is probably playing his best basketball. I think he and Kenny Hall are shooting the three point shot and shooting it well, playing with confidence. These guys have made some great strides throughout the summer. I thought Josh Richardson had a tremendous practice yesterday, really exploding, more importantly how he led the team and he was playing well, just directing traffic on both ends of the floor. So we are excited where these guys are.

We have a really good schedule, again. Some very talented teams. The Puerto Rico (Tip-Off) will be a great tournament, NC State I think will be a top-ten team and Oklahoma State is a top 30-35 team. A team you can't overlook, Akron is a very talented team, they returned four starters. I think they beat Mississippi State in the preseason, if I am not mistaken. You have to have Georgetown, you have to have Virginia, two talented programs. Wichita State and Xavier, two teams that come here. From a mid-major standpoint, I hate to say mid-major, those are talented programs from what they bring to the table and the success they have had over the past few years. Then you have Memphis coming in I think January the fourth."

(On being expected to make the NCAA Tournament)
"I think as a coach you always have to do your part in reminding them, as long as you say it and they understand it. With most ball players and competitive ballplayers you understand the task at hand and know what they have to do. By the looks of things with workouts they put the work and time into it but there is still plenty of work to be done. I think the biggest key for us is staying healthy and being as one unit, we will be fine."

(On approaching players differently)
"For me my approach never changes in regards to personnel. For me it changes because you are dealing with individual players. Different dynamics of guys and how they grew up, their backgrounds, how you recruited them. So that part changes, but that is individual. My approach as a coach, it never changes. If you have open shots, shoot it, if you are a scorer, score the ball, if you are a rebounder, rebound. Do what you do on the floor but we all have to defend at a high level and play as hard as we can play and be a team that is the most important thing. But my approach on the court and what I do as far as basketball never changes. But off the court it is different for every guy, you treat every guy differently."

(On being a physical player)
"I think physical will always be a blueprint. You have to play physical without fouling. You have to play as hard as you can play. I think Kenny Hall with the addition of probably 10 plus pounds on his body he is getting hits in practice, he is finishing those baskets, and his game has really improved. I think with all three of those guys is they have the ability to score baskets and be physical. Yemi is a guy who can score in certain ways but he is a defender first and a rebounder. I think you have four physical guys who can play basketball, not just bodies but they know how to play the game. I think that really helps from that standpoint. I expect those guys to score. In order for us to have a high level of success as a team those guys have to touch the ball pretty much every time down in some shape or form."

(On the ability to make shots on the perimeter)
"I think we have guys who can do that. I think the biggest key is not over dribbling. We talk about making three dribbles and you are either at the rim or you are making a play. I don't think at this level you have the luxury of being able to dribble seven or eight times and making a move. It is three dribbles and you are at the basket or there is a play being made. I think we have three guys who can go off the bounce. I don't include Jarnell or Jeronne (Maymon) in there because they can do it from their side with the guys that are guarding them but I think we have three guys on the perimeter that can make plays. It is my job as a coach to put them in position so they are not over dribbling and they are making plays. I think biggest thing for us is being able to make perimeter shots more than anything."

(On comparing to other players)
"I think they do. Anytime you get a chance to gauge yourself against other guys at other major programs and you get a feel for what they do and how they go about it. Talking to those guys, some guys may get one thousand shots a day and you may be getting two or three hundred shots. It takes you to another level. Certain ways they left weights, how they go about it and how they approach the game. How they work it out. Some guys go to pro camps, working in pro leagues and pro guys. Some guys work with personal guys that do different things. So just, more than anything you get a chance to go up against guys but also get a feel for how they do and what they do and how they go about it."

(On entering his second season at Tennessee)
"I think for me as a coach. I don't stand here going into my fifth year as head coach and say this is who I am. I think 15 or 20 years down the road I can say this is who I am. But I think you are constantly growing as a coach. I think for me we will always defend. I say defend a lot but I would like to score 100 points if we could. I like to score the ball. I like put our guys in the position to score and shoot the ball. I am not a guy who likes to pass the ball 5, 6, or 7 times when you don't have to. If you have a pass and you can shoot the ball then shoot the ball. Sometimes that first shot is the best shot. The other guys on the team expect you to shoot the ball. But I think really we are always looking for different things. The best ways for our guys to be successful. Is there a better defense out there that fits this personnel? Is there a different type of offense to put our in the best position. We are always looking for that. But I think the core of our program will never change. Playing as hard as you can play, be as tough as you can be, trying to go to class every day, working as hard as you can work. Those things will never change regardless of personnel."

(On the offense)
"I feel good about it because you know your guys. As a coaching staff it is our jobs to put them in positions so they can be successful offensively. With our principles on defense you have chance to be successful and get stops and be in the basketball games and win the basketball games. It is just one of those deals. Trae Golden, for example, he is a guy who that needs to lead our team offensively. Even though that ball needs to go inside, we need Trae Golden to score. He is a scoring point guard. We need him to score the ball. With his ability to score other things happen because people have to identify with him on the floor. When Trae is playing well we are playing well as a team."

(On Josh Richardson)
"I want him to do everything he did offensively but do it a little better. Shoot the ball at a high level, get to the rim a little more, get to the free throw line a little more. The key for him is defending. Taking pride more than anything in defending and being a shut-down guard. But offensively I want him to continue what he is doing. "

(On the closeness of the team)
"I think one of the things that we do as a staff and we do a good job, and I have to give my assistant coaches a lot of credit for this, is bringing our guys together. We like to consider ourselves a family, we take a lot of pride in our guys being together as much as possible, not putting yourselves in vulnerable situations, not compromising your character and integrity and what you believe. The Italy trip didn't do that for us, I think that was already established and because it was established I was able to take the trip, and as a head coach, feel at peace when you go to a different country and allow your guys to not have a curfew and they will understand that they will be in the hotel at the right time and not get into any trouble. I think before we took that trip that had to be established for me, in order to take that trip."

(On D'Montre Edwards)
"Well right now I see him as a defender who can rebound the ball. He can rebound well and goes and gets offensive rebounds in practice and boxes out and gets defensive rebounds as well. I see him on the floor from that standpoint. Offensively I think he is trying to find his way and get a feel for the level of the things that we are trying to do offensively. His pull-up game is probably the best part of his offense, and posting up."

(On the team's point guard position)
"On our team we only have one true point guard and that is Trae Golden in my opinion. I think a lot is to be made about who is a point, a traditional point and that sort of thing. The key for me is who is able to handle the ball and not turn it over. We had too many turnovers as a team last year which is unacceptable at this level. The biggest key is taking care of the basketball, but right now Trae is the true point guard and Armani (Moore) is fighting for those minutes."

(On Josh Richardson)
"I like to keep Josh at the wing. He has gotten better but I like to keep him at the wing where he is defending and slashing and making those plays. Sometimes you can put too much on a guy and lose his focus and all of a sudden he is not the guy that he was because he has too much on his plate."

(On the motion offense)
"I think they are a lot better, but the thing about a motion offense has elevated since I have played. When I played it was all different types of screens. Down screens, back screens, flat screens, cross screens, now the ball screen is incorporated so there are probably not as many various screens as opposed to ball screen sets. For us, ball screens are good because if you look at a ball screen, there are probably nine different ways to set a ball screen. That is a hard thing to defend. Whereas if you set a down screen, there are about two ways to defend it, percentages say that we better just set the ball screen and have the teams figure out a way to defend it."

(On Jarnell Stokes)
"I think his explosiveness. He is quick. With that being said you are talking about a guy that came in right from high school so he didn't have the summertime and the fall to get acclimated to what we are trying to do. Everything was on the fly. Now that we have the spring and the summer to work with him, the biggest keys for us are improving his perimeter shot and giving him confidence in it, because he has a decent shot. Giving him the confidence to shoot and feel good about it. Improving his back to the basket for his post-up game. He would rather face up because he is good at that. But we are improving his back to the basket, his perimeter shot, but also improving his lateral quickness and explosiveness so he can defend at a high level."

(On Stokes playing immediately after graduating high school early last season)
"That is a tough thing to do, I don't think I could have done it at the level that he did it at. I think it helped that he has a good mind for the game. He is also 265-270 pounds and he is physical enough and has good skills. That is why he was able to get away with it. He had some struggles, but because he was physical enough he would get a big rebound and make a big play. We saw the potential in him and I think you will see the guy that he really is."

(On Stokes' role on the team)
"I think so, we will pound the ball, he has no choice because we will give him the ball. But also the guys just feel good around him. When he came, he was one of those guys that wanted to fit in with his team. So he was accepting whatever his role was to win games. He had a target on his back coming in. The first time he played Kentucky he played well. The second time, they were keying on him. It was one of those things where he was learning on the fly the various defenses and our guys were just playing the game, we didn't have time to slow down and make sure that he got acclimated. Our individual guys were playing games, he was playing catch up and I think he did a good job with that."

(On shooting the ball)
"Shooters? I hope so. We shot a lot of balls, now we have to put them in. I think the guys have done a good job with putting hours and hours in since last spring of shooting the basketball. Now it is just shooting with confidence and making sure they fall."

(On Stokes improving his free-throw shooting)
"He has done a really good job shooting his free throws. He is better at spot up shooting as opposed to shooting on the move. But his shot has really improved. You can see with his free throws he is knocking them down, 10 or 15 in a row, but he shoots a lot of them. His perimeter shot on the corners is probably better than up top, but he is knocking his shot down. But once again, it is about translating that into game situations, because he knows what his bread-and-butter is. He plays around the rim, he attacks the rim, rebounds the ball. But I want him to have the confidence to shoot the ball."

(On the two different teams last season)
"You have ups and downs, that is a hard thing to ask. I think that was a different team. With the addition of Jarnell Stokes I think that before Jarnell you had a team that was unproven and I am not sure if they played well together because they were playing for themselves so to speak. I don't say that in a bad way, I think they saw the lights on them and thought `I have a chance to shine' but the result is that you lose the game. You don't understand how hard you have to play, what you have to do and what you have to sacrifice to be successful. They grew as a team as the season went on. But you also have the elite player in Jarnell Stokes, and in order to compete at this level you have to have two or three guys like that on the roster to win big games. With that addition it really helped our team. There are really two different answers, two different teams from the time we played Austin Peay to the time that we finished the season. Even when you are at your best you have ups and downs. Some nights the shot just doesn't fall and you have to defend to win games. Some nights the other team is scoring and you have to outscore them. That is the sign of a really good team, you have to find ways to win ball games."

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