After Media Days last Thursday, it can be said there is a buzz surrounding the Tennessee Basketball program thanks to second year coach Cuonzo Martin.
The Volunteers, who have been ranked in some preseason Top 25 polls, bring back four of five starters on a team that surprised many and finished second in the SEC.
Vols junior point guard Trae Golden thinks this claim is justified.
“I think it’s deserved [a top 25 ranking],” said Golden. “We put in the work and we have the talent to be one of the teams that are ranked up there.”
Over the offseason Golden and the Vols focused on accountability and improving daily.
I honestly wouldn't be the player I am right now without Coach Martin. Vol point guard Trae Golden
“I improved a lot on the defensive end this offseason,” said Golden. “I am trying to solidify myself as a leader.”
Golden and the Vols put in many long hours this off-season and many credit Martin for instilling this standard into the program.
“Coach has instilled that physical mentality into the team,” said Golden. “We just follow him.”
With Martin establishing a “rough-and-tough” identity for the Vols, Golden went on to praise Martin for the impact the coach has had on himself as a player and a person.
“I honestly wouldn’t be the player I am right now without coach Martin,” said Golden.
Hall Seizes Second Chance
Last season was not ideal for Kenny Hall but the senior rededicated himself this offseason and is optimistic he can be a difference maker on the team this season.
After being placed on an indefinite suspension mid-way through the year, Hall didn’t play a game the last month of the season, but the forward was reinstated in the offseason and has responded positively.
“I worked on conditioning a lot this off-season,” said Hall. “I also spent a lot of time on footwork and putting up shots and trying to make myself an all-around better player.”
Hall, who had one of the best offseasons on the entire team according to Martin, is excited to see the results.
“I still have a lot to prove and I really haven’t done anything yet,” said Hall. “With it being my last year I would be a fool to not put in the work I know I need to put in. Every senior on this team would say the same thing.”
Kenny Hall is seizing his second chance and credits coach Martin for the opportunity.
“Coach Martin has gives us that drive and that extra push,” said Hall. “He always gives me the boost I need.”
Reese Adjusts with Volunteers
It’s not been an easy process for the freshmen, but slowly Derek Reese is getting adjusted to life as a Tennessee Volunteer.
The Orlando-native creates a matchup issue anytime he steps on the floor as his 6’8” frame and "silky smooth" jump shot have made him a favorite among Tennessee's coaches.
“Shooting is one of the attributes that the coaching staff really liked a lot about me,” said Reese.
However, Reese suffered a torn labrum this offseason and his Volunteer debut is being pushed back. A redshirt appears to be imminent for the freshman.
I consider myself to have one of the best shots on the team […] I want to get on the level of Skylar. Vol small forward Derek Reese
“The trainers have told me that I might redshirt but it’s up to coach Martin to decide if I’ll play this season,” said Reese. “I’m aiming to come back around December-January.”
The determination and grit displayed by the Vols is something Reese fell in love with during the recruiting process and one of the contributing reasons he chose Tennessee.
“I feel like it’s a family-like atmosphere here,” said Reese. “Obviously it is business-like when it comes to the games, but they really care about you here and they’re not just using you for your talents.”
Reese still has aspirations for this season and beyond though and hopes to display his smooth shot as soon as this season.
“I consider myself to have one of the best shots on the team,” said Reese. “I want to get on the level of Skylar McBee though.”