It was only an exhibition game over a Division II opponent, but Tennessee’s 105-80victory over Florida Southern on Saturday offered some positive glimpses of things to come for the Vols. Here are three takeaways:
Maymon did as Maymon does: Jeronne Maymon, the Vols’ senior forward who missed all of last season while recovered from knee surgery, played just 17 minutes, but he provided eight points, seven rebounds and four assists. His skill set, particularly his rebounding and his passing from the high post, was missed last season.
We won’t mention Maymon’s 1-of-4 shooting from the field, but he did make 6 of 8 free throws. If he could shoot 75 percent from the free-throw line for the season, Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin would be pleased.
It was no surprise that having his fellow bruise brother back in the post led to a good game for junior forward Jarnell Stokes, who led the Vols with 27 points and 10 boards.
“If you are trying to double team one the other is driving to the rim,” Martin said. “It is hard to keep either one of those guys off the glass with one guy boxing out—it isn't an easy thing to do. They understand each other and have a good feel of playing with each other.”
Maymon admitted to being nervous before and during the game.
"It's still a process,” he said. “I’m still trying to find my way. It’s been a long time since I've been out there. That’s just one game, so I gotta make sure I take the next game like I did this one."
The freshman was OK at the point: Subbing for an injured Antonio Barton, freshman Darius Thompson came up with a solid debut, scoring nine points on 4 of 6 shooting, but more importantly, handing out four assists against zero turnovers. Part of the Vols’ struggles the first two seasons under Martin is they didn’t have an adequate backup for former point guard Trae Golden, a guy who could have used someone to push him.
Martin was pleased with Thompson’s play but offered a predictable critique after the game.
"I thought (Thompson) was solid,” Martin said. “He has to get better defensively. I think that is the biggest area of concern when it comes to Darius is defending. He has got to really take pride in defending and play with passion.”
Thompson got the message.
“(Defense is) a lot more meaningful here,” Thompson said. “Coach is more … that's his main emphasis—defense first. Defense is going to set us up on offense, so we have to start working harder on defense."
Hubbs the real deal: Five-star shooting guard Robert Hubbs scored 17 in his debut. Again, the opponent must be taken into consideration, and he did commit three turnovers in 29 minutes. But he also made 3 of 5 from the 3-point line. Hubbs and Barton can help shore another problem Tennessee has had the last two years—inconsistent perimeter shooting. Barton is a 42-percent career 3 shooter.
"I thought he did a good job,” Martin said. “One thing Robert always can depend on is shooting the ball, and around the rim he is explosive. The area of the game he can improve on is his mid-range, off the dribble making plays that way, finding guys when pressured, attacking off the bounce, move and motion, setting screens and all of those things.
“That is just a matter of time, process and picking it up. He can shoot the ball. The thing I liked and had to talk to him was I didn't think he was that aggressive, then he started playing a lot better basketball as opposed to earlier when he wasn't looking for a shot or being very assertive.”
Hubbs, also known as a high flyer who can get to the rim, scored his first points on a dunk.
"I was saying to myself that I had to hit the first shot,” Hubbs said. “Once I make that shot, my confidence goes from a little to a lot. I was in my groove. Usually when I get a dunk, it gets my rhythm going fast. I try do it sometimes, but I want to get my teammates involved and let the game come to me."
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