Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall, freshman forward Tariq Owens and sophomore guard Robert Hubbs met the media today before practice at Pratt Pavilion.
Some highlights …
- With UT’s first exhibition game against NAIA opponent Pikeville on on Nov. 3 fast approaching, Tyndall was asked for a comprehensive review of his team.
“Our guys are working hard,” he said. “I’ve said that since this summer. Their energy level is fine. Their competitive nature is pretty solid. Their coachable. But we have so far to go in probably about three areas. Playing with more physicality, No. 1. Playing through fatigue, No. 2. And then just learning to play fast while still valuing the basketball. Our turnovers right now are just atrocious. We want to play with pace, with tempo, get up and down the floor. But on the flip side we are just giving away the ball too much.”
- Tyndall said the installation of his defense, a system that presses after dead balls and falls back into matchup zone, is “about 60 to 70 percent” where it needs to be before games start.
“We are picking up our presses and being able to match up in the press, different things we do fairly well,” he said. “The matchup zone has gotten progressively better. There are a couple of nuances with it that, when we go man-to-man, recognizing certain situations when we need to be man-to-man, that we haven’t picked up real well yet. It’s repetition and film work. We are certainly progressing there.”
- Once again Tyndall addressed the pressure that sits on Hubbs’ shoulders, and how he has encouraged the former five-star to ignore it.
“The biggest thing is Robert just has to relax and be a basketball player,” Tyndall said. “So many times in this crazy business we are in, young people get influenced or drug down by expectations, whether it’s from the fans, friends or a girlfriend, whoever. We are going to continue to talk to him about being who he is, taking baby steps toward progressively getting better. And I think he’s doing that.”
Tyndall said at the team’s media day last week that he had a one-on-one meeting with Hubbs to discuss this exact topic. It helped, according to Hubbs.
“I have to stay focused,” he said. “I can’t worry about what outsiders say. I just have to play my game.”
Hubbs says he is full healthy following last season’s shoulder surgery and the right wrist he tweaked early in practices this year. He declared himself the favorite to win both the 3-point and dunk contests at Friday’s Big Orange Madness event. He expects Detrick Mostella and Devon Baulkman to give him the most competition in the dunk contest and 3-point contest, respectively.
- Tyndall, along with Armani Moore and Josh Richardson, will head to Charlotte for SEC hoops media day on Wednesday. The preseason SEC predictions will be debuted the same day. Tyndall knows the Vols might be near the bottom.
- “We’ve talked about it,” he said. ‘Not repeatedly, or over the top. But we certainly want these guys to be aware of what the outside world things of us. It is what it is. We can talk about it, have a chip on our shoulder and all those things that sound fantastic, but at the end of the day, if we don’t go out and practice the right way, compete and perform the right way when we play, all the talk is for not.”
He was asked for his personal expectations.
“My expectations are to win every game, be 31-0,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve always coached. That’s why the teams and the programs I’ve been in charged of have probably overachieved every single year. That being said, realistically, we are one of the least experienced teams in our league, one of the least experienced in America. And we are picked toward the bottom of the league for a reason. But I never want to put a ceiling on any team.”
- Sophomore forward Dominic Woodson continues to shed the pounds, but seems to have encountered a bit of snag.
“He’s lost a bunch of weight,” Tyndall said. “So I’m proud of what he’s done. He’s lost about 21, 22 pounds. But the biggest thing is, maybe it’s even more mental than it is physical. He will not push himself through fatigue. He was pretty good in stretches, in spurts during our scrimmage. He did some nice things. But as soon as he gets tired he will not push himself to move … He gives up four, five, six points before you can call him timeout and get him out of the game. These aren’t things we don’t talk about endlessly with Dom. He gets it. But now he has to get it to the floor.”
- Owens has gained 16 much-needed pounds since he stepped on campus. He’s now up to 184. Ideally, he would like to reach 230, but he’s shooting for 190-195 this season. The 6-foot-10 Owens has led the team in blocked shots in scrimmages. He averages about three per practice. “My defense is ahead of my offense,” he said. “This year I feel like me on the defensive end will help the team more than on the offensive end.”