“We’ve got eight new bodies and we need each and every one of them. There’s major turnover, be it one year to the next, but we’ve got everybody on campus with the exception of one young man that’s going to be a (graduate transfer), Lew Evans, who we expect to be there in July.
“With the guys that are there, obviously it’s an unbelievable rule the NCAA put in a couple years ago where we’re able to spend time with our players (during the summer). I think it helps them more than anybody … the impact of what it’s like to be in college and working at a very high level. That’s been good.
“There’s not one guy that we’re not excited about. I think we’re going to have more competition this year per position. We know that we’re going to be a little more skilled overall. And we’re a young team. We only have (with) Lew Evans, three upperclassmen in the program, with Robert Hubbs and Detrick Mostella, with a fifth-year senior coming in.
“We’re excited about those guys, the work Detrick and Robert Hubbs has done up to this point. All the underclassmen are doing a terrific job doing what we’re asking them to do right now.”
On Mike Tranghese joining the SEC as an adviser to men’s basketball
“First, I think I can’t say enough about our commissioner (Greg Sankey), what he did. We lost two really wonderful people in terms of Mark Whitworth and Jake Bell. I thought this spring, when our commissioner announced Mike Tranghese, I thought that was terrific. Then when you go back and see what he’s done with the last two hires, it takes it to another level.
“I’m excited about our league. I think you’re going to see some drastic changes in the Southeastern Conference over the next couple years. The bottom line is everyone’s going to say what’s it going to take to get more teams into the NCAA (tournament). The bottom line, and I think Mike Tranghese said it as well as anybody, you have to schedule well, but you have to win some of those games. That’s the bottom line. We need to win some non-league games against some high-caliber competition and come into our conference (schedule) with higher RPIs.
On SEC coaches meeting with Tranghese at SEC spring meetings
“It was a great meeting. From a coaches point, that having Mike in the room, and the commissioner was there some too as he always is, but Mike’s presence from start to finish was one of the best coaches’ meeting that I’ve ever been a part of. So much of that, it reminded me of my days back in the Big East when Mike, in the role with the basketball coaches, he just gives you a level of confidence. You know he’s been through it, you know he understands it from a coaches’ side, he understands it from an administrative side. He understands it from a person being on the committee. He just has this deliver that he can make it quite simple, to be honest with you, the way he can present it. I felt our coaches all left there energized, knowing that where our league is going basketball wise is really good things are getting ready to start happening.”
On newer big-name coaches settling in the SEC
“I think it’s important for the program. We all know it’s been a pretty unstable situation at Tennessee the last couple years. One, the University needs stability, players need stability. I think the longer you’re there, and you get your program going and your culture set that you want set, it’s just a matter of every year you’re trying to improve. I’ve always said you want to leave it better than you found it. I think that about every day of the week. You want to make every day better than yesterday. You do that, and you build that kind of culture, it permeates the entire program. It goes into recruiting; it goes into every aspect of the program. I think that’s what we’re trying to do, and every other coach in the league.”
On Pat Summitt
“I don’t think there’s any question that when you were with Pat, you sensed her love for the game and he love for her students. (It was) the fact that she loved talking basketball and absolutely couldn’t get enough of it.
“You could tell she was all about being excellent. Not just having a winning team, but she wanted to have a model program, a winning program. I never saw her when she wasn’t excited, fired up, enthused. Even when she was doing a clinic, you would’ve thought she was coaching her own team with her intensity and her fire.
“I don’t think she ever met a stranger. She always had time for whoever, whenever, wherever. There’s a lot of things from being around her that you couldn’t help but take a lot of things from (her).”
On his three sophomores (Kyle Alexander, Admiral Schofield, Shembari Phillips)
“I do think they’re important to us, just like I think all of our returning players (are). I’ll put all our returning players in that classification, where our returning guys have to grow a lot. We’re going to expect a lot, to see if Robert Hubbs can step up for us to the plate and deliver the way we would expect to see him do it. We’d like to see those strides made by Kevin Punter a year ago. That’s going to be a big challenge for Robert to do that.
“You think about Kyle and Admiral and Shembari, they’ve been here a year. Physically, they’re going to be better there. All three of them have gotten much better physically. I think all three of them have improved in the things we’re asking them to do. The thing we’re asking them to do as much as anything is when these younger guys came on campus, teach them the way. In terms of what it’s going to take and not just assume (they know). And learn from their mistakes a year ago.
“I think they would be very forthright in telling you no one took them under their wing a year ago because I think the guys coming back had no idea how to take them under their wing. This year, returning players know how to do that. I told them we’re going to see what kind of leaders they are, which will tell us what kind of team they want to have, by the way they embrace these freshmen. I think all three of these guys have done that.
“We need Kyle to score, we need him to continue to score around the rim. We want Shembari to be more consistent with his perimeter game. And we need Admiral to be more consistent all the way around and get better on the defensive end.
On how much better Kyle Alexander is around the rim and how much Admiral Schofield’s conditioning has improved after having tonsil surgery
“You know what? Last Wednesday Kyle had his best practice since we’ve been at Tennessee. I told him it’s taken him a year to learn just one move we’ve been working on him with. He finally did it and it was really exactly what we wanted him to do, as often as he could do it. Catching (the ball) and a little jump hook around the rim, finishing in that high percentage area.
“It’s amazing. Admiral is a totally different player with his conditioning. Surgery helped him a lot. I think he would be the first person to tell you that. Both of those guys really do have a tremendous passion to be in the gym; they want to work. They want to get better. I don’t worry about those two guys in terms of wanting to put the time in and become good players.
“Kyle physically, he’s starting to look different … you may have seen him by now in the summer league. He’s put on some weight. But we’d still like to add more weight to him throughout this summer and leading into next year, which will help him as much as anything.”
Grant Ramey covers Tennessee men’s basketball for the Knoxville News Sentinel. Follow him on Twitter: @GrantRamey