Cuonzo Martin says Darius Thompson will get early shot at UT

12:12 PM, Jun 28, 2013   |    comments
Cuonzo Martin
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By Tom Kreager | Gannett Tennessee 

MURFREESBORO - Cuonzo Martin envisions freshman Darius Thompson on the basketball court this season.

How much?

That will depend on the former Blackman High standout point guard.

"I think he's playing," said Martin, who will enter his third season as the Tennessee men's basketball coach this fall. "There is no question if he's playing or not. I think the key is if he's starting or not. That has everything to do with him, and winning it outright.

"We have great competition and great guard play. He has every opportunity to be a starter in our program."

Martin, members of his coaching staff and some UT players were at Blackman High on Thursday for this year's final Tennessee Volunteers S.H.O.T. Clinic. The clinic is a two-hour basketball camp for children who are in kindergarten through sixth grade. The UT staff had four clinics around the state.

Thompson did not attend.

"We were brainstorming as a staff to really reach out to the fans and give back to the fans, so to speak," Martin said. "It started for me years ago.

"I wasn't financially able to go to camps when I was a young guy. My first camp was going into my senior year of high school. This is a chance to bring the camp to them."

Currently, Tennessee can practice up to two hours a week in the gym. Martin said the Vols practice four days a week for 30 minutes at a time, working on different fundamentals.

UT junior guard Josh Richardson, who was at Blackman for the clinic, said Thompson is a "smart player."

"He's definitely a good point guard," Richardson said. "He can shoot the ball and handles the ball well, especially for as tall as he is.

"He can shoot a lot better than I thought, so that should help us."

Tennessee finished last season 20-13 overall with a first-round loss to Mercer in the NIT. It marked the second straight season the Vols have reached the NIT.

Thompson, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound incoming freshman, averaged a team-high 16.4 points with 6.4 assists at Blackman his senior year and was a Mr. Basketball finalist.

Richardson said the expectations will be bigger this season, especially with the return of 6-7 big man Jeronne Maymon. Maymon redshirted last season because of a knee injury. Jarnell Stokes also returns giving the Vols another inside presence.

"The last couple of years the expectations haven't been too high," Richardson said. "It's a great thing for us to have some good recruits coming in, have some good returing guys. Jeronne coming back is big for us. It's created a little bit of a stir."

Tennessee hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since the 2010-11 season.

Some thought Tennessee had a good enough resume to make the NCAA Tournament this past season, but was left out partly because of its non-conference schedule. This year, SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has said all SEC schools must submit their non-conference schedules for feedback, slight changes and perhaps rejection.

Martin said he has no problem with the policy as long as the entire league complies.

"We don't have a problem with scheduling teams," Martin said. "If the league wants to do that, that's fine as long as it's across the board.

"We are trying to do everything in our power to get multiple teams in the tournament. But I'm pretty good at scheduling on my own."

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