published Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

UT: Cuonzo Martin finishing staff

  • Cameron Tatum on coach Cuonzo Martin
    Tennessee rising senior guard Cameron Tatum talks about new coach Cuonzo Martin and his staff.

KNOXVILLE — Cuonzo Martin is almost done finishing his new staff.

Now Tennessee’s new basketball coach sets his focus on his current team and finalizing his roster.

Martin confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Nebraska assistant Tracy Webster will take the third and final assistant position on UT’s staff and hinted that Houston Fancher may be UT’s director of basketball operations.

“I don’t know; we’re still waiting. I think Houston’s our man,” Martin said. “He’s done a great job for us, and he knows the lay of the land better than anybody.”

Fancher, a former head coach at Appalachian State, was UT’s coordinator of video scouting under former coach Bruce Pearl’s staff and was named interim head coach after Pearl was fired.

The 39-year-old Webster, a former star point guard at Wisconsin, spent this past season at Nebraska after a season at DePaul, where he was briefly interim head coach. He was an assistant on Billy Gillispie’s staff at Kentucky (2007-09), spent three years under Bruce Weber at Illinois and coached with Martin on Gene Keady’s staff during the 2003-04 season.

With his coaching staff complete, Martin turns his attention to his current team with individual workouts this week and recruiting, which will start Thursday when he and some of his staff will visit with both of UT’s signees, guards Kevin Ware (Conyers, Ga.) and Chris Jones (Memphis).

How many players the Vols ultimately sign in this class, though, depends on if Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson remain in the NBA draft. Neither has signed with an agent.

“Scotty’s actually in New Jersey working out, and he’ll be back,” Martin said. “He needs to do the paperwork, but he’s definitely going to put his name in the [NBA] draft.”

Harris and Hopson have until May 8 to withdraw from the draft, a date that’s 10 days before the end of the spring signing period for recruits, which starts April 13.

“For us, we think those guys will be in our program, but they also have to do what’s best for them as well, “ Martin said. “You also have to be fair and smart about what you’re doing. This is a big deal for those guys. They want to be pros and that’s their goal. They have the ability and they have the potential, and I think those guys will be pros whether it’s this year or next year. I don’t think you can rush guys to make a decision. They have to get the most informed opinions [and] the best information possible to make a decision. That doesn’t happen overnight.”

The departure of five scholarship seniors leaves the Vols with seven scholarship players for next season if Harris and Hopson leave for the NBA.

“We’ll sign the type of guys we want to have in our program,” Martin said. “I like to have at least 10 guys on scholarship. With that being said, it varies with Scotty and Tobias depending on what they’re doing.”

about Patrick Brown...

Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...

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chas9 said...

It doesn't matter who else TN signs. They'll only be practice squad players. Keeping Jones and Ware matters (good luck on that), and Harris and Hopson matter a lot (again, good luck). The over-under on how many of these four Tennessee retains is two. Take any two of the four, add Tatum and two other scrubs from this year's team, and you have a team that will dwell near the cellar of the SEC East. Even a dream lineup of Harris, Hopson, Tatum, Jones and Ware won't see the Elite Eight under a first-year coach. Not much size, and nobody confuses Jones and Ware with Doron Lamb and Brandon Knight. Calipari encourages great players to go NBA. Martin grudgingly will allow it. Guess who's going to win the recruiting battles for the top talent.

April 6, 2011 at 5:47 p.m.
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