published Monday, April 11th, 2011

UT players buy in with Martin

Point of commitment

Point guard Wes Washpun out of Washington High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, became Martin’s first commitment on Sunday afternoon, according to multiple reports.

Martin offered the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Washpun, who could not be reached for comment, while he was at Missouri State. Washpun joins Chris Jones, a point guard out of Melrose High School in Memphis who decided to stick with the Vols after meeting with Martin late last week, UT’s current class. The spring signing period begins on Wednesday.

KNOXVILLE — For some players it’s a fresh new start, and for others it’s just part of the business.

And though still in the earliest stages in the process of building relationships with new coach Cuonzo Martin and his staff, the impressions have been mostly positive for some Tennessee players.

“It’s been pretty smooth. We’ve all had our own individual meetings with the coaches and we’re all pretty confident what they have in store for us,” center Kenny Hall said last week. “It’s a brand new everything, a brand new slate. It could be beneficial to everybody. It’s a chance for everybody to go out there and show the coaching staff what we can do and what we’re all capable of.”

Though the coaches have been in and out of town at the Final Four in Houston and recruiting, they’ve kept the communication consistent with the team through phone calls and text messages in addition to the face-to-face office meetings and on-court interaction during last week’s individual workout sessions.

“They’ve been great about getting to know you and talking to you and trying to really reach out to all the players,” guard Skylar McBee said. “Everybody seems positive about every one of the coaches. We knew things were going to be different, but it takes some getting used to.”

With the roster turnover caused by five departing seniors and the possibility of two more departures to the NBA with Scotty Hopson and Tobias Harris, some of UT’s younger players could be in line for larger roles next season, which is always a way to smooth the difficulty that comes with a coaching change.

Any successful transition from one coach to another generally depends on how the inherited players buy into the new coach’s system, a process that guard Cameron Tatum feels responsible for furthering.

If Hopson does go pro, that leaves Tatum, who finished last season in a long slump, and Renaldo Woolridge as the seniors for next season.

“It’s just trying to make sure that, myself included, everybody on the team buys in to what Coach Martin and his staff have and the agenda for us as far as workouts and as far as becoming a better team and things like that,” Tatum said.

“With his personality, I think a lot of the players are optimistic and eager to see what we can do under his lead and the things that he brings to the table. He has that background of being where everybody on this team wants to go. I think everybody’s excited and opportunistic about the opportunity to play for somebody that has been there and done that and willing to listen and see what he can teach us.”

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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