published Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Donnie Tyndall's UT Vols 'basically starting back over'

New Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall answers questions from the media at the Big Orange Caravan appearance at The Chattanoogan in this file photo.
New Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall answers questions from the media at the Big Orange Caravan appearance at The Chattanoogan in this file photo.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IN THE BONUS

• Tyndall finalized his support staff late last week with a trio of hirings.

J.T. Burton, who played for Tyndall at St. Catharine College and coached the NAIA program for the past six years, will be the Vols' director of player development.

Beau Braden will fill the video coordinator role after two years as an assistant at Morehead State, where he was Tyndall's director of operations in 2011-12.

Special assistant to the head coach R.J. Rush was Tyndall's video coordinator and a graduate assistant the past two years at Southern Mississippi.

• Hubbs, who underwent shoulder surgery in January, has not been cleared for full-contact work and sat out the contact portion of Monday night's individual workouts. Tyndall said Tuesday he expects the former five-star recruit to be "fully released and 100 percent to go with contact" in mid-June or early July.

Tennessee also will look into getting the NCAA to grant Hubbs, who played in 12 games his freshman season, an extra year of eligibility.

"He was a game or two behind that number," the coach said, "but I promised his family on our part that we would do everything we can to at least look into getting that medical redshirt year back, which would be huge and fair for the kid. We'll see if that happens."

• Mostella is working out with the team and attending classes, but he's yet to receive a final word on his eligibility from the NCAA clearinghouse. Tyndall expects he'll be cleared.

• As Tyndall indicated more than two weeks ago, rising senior center Rawane "Pops" Ndiaye is in school for the first semester of summer classes and working out with the Vols while he decides on his future with the program. "There will be an update at the end" of that first summer session, the coach said.

KNOXVILLE — There's a solid chance that Tennessee's new basketball practice jerseys come with name tags.

After all, there are six new players on campus as the Volunteers begin individual workouts with new coach Donnie Tyndall and his staff, and two others are on the way.

With just five returning players and so many new guys from various hometowns and basketball backgrounds, June has become an extended get-to-know-you session for the Vols.

"It definitely feels like a new team," rising sophomore guard Robert Hubbs III said Tuesday afternoon during a break from helping run Tennessee's camp for kids at Thompson-Boling Arena. "It's a new coach, so we're basically starting back over. I'm looking forward to it, and everything is coming up in the future for us."

In a long process of building on- and off-court chemistry essentially from scratch, the first step is getting everybody's names down, and that's still a struggle for some.

"I get them mixed up a little bit," rising senior Josh Richardson admitted with a laugh, "but I'm getting better."

The whirlwind of replenishing Tennessee's depleted roster now complete, Tyndall has turned his focus to his current team with the first of the summer's individual workout sessions going in the books Monday night.

"I thought every guy that worked out was really coachable, which is so important," Tyndall said. "They were energetic. The energy level was fine. Obviously in regard to technique and detail, it was all an offensive workout. They have a long way to go, but their attitudes were great."

Six additions -- guards Ian Chiles, Detrick Mostella, Kevin Punter and Devon Baulkman and forwards Willie Carmichael and Jabari McGhee -- have moved to Knoxville for the start of summer classes.

Tariq Owens is finishing up some academic work, and Florida Gulf Coast transfer forward Eric McKnight is awaiting a waiver from the SEC. Both are expected to arrive for the start of the second session of summer school on July 3.

Tyndall said Richardson, coming off an impressive showing in Tennessee's NCAA tournament run in March, stood out Monday and added that forward Derek Reese "showed some athleticism I didn't necessarily expect." As far as newcomers, the Vols' new coach praised Carmichael, the former Southern Mississippi signee, for showing "fantastic" energy and effort.

The Vols will build further chemistry through playing together in open-gym sessions, where some of the newcomers' abilities already have caught the eye of the returning cast.

"I was a bit worried the first day of open gym," Richardson said, "but we've got some good pieces I didn't even really know anything about."

There's also a new system to learn. Tyndall said most of the summer work will emphasize offense and skill development, and the preseason practices will be "75 percent" focused on defense. That certainly is a change from the previous staff's defense-always approach.

"It's definitely going to be completely different from how we played last year," Reese said. "Last year I feel like it was more of a slower pace, more trying to get the ball inside. This year we're going to run because we don't have a Jarnell [Stokes] or a Jeronne [Maymon] inside, so we're going to run a lot, push it, score a lot of points, press -- that's going to be our game."

For now, forging chemistry is key, and nobody in the program expects it to be easy.

"Our team knows there's only going to be one bad guy or one guy that isn't maybe always liked on our team or in our program, and that's me," Tyndall said. "The rest of these guys are going to do what they're told and what they're asked to do, and they're going to be good teammates.

"I think when you have one guy leading, and everyone else knows their job is to follow, the chemistry will work itself out. They're told numerous times that they will sort their own roles and decide their own roles based on how productive they are in practice and in game settings."

Richardson called the coaching transition and overhaul of the roster "kind of weird" and believes replicating the bond last year's team created will be tricky.

"It's definitely going to be hard because we had so much time together," he said. "We were all young guys when Coach [Cuonzo] Martin got here, and so we had two or three years together. We shouldn't have too hard of a time this year. The guys, we're all cool, we all hang out off the court already."

Though it's still extremely early, Hubbs is confident Tennessee's patchwork roster can mesh effectively and the Vols can "do something special" this season.

"It's definitely going to take some time," he said. "That's what it's all about. Doing things outside of basketball builds that chemistry. We're still going to do some things like that -- hang out, go to a movie or something -- everybody just trying to get to know each other."

Contact Patrick Brown at pbrown@timesfreepress.com.

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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