Cuonzo on returnees

Cuonzo on returnees

Since Cameron Tatum is the only member of Tennessee's 2011-12 basketball team who played a significant role in 2010-11, the Vols need several returnees to elevate their games in the months ahead.

New head man Cuonzo Martin expects that to happen ... if the players expect it to happen, as well.

"You see the potential there," he said recently. "I think it has to be potential, with the combination of confidence, more importantly."

There's only one way to develop confidence, and that's by performing well. Most of Tennessee's returnees did not perform particularly well in 2010-11, which is why they did not play a lot of minutes.

"You have seven guys returning who didn't play major roles, outside of Cameron, who played 20-plus minutes per game," Martin noted. "None of those other guys played a major role in the team's success."

Still, the new coach believes the returnees are capable of playing major roles in making the 2011-12 season a success.

"You have potential," he said. "So now we have to get those guys to where they're in the trenches the last minute of a ball game where they decide those games."

Three talented but unproven returnees project to play huge roles in the season ahead - Trae Golden, Jordan McRae and Renaldo Woolridge.

With Brian Williams and John Fields out of eligibility, the 6-9 Woolridge is Tennessee's tallest returnee. After contributing virtually nothing last season, he really needs to provide some inside scoring, some post defense and some big-time rebounding in the season ahead. Signed as a wing, he seems likely to play power forward in 2011-12.

"He could be a power forward; he could be a small forward for us," Martin said. "We just have him out there playing basketball. I don't necessarily know where we'll play him. It's for him to identify that role. We could play him at the center spot sometimes."

Simply put, McRae is an enigma. He starred in preseason practices as a freshman last fall, then appeared to be pressing once the games began. He again showed flashes of rare talent in Tennessee's recent individual workouts but must prove he can harness those gifts.

"I thought he did a good job," Martin said. "You could see his athleticism, what he's capable of doing. Now it's a matter of him taking the next step - getting minutes under his belt, playing at a high level, being in the trenches of a live situation where there's a minute left in the game and he's involved in the game. I think that's the next phase for his game."

Golden projects to be the No. 1 point guard after backing up senior Melvin Goins last season. Obviously, his ability to run the offense and provide on-the-ball defense is critical to any success the Vols might have. Martin is cautiously optimistic, based on what Golden showed earlier this spring.

"He looked good in workouts," the new coach said. "But a lot of guys can look good in individual workouts. We'll find out more in September what guys are really made of."

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