"I don't think we're 100 percent ready but we're very close," junior post Kenny Hall said recently. "It's about putting everything together and building our chemistry together."
Because Martin is a new coach with a new system, Tennessee's upperclassmen are just as much in learning mode as the freshmen. Further leveling the playing field is the fact that most of the Vol veterans played sparingly last season.
"We have a lot of new players — we're all new players — so it's just getting out there on the floor ourselves because we haven't been out there," Hall said.
Making the adjustment to a new coaching regime a little easier is the new head man's directness. By all accounts Cuonzo Martin leaves no room for misinterpretation.
"He keeps everything simple," Hall said. "He tells us exactly what he expects from us, on and off the floor, how he wants things done. If he says 'I want you to jump seven and a half times,' he wants seven and a half jumps. If he says, 'Touch the goal 10 times,' he wants 10 times."
Martin encourages frequent communication between players and staff. This was a little difficult in August, though, when he spent several weeks assisting the USA national squad as it competed at the World University Games in China.
Hall admitted that he still spoke with his coach "a little bit but not too much," adding: "China ... that's kind of hefty on your phone bill."
The Vols cannot yet practice under supervision as a team but they can get together for "open gym" workouts without coaches present. They also can visit the weight room whenever the mood strikes them.
"A lot of us are doing stuff on our own," Hall said. "We'll call open gyms. Some players are lifting, doing their own conditioning, their own personal workouts."
To build team chemistry, the Vols try to work out as a group whenever possible. This requires some planning, of course.
"We'll text each other asking what times would you feel like running," Hall said. "When it's all said and done, Cam (senior Cameron Tatum) is the one that has the final say-so, so he's pretty much the one that organizes it."
Naturally, the Vols play a lot of pickup games. Choosing sides sometimes resembles a miniature version of the NBA Draft.
"We pick two captains," Hall said with a laugh, "and they're the general managers for the day."