Freshman Armani Moore had something in common with fans attending Tennessee's 99-57 exhibition defeat of Victory University earlier this week: Both kept checking out the JumboTron.
"It's kind of funny how (in high school) you sit around the living room and watch Tennessee on television and stuff, see instant replays played on the JumboTron," Moore recalled. "It's kind of overwhelming actually seeing myself being replayed on the JumboTron. It's very exciting."
When he wasn't watching himself on the JumboTron, Moore was turning in a pretty solid debut performance before the home fans. The 6-foot-5 rookie sank four of five shots from the floor, most on nifty drives. He hit three of six free throws, grabbed four rebounds, blocked a shot and tied for the team lead with three steals.
"It was very exciting playing in front of the fans for the first time," he said. "I thought it was very overwhelming at first. As I got comfortable, though, I felt a little better being on the court, running the team and stuff."
Running the team was a new experience for Moore, who played mostly wing in high school. He didn't record an assist but he took care of the ball, committing just one turnover in 20 relief minutes behind starting point guard Trae Golden.
"I thought he did a good job," Golden said. "Obviously, he needs to make sure he knows his position and everybody else's."
Moore was handicapped a bit in that he was playing alongside two other newcomers, juco transfer D'montre Edwards and redshirt freshman Quinton Chievous.
"He was out there with D'Montre (Edwards) and Q, and they're new, too," Golden noted. "I get the luxury of having Josh (Richardson) and Skylar (McBee), who have been out there before. Armani just needs to make sure he lets everybody know where they need to be. Once he does that everything will start clicking for him much better. He just needs to stay aggressive, and it'll come to him."
Cuonzo Martin thought Moore's performance was pretty good for a guy making his first appearance in Thompson-Boling Arena.
"I thought it was solid," Tennessee's head coach said. "I thought in the first half he was forcing it off the dribble. He's a physical player who loves to attack off the bounce but I thought he was overaggressive, driving when there weren't many lanes to get into. The second half he took what the defense gave and stopped trying to be aggressive when there was nothing there."
Junior wing Jordan McRae noticed the same thing.
"Armani's real aggressive," McRae said. "As soon as he knows more about when to attack he's going to be a great player for us."
Martin is all about defense, and Moore exhibits the long arms, agility and determination to be an excellent defender. Three steals in 20 minutes versus Victory suggests as much.
"Coach Martin just basically wants you to be aggressive but not foul jump shooters," Moore said. "It's little things like that on defense that he expects us to know and do."
Moore played his senior season of high school ball at Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, Ga. As fate would have it, tonight's opener is against his hometown university, Kennesaw State. He says he isn't nervous.
"No. I feel like as a basketball player there's no need to be nervous anymore," he said. "I've played in two games (a scrimmage against Georgia Tech in Chattanooga and the exhibition game versus Victory in Knoxville), so now it's all about going out there and being aggressive, making smart plays."
And not getting too caught up in watching the JumboTron.
GAME NOTES: Tennessee is 42-2 in home openers and has won 13 in a row. The Vols should make it 14 in a row tonight because Kennessee State returns just two starters from a team that went 3-28 last season. The Owls' best player is Markeith Cummings, who is 81 points from becoming the program's career scoring leader.... Tennessee stands 16-5 all-time against teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference, of which Kennesaw State is a member.... All four players who missed Tennessee's exhibition game against Victory remain sidelined — Jeronne Maymon (knee), Dwight Miller (knee), Derek Reese (shoulder) and Rob Murphy (nose). Tipoff for tonight's game is 7 o'clock.