KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee men’s basketball team has gotten along just fine without Jeronne Maymon.
The Volunteers are 6-0 and rose to No. 11 in this week’s Associated Press poll and No. 2 in the current RPI standings without the 6-foot-7, 258-pound, left-handed sophomore forward transfer from Marquette.
Still, no one seems to be upset that the big-bodied, former four-star recruit could suit up for UT in Saturday’s game at third-ranked Pittsburgh (9-0).
Maymon said he finished his last fall semester final exam Tuesday morning, and he hopes to have all his grades posted by Thursday at the latest. If his grades are in order — as expected — he’ll be eligible to play against the powerful Panthers.
“He’s like a junkyard dog,” senior center Brian Williams said of Maymon. “He gets rebounds over 7-footers. He’s tough down there. Defensively, he’s going to bring something that we really need, and that’s toughness.”
Vols coach Bruce Pearl and several more players all used that same word to describe Maymon: “toughness.”
“He’s going to bring us a level of toughness and physicality,” Pearl said. “I think our guys have got confidence in him.”
Of course, the Vols also have plenty of confidence in the players who already have been on the floor this season. UT has struggled against some teams it probably should have pounded, but it also beat then-No. 7 Villanova in Madison Square Garden to win the NIT Season Tip-Off championship — the Vols’ first tournament championship under Pearl.
“It does effect your chemistry a little bit. It does,” Pearl said. “I think that if Jeronne and Tobias [Harris] are my two best 4 men, they’ll play there. But Steven Pearl’s been a really effective player, and so where does that move him to? Can he be as effective at the 3 as he is at the 4? That’s going to be one of the things that we’ll watch for.
“We’re deep, and it’s not like we’re trying to get deeper. It’s a good problem to have, to see how it affects the chemistry.”
Several players said Tuesday night they had no reservations about adding Maymon to the rotation, provided he practices as well now as he has during his one-year transfer period.
“A team probably can [have too much talent], but I think he understands where he needs to find his niche in this offense,” junior guard Scotty Hopson said. “He’s finding it every day in practice, and you can see that when he sticks to his strengths and play-calls and he gets the ball in certain positions, he’s successful. I think if he sticks to that and sticks to the continuity of our offense, he’ll be fine.”
Hopson said Maymon “just complements our system really well.”
“We’re a team that’s trying to find a niche, and I think the niche we want to find is defense and rebounding,” Hopson said. “I think he brings physicality to the defense, and a rebounding ability that we need on this basketball team to be successful and win games. He’s been playing hard up to this point, and I’m looking forward to seeing him on the basketball floor with us.
“I know he’s going to bring that energy for us off the bench, or maybe as a starter. Whatever his position is, I know he’s going to bring energy for us.”
“It’s just going to bring more competition to practice, and that’s what it should do,” Williams said. “I’m not a coach, and I have no decision on who plays and who doesn’t. That’s on Coach Pearl, but obviously whoever’s producing in practice and producing in games is going to be out there.”