CLEVELAND, Tenn.—Cuonzo Martin’s options were limited because of the time frame.
Tennessee’s new basketball coach had to make something happen late in this year’s recruiting cycle to fill out his roster and avoid potentially heading into next season with a limited number of available scholarship players.
He’s done just that, adding three new signees. But none of them are taller than 6-foot-5.
“There’s a lot of 6-8s and 6-9s out there,” Martin said before speaking at the Big Orange Caravan’s second stop Thursday at the Cleveland Country Club, “but the key is the type of guy we’re looking for and a guy we think can help us. I think the key is having good players more than anything, whether it’s size or guards.
“I think if they’re big guys and they’re good, that’s one thing. Even if you’ve got guards, they have to be good. It’s probably tougher to find really good big guys this late in the game as opposed to finding a quality guard, because I think there’s so few big guys. It seems like that’s the case every year.”
The Volunteers already had signed 6-1 point guard Wes Washpun (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and 6-5 wing Josh Richardson (Edmond, Okla.) when Quinton Chievous, a 6-5 wing out of Notre Dame High School near Chicago, announced he would sign Thursday afternoon with UT, according to multiple reports.
Chievous, the son of Derrick Cheivous, who is Missouri’s all-time scoring leader and played three years in the NBA after being selected with the 16th pick in 1988 draft, averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game this past season. Given the limited pool of available players, Martin stressed multiple times that he wasn’t taking players just to fill out his roster.
“If they’re quality pieces,” he said Thursday. “I think that’s the biggest key. It’s more substance this time of year than actual talent level, because I don’t know how much you can find from a talent standpoint this late in the game. If you can get a quality guy with some character and some substance and has the ability to be a good player, that’s what you’re looking for.”
The three late additions do put Martin at his desired number of 10 scholarship players, assuming Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson remain available for the NBA draft. They have until Sunday at midnight to finalize their decision to remain in the draft or return to school.
Harris’s stock has seen a slight bump since his freshman season ended, as the forward has crept closer to becoming a lottery pick (the first 14 picks). ESPN’s Chad Ford moved Harris, who has chiseled and toned his 6-8 frame with a rigorous offseason workout schedule, to No. 16 on his big board this week and had him going 22nd to Denver in his Thursday mock draft. Hopson consistently has been a second-round pick in most projections.
“Both of those guys are NBA players. It’s just a matter of when, in my opinion,” said Martin, who indicated neither had reached a final decision. “I think those guys are NBA players any day of the week, it’s just a matter of when, what team and how long they’re in the NBA.”
Along with Harris, the Vols’ tallest players are 6-9 swingman Renaldo Woolridge and 6-8 center Kenny Hall. Woolridge played 72 total minutes in eight games all of last season, and Hall averaged two points and two rebounds in seven minutes per game.
“He’s done a really good job in workouts in my opinion,” Martin said of Hall, “just really moving, really jumping, shooting the ball, playing hard. He’s done a good job in the weight room, so I’ve been really impressed with Kenny.”
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 ...