KNOXVILLE - Defending, rebounding, scoring and running the offense.
The list of responsibilities for the point guard under new Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin is long, and sophomore Trae Golden understands the role's importance.
"I'm in a sense whatever I need to be," Golden said at the Volunteers' media day inside Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday. "I think Coach Martin knows that, and I think that he just wants me to always be in attack mode and make those right plays. I think that he's going to want to me to score, but he's also going to want me to pass. It's just whatever the team needs."
Martin has stressed hard-nosed defense during individual workout sessions with the new-look Vols, who begin practice officially on Friday. UT will use a motion offense this season, and the point guard must run a complex offense that features different screens and movements, though Martin said his staff must simplify it in their first season.
Martin has yet to settle on a starting five, but Golden, who was the backup to Melvin Goins for most of last season, appears the favorite to start a point guard. Freshmen Wes Washpun and Josh Richardson are also in the mix.
"I want our point guard to score the ball," Martin said. "The first thing they look to do is attack the basket coming off a ball screen. The defense dictates how you play from there, but their first instinct is to score the ball."
That should suit Golden well. He scored more than 2,000 points at Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern High School and earned the Georgia Mr. Basketball award as a senior when he scored 30 points per game. He scored three points per game in 13 minutes last season at UT, though he shot less than 30 percent from the field.
Martin's point guard has to do much more, especially on defense. With three players crashing the glass looking for rebounds, the point guard becomes a pivotal on-ball defender in transition defense.
"We say it all the time: the toughest guy on our team is the point guard because he has to guard that ball," Martin said. "It starts with picking the ball up fullcourt for 40 minutes. It allows our wing guys to press out on the wings and defend how we want to defend."
Martin has discussed it with Golden, though the conversation wasn't necessary.
"He's definitely talked to me about that," he said. "It's just being tough and being extension of [Martin] on the court, but also he doesn't even need to talk to me about it. You can just tell from our practices that he expects a lot of the point guards. I feel like he's really tough on me, and that's something that has helped make me better."