KNOXVILLE - Jeronne Maymon's return to the basketball court appears anything but imminent.
Since suffering a setback in his recovery from a knee injury, the Tennessee forward has yet to resume running, and a comeback to the court doesn't seem near.
Now coach Cuonzo Martin is acknowledging that his most important player's season is in jeopardy.
Such rumblings have continued for weeks, but after remaining relatively guarded in discussing Maymon's status, Martin opened up about the All-SEC senior's prospects of a return.
"As we get into January, it's one of those deals [where] we sit down with Jeronne Maymon, training staff, doctors and his family and make a decision," Martin said before the Volunteers practiced Thursday in preparation for tonight's game against Western Carolina.
Asked to elaborate on that decision, Martin said it involves a variety of scenarios that included Maymon possibly taking a medical redshirt this season.
"We've talked about every scenario," he said. "We didn't sit around for five or six months. We'll talk about every case and scenario, and then we'll make a decision at the right time.
"He's open to everything. He wants to do what's best for the team."
As a junior last season, Maymon averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, though that only exhibits part of his value to the Vols. Martin has referred to Maymon as a blueprint for his program, the kind of gritty, physical and hard-nosed player the coach wants. He was the most consistent offensive option when Martin's first team searched for its identity last season.
The Vols have looked lost offensively at times this season, especially in losses to Oklahoma State, Georgetown and Virginia when they shot poorly and struggled to score 40 points. Opponents have thrown double and triple teams at Jarnell Stokes, who's in his first full year of college basketball after enrolling midseason a year ago, when the hulking sophomore forward touches the ball in the post.
Since he's not resumed running or any other on-court activity, Maymon returning and propelling the Vols to the high expectations from the preseason has seemed increasingly less likely.
"For me, 100 percent, that means he's practicing, competing, body's healthy and not trying to get in shape," Martin said. "All of the above is 100 percent. That means he can compete in a game and play 30 minutes.
"It's not a case of, 'OK, the knee looks healthy, now let's get him in shape.' I wouldn't bring him out if there's a month left of the season. I wouldn't do that to Jeronne."
Martin said there's no target date for the Vols to make a decision on Maymon's season. After tonight's game, Tennessee hosts Xavier and Memphis before opening SEC play against Ole Miss in Knoxville on Jan. 9. Though the Vols have enough to make a run at reaching the NCAA tournament, they certainly miss Maymon in many ways.
"No decisions have been made as we speak," Martin said. "We'll find out and figure out the best case scenario for Jeronne Maymon first and foremost."