Toughness focus for Vols' Jeronne Maymon

Toughness focus for Vols' Jeronne Maymon

February 8th, 2012 by Patrick Brown in Sports - College

Memphis' Chris Crawford, left, and Will Barton, right, defend as Tennessee's Jeronne Maymon (34) goes to the basket in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Memphis' Chris Crawford, left, and Will Barton, right,...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE - Jeronne Maymon could focus on providing the consistent offense Tennessee needs from him every basketball game, but that wouldn't jibe with his coach's demands.

The Volunteers' leading rebounder has identified otherwise where he thinks he best can help his team.

"I don't think it's so much being asked to score," Maymon said. "I just think it's about going out there and trying to lead, in a way. Play tough defense, talk and be vocal -- that's all Coach [Cuonzo] Martin really stresses. He really doesn't stress point totals."

If there was any Vol to whom the defensive-minded Martin would stress offense, it's Maymon. Whether with an entry pass to him on the block or off a screen, the 6-foot-7 junior touches the ball as much offensively as any player on the team. That's become especially true in SEC play, where the Wisconsin native and Marquette transfer has scored 12 to 15 points in all eight games.

There's no reason to expect Maymon's consistency and efficiency to end tonight when UT hosts South Carolina. The last time the Vols played an offensively challenged team that plays mostly zone on defense, Maymon scored 15 points and pulled down 19 rebounds against Auburn.

He's shooting 59 percent and averaging 8.4 rebounds in league play.

"He's probably at 75 or 80 percent of where he will be when it's all said and done," Martin said. "He continues to get better. We'll use him more as we go, especially into next season, being more on the perimeter, handling the ball, making decisions. He's good at that and continues to get better.

"He has a chance to be one of the best because of his ability to go inside, outside, attack the rim, putting pressure on the defense. And when he's shooting those free throws at 75 percent plus, he's just too tough to guard."

Maymon is shooting 64 percent from the foul line this season, but he made nine of 12 free throws in Saturday's against Georgia. His bruising style draws plenty of contact, which gets him to the stripe and puts opponents' big men in foul trouble. Maymon doesn't have the longest arms, but his unique style has produced all season.

Both player and coach insist there's room for Maymon to improve. Since last season, he has developed his right hand and greatly improved his ball-handling to the point where he hardly resembles the seldom-used turnover machine he was last season. There's one aspect in particular Martin would like Maymon to add to his arsenal.

"The 3-point shot at the top of the key," he said, "because of how we play with the high-low offense, the motion offense, the ball-screen offense. Now you can really stretch the defense and so some of the things we like to do. That's the biggest key.

"He works on it, but it's just a matter of him having the confidence and feeling good about it."

Martin said it took him until his third year at Purdue to develop the confidence required to take that shot. Maymon spends a lot of time before and after practices working on his jump shot, but the left-hander admits he doesn't yet have the confidence to take it in a game. Given his free-throw line struggles and high trajectory of his shot, it may be some time before he gets there.

Until then, though, he'll stick to his bread and butter, which is attacking from the blocks and controlling the glass. That approach is working fairly well for him.

"Coach Martin loves tough guys and guys that go out there and play their heart out," he said. "That's mainly what I'm about."