KNOXVILLE - Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin certainly wishes forward Jeronne Maymon was available for the start of the season.
When the Volunteers do tip the season off in four days, though, they'll be a little familiar with playing without their second-leading scorer and top rebounder from last season. Maymon is sidelined by a slow recovery from his second knee surgery during the offseason.
"I don't have an exact timetable, but I know he won't be ready for the first game," Martin said last week. "When you're talking about a caliber guy like Jeronne Maymon, the leadership skills, the talent level, the way he plays on both ends of the floor -- that's a tough loss for any team. It's more or less what he brings to the table on and off the court.
"The thing with not having him here right now and not being in practice, you get a chance to play without him. If you have games, and all of the sudden he misses five games where he's already been in the rotation, that's tough because it's a major adjustment and it's hard to bounce back. Since he hasn't been in a lot of practice situations, guys have a chance to really make some adjustments."
In addition to all of preseason practice, Tennessee scrimmaged Georgia Tech at McKenzie Arena a week ago without him. Though NCAA rules prohibit coaches and players from discussing the specifics of the closed scrimmage, a couple of people inside the program said the Vols comfortably controlled the tuneup.
Martin stressed after the scrimmage that the Vols need to ensure forward Jarnell Stokes sees plenty of touches. The preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection might be the Vols' go-to guy on offense with or without Maymon. The 6-foot-8, 270-pound sophomore is physically more impressive than he was in his first half-season and possesses a newfound love of scoring in the post in addition to his ability to facilitate an offense from the block.
Other options include Kenny Hall, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound senior who likely steps into the starting lineup in Maymon's place.
"Kenny's been playing well anyway," Martin said. "Taking a spot, I think he's earned it right now at the level he's playing at. Kenny's played really well right now."
Redshirt freshman Quinton Chievous gives Tennessee the option of playing an smaller lineup. Though only 6-foot-5, Martin likes Chievous' toughness and noted his improved perimeter shot.
"It's tough for big guys to guard him because he moves and he has spacing and you have to defend him at the 3-point line," Martin said. "He's also a better post player than most big guys as far as offensive production. He does create a lot of mismatch problems for big guys, especially when his shot is going.
"We defend fronting the post and you might have an advantage, but how he fronts and going up against Jarnell and those guys every day, it helps him out."
Tennessee's lone exhibition game is tonight against Victory University, a small Christian school from Memphis, and the season opener is Friday against Kennesaw State.
"Jeronne's a big part of what we do," point guard Trae Golden said. "We're still going to be a good team. Missing him is key, but we're going to be able to hold it down without him.
"You can never really make up for him, but you can try to fill that spot and that's what we're going to do."