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SEC Headlines – 6/23/11 Part Three

1.  Georgia’s Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins hope to hear their names called tonight.

2.  There hasn’t been a first round NBA draft pick from Ole Miss or Mississippi State since 1996.  Ouch.

3.  MSU’s football program has earned the respect of many preseason magazine writers.

4.  Spot the theme: UT hoopster Cameron Tatum wants to be a better leader…

5.  And so does UT hoopster Renaldo Woolridge.

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So Far So Good For Martin And New UT Team

While many Tennessee fans continue to wonder how someone named Cuonzo Martin came from off-the-radar to Knoxville, it sounds like the coach’s players are giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“It’s been pretty smooth,” center Kenny Hall said of the transition from Bruce Pearl to Martin.  “We’ve all had our own individual meetings with the coaches and we’re all pretty confident what they have in store for us.  It’s a brand new everything, a brand new slate.  It could be beneficial to everybody.”

That’s one reason Vol players might be happy with Martin’s arrival.  It’s no secret that last year’s team had chemistry issues.  That much was admitted by Pearl.  And some of those chemistry issues were tied to playing time.  Therefore, guys who felt they should have been on the court last year may look at Martin’s hiring as an opportunity to grab the the minutes they were lacking.

Cameron Tatum says that Martin’s background is also aiding in the buy-in process.  “With his personality, I think a lot of the players are optimistic and eager to see what we can do under his lead and the things that he brings to the table.  He has that background of being where everybody on this team wants to go (the NBA).  I think everybody’s excited and opportunistic about the opportunity to play for somebody that has been there and done that and willing to listen and see what he can teach us.”

Make no mistake, however, Martin’s ability to get his players — and Vol fans — to believe might be out of his control during his first year.  If Tobias Harris and Scotty Hopson return, UT should have a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament next season, which would do wonders for buy-in.  If those two don’t return, well, then Martin will be trying to win folks over with a roster that might be one of the worst in the SEC.

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Pearl Felt “Helpless” Watching UT Lose On TV

Suspended by the SEC for misleading NCAA investigators, Bruce Pearl was forced to sit in a Fayetteville hotel and watch his Tennessee team lose to Arkansas 68-65 on television Saturday.  So how rough was that for the coach?

“It was harder because you felt pretty helpless during the game,” Pearl said.  “I took notes the whole game.”

Pearl flew back to Knoxville with the team but did not address the squad until landing back in the Volunteer State.  For their part, his players sounded as though they’ve taken the loss to the Razorbacks hard.

“I could tell by the way coach was walking when I first saw him after the game he was disappointed,” Cameron Tatum told The Knoxville News Sentinel.  “We let him down.  That was a game we should have won and sent a message that we were going to back up our coach.”

Brian Williams also felt bad for not giving assistant coach Tony Jones a victory in his first game in the captain’s chair.  “We let Coach Jones down after he put a lot of work into the scout and getting us prepared.  We don’t want to let our coaches down or our fans down.”

The Volunteers — once 7-0 — are now 10-5 and host Florida and Vanderbilt this week.  Pearl will again be in front of a television for both games.

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