While the majority of the children in attendance at the Volunteer S.H.O.T. Clinic will most likely not end up pursuing any NBA hoop dreams, they spent the evening being treated like future stars by head coach Cuonzo Martin and seven UT basketball players who made the trek down from Knoxville.
“It’s a fun time for our guys. They appreciate doing this and they understand the importance of representing the University of Tennessee. It’s great for those guys and it’s great for our program,” Martin stated.
The Cleveland High Raider Dome was the place to be for basketball-loving children from kindergarten to sixth grade, as the first 75 who registered got to participate in the first stop on the second annual Statewide Hoops Outreach Tour Clinic.
Jodie Tillotson, who’s 10-year-old son Parker was a second time camp participant, feels it is wonderful that the UT players and coaches come down to work with the kids.
“He was real excited and actually did this last year when they were at Baylor,” Tillotson commented. “I think it’s pretty neat. I wonder how they chose Cleveland to do it. We’re big UT fans — my husband graduated from there and my oldest son is going for orientation this Thursday.”
For coach Martin and his staff, Cleveland’s proximity to UT provides the university with the opportunity to have a presence in the community, as well as the chance to reach out to the young people in the area.
“We sit down as a staff and figure out different communities and towns to reach out to. This is one that we felt like we hadn’t been in this area. It’s close enough to campus so we want to reach out to the young guys and let them be a part of what we have to offer,” Martin explained. “We’ll pick different spots every year just to get out and show our appreciation and love for our fans. Also, because sometimes we have a lot of young men and women that can’t afford to make it to Knoxville for a game ... we want to reach out to them.”
Currently in its second year, the S.H.O.T Clinic has been highly successful, which was evident by the 100 percent attendance at the Raider Dome.
“It’s been great and that’s why we continue to do it. Also, getting the young men and women used to it at a young age [is a positive influence] because while it might not be basketball for them, at the same time it’s still the University of Tennessee,” Martin said of the program’s success. “We wanted to find out if we could do it from an in-state standpoint and we felt like we could. It was a great thing to do. More than anything we wanted to reach out to the youth.”
Volunteers Maymon, Jordan McRae, Josh Richardson, Armani Moore, Brandon Lopez, D’Monte Edwards and Galen Campbell joined Martin and the coaches in Cleveland Tuesday evening.
“We’re teaching them the fundamentals of basketball. With coach Martin a lot of the drills we do, the kids probably won’t believe it, but we do the same things in our practice, and we’re college players. Most of the drills we teach them are the fundamentals and how to play the game,” senior guard McRae said.
The levels of excitement and anticipation of the children in attendance was palpable, and proved to be exciting even for the UT players.
“All the kids are excited, I was just playing one of the kids one-on-one and I’m out of breath a little bit,” McRae joked. “Seeing how much energy they have, how hard they’re going to play, and their motivation to be here just gives us more energy.”
For Maymon, the clinic gives the players the opportunity to get out there and interact with their youngest of fans.
“It’s real important because as a kid you always look up to the people that you watch on TV, and on the posters and jerseys that you have. I think it’s real important for us to come out here and show the kids that we care and that we’re genuine about doing this,” Maymon explained.
For clinic attendees like 10-year-old Parker Tillotson, who came with hopes of learning more about dribbling and shooting, one of the main draws is the presence of the coaches and players.
“I like how they teach you so much about basketball,” Tillotson commented.
Bart Walker, whose 7-year-old son was attending the S.H.O.T. Clinic for the first time, also appreciated the fact that the university took the time to come out and work with the kids.
“It’s a great opportunity to expose the kids to college basketball, to learn about the game and to be able to interact with some of the college players,” Walker stated while observing the clinic from the sidelines.
The local Cleveland Boys & Girls Clubs brought 28 participants out to the Raider Dome for Martin’s clinic, and according to Tucker Unit Director Britt DeBusk, Tuesday evening was a big deal for the group.
“A lot of our kids don’t know that there is something other than Cleveland,” DeBusk explained. “We want to show them that there are other places that they can go. They can go to college, they can even go play basketball in college if they work hard enough.”
The Volunteers’ stop in Cleveland also served as an opportunity to get some insight on what to expect from the team this next season.
Maymon, who was redshirted for the entire 2012-13 season due to a knee injury, commented that his knee is definitely getting better and that he cannot wait to get back out on the court this season. Expectations are mounting for the team, which Maymon freely admitted.
“We’re going to continue to be Tennessee and work hard. The expectations are expectations and whether we meet those or don’t meet those is all on us at the end of the day,” the returning fifth year senior stated.
According to McRae the team as a whole is the closest that he’s ever seen and they will continue to improve this season.
“We’re not really listening to outside sources. Our team is a very close-knit group so we will just worry about what we can handle and work on getting better,” McRae stated emphatically.
Martin feels that things are going well so far and that fans should see a talented team that continues to play hard this year.