Tennessee Vols begin a new era with head coach Rick Barnes

KNOXVILLE — The Tennessee basketball team returned to Pratt Pavilion on Tuesday for practice No. 4 of the 2015-16 preseason.

One things fan can expect to see out of this year’s team is an extremely well-conditioned group of athletes playing an up-tempo but disciplined brand of basketball.

When it comes to offense, “playing fast” may be an understatement.

“If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it to them a thousand times — I don’t want to run what people call `offense,'” Barnes said. “We `run’ offense in our transition game. That’s what we want to do. Get down the floor quick, and I want to score early and often, if we can. But if not, there’s a flow level there that we have to have.

“But believe me, I’d be fine trying to play with a 24-second clock.”

With the roster lacking a great deal of size, Barnes believes this team can turn its speed into an advantage.

“I’m still getting adjusted to that,” senior guard Kevin Punter said. “They want the ball pushed (up the floor in) seven seconds and (then get) a shot up. Sometimes I have a hard time because I’ve always moved at a certain pace. But they just want me to go.”

In practice drills, the team has worked on running the floor and establishing offensive spacing in four seconds or less. While simply “running the floor” has been acceptable during most of these players’ careers, they must now make max-effort sprints up and down the court the new norm.

However, before being able to play fast efficiently, the players have to condition their minds to see things in slow motion, understanding and anticipating how plays may develop.

“I think all these guys would tell you the biggest adjustment they’ve had to make is from the mental side,” Barnes said. “We’re very demanding mentally. We want the details taken care of.

“So I think, for (the players), being on edge mentally has probably been the biggest adjustment for all of them.”

It’s an adjustment that has been made easier by the staff’s willingness to spend as much time as is necessary to ensure each player knows precisely what is expected of them.

“Everybody has to learn their roles, and that’s going to take time,” senior Armani Moore said. “But I definitely think our coaches are willing to put the work in just as much as (the players) are.”


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