Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall got what he wanted out of his first skills session with his new team on Monday night.
“Guys had great energy,” Tyndall said. “Guys were coachable. Everybody really tried hard, and we didn’t have one guy who got tired and didn’t try to push himself through fatigue. The first day was a lot of technique and teaching, and you’re talking about guys having to learn a new system and new terminology. But the effort and energy was there.”
The group included returning players Josh Richardson, Armani Moore, Robert Hubbs and Derek Reese along with six of the eight players Tyndall and his assistants signed during their first month on the job. Post players Tariq Owens, a 6-10 freshman, and Eric McKnight, a 6-9 graduate transfer, will join the team in the Summer Two session.
“Josh Richardson was good,” Tyndall said. “Amani Moore, his effort and energy level was 10 out of 10. You can see that Hubbs is athletic, and the guy who showed me a little more pop and grit than maybe I thought was Derek Reese. He’s more athletic than I anticipated.”
Asked which of his newcomers stood out, Tyndall didn’t hesitate.
“One guy really stood out tonight,” he said. “Willie Carmichael. He’s a raw, raw dude offensively. He’s not going to pick and pop, or fake, take one dribble and make a 15-footer. But you talk about a guy who tries to get his hands on everything and dunk it. He plays hard, has great hands, and just tries to keep the ball alive.”
Carmichael’s focus during the summer will be to bulk up. At nearly 6-8, he weighs only about 182 pounds. Tyndall would like him to get to 205 by the time school starts in August. NCAA rules allow the Vols to receive eight hours of supervised coaching a week during the summer, six of it involving strength training and conditioning.
Tennessee’s two junior college transfers also caught Tyndall’s attention. Kevin Punter, 6-4, showed the old school game for which he’s known.
“He’s a guy that just has that knack of getting it in the basket,” Tyndall said. “He’s got a nice midrange game, he’s athletic off two feet and he should be able to draw fouls. He’s got a nice first step, and his handle is good.”
Tyndall searched for comparisons from among a group of former NBA players to explain Punter’s jump shot.
“Very Andrew Toney-ish, or Vinny Johnson,” Tyndall said. “He cocks his shot back behind his head a little bit, which isn’t ideal. But on the flip side of that, it allows him to get it over bigger guys. Just enough room to create some space.”
Devon Baulkman, who once scored 48 points in a junior college game, showed some of his offensive skill on Monday.
“He’s can really shoot the ball,” Tyndall said. “He’s got range to 22 feet, and he’s also athletic. He’s a guy that’s eager to please. He’s so appreciative of the opportunity to play at Tennessee, and prove he can compete in the SEC.”