Tennessee men's basketball head coach Cuonzo Martin shifted his focus from the court to the golf course on Friday with his inaugural Cuonzo Classic Golf Tournament.
The 18-hole tournament took place at Williams Creek Golf Course. Proceeds from the event went to United Way, a cause Martin grew up benefiting from and eventually found a niche in Knoxville alongside Vols radio announcer Bob Kesling.
"With the United Way, Bob Kesling really got me involved with it and made me understand the importance of it," Martin said. "It made me really think back to growing up in east St. Louis and the impact United Way had on my life. I didn't understand what it was when I was a little guy."
Martin said the focus on giving back to the community resonates with his players, who make regular trips to the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and local hospitals.
"We do a lot of things that go behind the scenes and we don't allow the media to get involved, because I want our guys to understand how genuine sometimes you need to be," he said. "You need to be insightful in what goes on with these young men and women, especially when you go into the hospitals.
"One thing I'll say about our players – they do a tremendous job in being around the little kids and impacting their lives and having fun with them. They take pride in that."
As for how his players are doing on the court, Martin offered an insightful view of how this offseason has been different from a skill standpoint.
"You can see the level of talent," Martin said. "And one thing about talent, is that it makes guys raise their level of play. When you have at least two guys in each position, it's fun to watch."
Another year of skill and experience means the Vols can focus on chemistry and plays instead of refining the "little things," as Martin noted.
"You're not necessarily teaching the little things because the skill level raises your level," he said.
The Vols started organized team workouts on Sunday, with four days a week on the practice court and the other three days working in the weight room. As the team kicks off the 2013 season, Martin gave an indication that spirits are quite high in the locker room.
"They feel like they have one of the best teams in the country, so they want to go out and prove it and show it," Martin said. "With the addition of some new guys to our program, it's going to be fun."
After wear and tear got to the Vols last season with the absence of now-healthy Jeronne Maymon and injuries across the board, Martin sees a newfound depth on this year's squad and acknowledged managing that will be crucial in this upcoming season.
"(Last year), some guys had to play a lot of minutes because of lineups and personnel, and certain guys weren't ready to play," he said. "But I think we have to get guys' minutes down so they can be a lot more productive as far as their play."
After starting the past few regular seasons out with a handful of cupcake matchups against mid-majors, the Vols open up 2013-14 on the road at Xavier on Nov. 12. Despite the early test, Martin sees some fight in his current squad.
"We have a team that's built to go on the road and play a game like that in your first game of the season," Martin said.
"We have experience, we have talent and our guys are excited for that atmosphere."
UT announced Tuesday that the season-opening matchup with Xavier will air at 9 p.m. on Fox Sports 1.