Cuanzo Martin begins his second season as head coach of the UT Men’s basketball team this year. Martin was hired in 2011 to take over after the firing of embattled Coach Bruce Pearl.
During his first season with the Vols, Martin found himself in the unenviable position of having to explain his losses almost as often as reveling in victory. The Vols posted a 19-15 record for the season bringing Martin’s career record to 80 wins and 54 losses for a .597 win ratio.
Martin is well qualified to take the Vols to victory having played from 1991-1997 for Perdue University, the Vancouver Grizzlies and the Milwaukee Bucks.
As a coach, Martin led Missouri to an MVC Regular Season Championship in 2011. After three seasons at Missouri State, Martin was hired as the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers where he assumed the role on March 27, 2011. He became the fifth Division I head coach to come out of the Gene Keady coaching tree, following Bruce Weber, Steve Lavin, Kevin Stallings and Matt Painter.
Headlining Martin’s list of potential recruits is East High School forward Nick King, who is currently ranked 15th overall by both ESPN and Rivals. The 6’6”, 210 pound rising senior was invited by the National Basketball Players Association to attend its Top 100 camp and has received scholarship offers from Georgetown, Arkansas, Auburn, Marquette, Oklahoma State and Memphis.
Slightly behind King in the national rankings is power forward Johnathan Williams, III (16th in ESPN100, 17th in Rivals). Unlike King, who has only recently become a highly sought after recruit, Williams has drawn attention for several years for his versatility at the power forward position and was named one of the standout players (along with Shabazz Muhammad) by ESPN in the Elite Athletic Training All-American Clinic before his sophomore season in 2010.
To recruit Williams, though, Martin will face stiff competition from powerhouse programs Michigan State, Florida, UConn, UCLA, Georgetown and Texas which are among a long list of schools that have joined Tennessee and Memphis in extending scholarships to the rising senior.
If Martin manages to land either or both Williams and King, it would be a defining moment in his young career in Knoxville. Realistically, though, the Vols’ second-year coach has a considerable chance of landing Memphis area players JaJuan Johnson and Markel Crawford from recruiters at Memphis State.
In 2012, the Vols’ success on the court will depend largely on Martin’s success off the court in his efforts in recruiting top talent. Martin is off to a good start.
By Michael Williams