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June 26, 2013

A summer full of makes

Cuonzo Martin's Tennessee basketball team didn't believe the summer project he had for them when they first heard the number. He told them to believe it.

The theory was simple. Make shots. The number seemed unrealistic. Make 30,000 shots.

And do it before August 10.

"Your first thought is, 'Oh my God,' Armani Moore said Wednesday, after scoring 41 points in a Rocky Top League win at Christian Academy of Knoxville.

"Coach Martin is just building up our minds."

To help in that build up - and help with the math - Martin gave his players a pen and a notebook. The rest was up to them.

"We push ourselves," Moore said. "I mean, really, some people might look at that (number) and say that's ridiculous."

But it's not ridiculous, it's reality.

So far, Moore said, he's somewhere around 5,000 shots made as June winds down, leaving him roughly six weeks to make 25,000 shots.

"I have a long way to go," he said, before adding that, if he had to guess, Jordan McRae had probably made more shots than anyone so far.

Moore's came a long way during his first year in Knoxville.

The Rivals 3-Star prospect missed out on the Rocky Top League last summer after not enrolling in classes until the second summer session.

When the dust settled on his freshman basketball season, Moore had made 16 starts and played in 30 of 33 games. He averaged 13.2 minutes per game and just over two points per outing.

But what the stat line doesn't list is what Moore says he picked up the most in his transition to the college game.

"I think the biggest part of it is I've become more confident in what I do," Moore said. "I think that's the biggest part."

He started 13 of 17 Southeastern Conference games, mostly serving as the fourth guard in Martin's four-guard lineup.

He logged a career-high 29 minutes in a loss at Ole Miss, where he led Tennessee with rebounds (8), assists (3) and blocks (3).

He had 11 rebounds against Mississippi State, scored a season-high eight points in Tennessee's 30-point win over Kentucky and ended the year ranked fourth among SEC freshmen in blocks per game, 10th in steals and 11th in rebounding.

"At first I came out and tried to do a little too much," he said. "I just had to understand, I won't say my role, but when to take shots, when not to take shots. Little things like that."

Now, in a summer full of made shots, he's trying to find where he fits in with a new-look Tennessee team that should see the return of Jeronne Maymon, along with a All-SEC Player of the Year candidate in McRae, Jarnell Stokes and his Rocky Top League teammate, Josh Richardson.

Added to the mix are 2013 signees Darius Thompson, Robert Hubbs, A.J. Davis and 'Pops' Ndiaye.

All those names don't leave a lot of room for a four-guard starting five.

"We have a lot to figure out in practice, who can do what, what the roles are," Moore said. "(Martin) will figure that out, that's his job as coach.

"What he tells us we need to do, that's what we're going to do."

Including making 30,000 shots before the fall semester rolls around.


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