KNOXVILLE – Junior swingman Jordan McRae doesn’t blame senior forward Jeronne Maymon for taking a redshirt that will make 2011-12's second-leading scorer and leading rebounder miss the rest of the season so that he can return for a full 2013-14 campaign.
“Being out for that long, I would just rather have a whole year,” McRae said when asked what he would do if forced into Maymon’s recent predicament.
Maymon officially decided on Sunday that he would sit out the rest of this season due to a slow recovery from a left knee surgery last summer that has kept him out of action thus far. The senior will then return next season with the hope of having a complete, healthy final campaign.
It’s a decision that hinders Tennessee’s chance at success in 2012-13, but it was a choice that coach Cuonzo Martin said had to come down to what was best for Maymon.
“You have to look out for the well-being of the young man and then you go from there,” Martin said at his weekly Monday press conference. “I feel like that was the best thing. I felt that all along, but I had to allow him to make the decision and feel good about making the decision.”
Martin thinks Maymon won't be able to return to practice until late January, and by the time he got into game shape, there wouldn’t be enough time left in the season to justify him using a year of eligibility.
Martin also said he didn’t anticipate this process taking as long as it did, but he also never takes recovery from surgery lightly, saying there’s no such thing as a minor surgical procedure. The operation on Maymon’s left knee occurred in early June of 2012.
With that decision out of the way, the Vols (8-4) must now switch gears to prepare for an SEC schedule that begins on Wednesday against Ole Miss (11-2). The Vols have played without Maymon all season, but they must now deal with the reality that he’s not coming back this year in any capacity.
“You lose a level of mental and physical toughness,” Martin said of not having Maymon. “He's a tremendous leader, a great IQ guy, a really good facilitator on the floor that makes decisions for you but also holds guys accountable. I think every team would like to have one or two leaders and I think he brings that to the table regardless if he is scoring or not … You are also talking about one of the best defenders in this league."
McRae, who found out the news about Maymon via Twitter on Sunday night, said the team can’t easily replace his production, but will still reap the benefits of him being at practice.
“I don’t think it’s so much of a letdown because we’ve been practicing and preparing as if he wasn’t going to come back,” McRae said. “And Jeronne, even though he’s not playing, he’s still a huge part of our team. He’s always talking. He’s like another coach out there for us.”
Injury update: Though Maymon is out, Martin expects to get junior swingman D’Montre Edwards (knee) and freshman swingman Derek Reese (ankle) back against Ole Miss on Wednesday.
Martin said Reese, who scored seven points in his collegiate debut against Xavier on Dec. 29, has returned to practice, but has been held out of any contact work.
Point guard Trae Golden, who has been wearing a brace on his shoulder, has only made one of his last 16 attempts from the field.
“I don't think it's bothering him,” Martin said of Golden’s shoulder. “I think it’s just him shooting the basketball. I don't think it's a lack of confidence – he has the green light and shoots the most balls on the team. We need him to score the ball. But you would have to ask him."
Daniel Lewis covers University of Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.