KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee believes an NCAA tournament bid remains well within reach as it prepares to play the rest of the season without injured forward Jeronne Maymon.
Maymon, a second-team all-Southeastern Conference selection last year, hasn't played all season after having a setback in his recovery from arthroscopic surgery to his left knee. Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin announced Sunday night that Maymon would be redshirted.
The Volunteers (8-4) host Mississippi on Wednesday in their Southeastern Conference opener.
"We're still an NCAA team," senior forward Kenny Hall said. "We're still a Top 25-caliber team. We've been playing this far without him and have been doing pretty good. We've got four losses. With his contributions, we probably would have cut down at least two or three of those losses, but I still think we'll be just fine."
The decision to redshirt Maymon leaves the 6-foot-7 senior with one more year of eligibility. Maymon said Monday it has been "miserable" not to join his teammates on the floor, but he also was relieved to have this decision out of the way.
"It definitely takes a big weight off my shoulders," Maymon said. "Now I'm able to just really focus on my grades, my basketball training and getting back right."
Maymon said he decided on redshirting after the Vols' 85-80 loss to Memphis on Friday. At that point, Maymon knew he wouldn't be able to play until at least late January. Maymon didn't want to miss that many conference games when he had the option of playing a full season next year instead.
"It would have just been a hassle trying to get back and trying to get in the flow," Maymon said. "Everybody would have so many games under their belt. It would be my first one. I don't want to go there and be a liability."
Martin said Maymon should be healthy enough to participate in team practices by the end of the month. Maymon just won't be joining the team for games.
"If it got this late, I wasn't about to put the kid on the court and try to win some games when he's not 100 percent," Martin said. "For me, 100 percent is cleared to play, conditioned to play and ready to play in a game - not cleared to play and then (needing) three weeks to get in shape."
Maymon averaged 12.7 points and ranked fifth in the Southeastern Conference with 8.1 rebounds per game last season while serving as the Vols' emotional leader.
His absence will put more of a burden on sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes, sophomore center Yemi Makanjuola and Hall. Stokes is averaging 11.3 points and a team-high 7.5 rebounds per game. Hall had a double-double against Memphis with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Makanjuola has emerged as a defensive force.
"I think we have enough pieces to be successful now," Martin said.
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