Since missing the final nine games of the 2011-12 season, senior forward Kenny Hall can't wait to get back on the court in a regular season game.
"I don't have any nerves," said Hall. "This is my fourth first game so if anything I am just ready to be back out in front of the Tennessee fans."
Hall missed the end of the SEC season and all three of the Volunteers' postseason games due to an indefinite suspension, but over the off-season he continued to work hard to stay in basketball shape.
"I feel great. It was tough having to watch from the bench at the end of last year because we really seemed to hit our stride just around the time I was out, which was tough to watch," Hall said. "Of course I was happy for the guys, it just stinks not being out on the court and contributing."
Before the suspension Hall was averaging 6.2 points per game in just over 20 minutes of action. Hall was also the team leader in blocks per game.
"I felt like I was having a really good year last year," he said. "I struggled my sophomore year and didn't play a whole lot and it was frustrating. Then coach (Cuanzo Martin) comes in and I felt I worked a little better under his style, I just made some mistakes that put a stop to my year. It's behind us now, I'm back and ready to help this team."
"It was a tough situation with Kenny," Martin said. "He was playing well, really helping our team but we have our rules and players have to honor those rules. We stayed in contact the whole time, two, three times a week and talked about what was going on. He's a good kid, good ballplayer. We're glad to have him back."
During the off-season the 6-foot-9 senior has been in the gym as much as possible to improve his jump shot and defense.
"He's been shooting the ball well in practice," Martin said. "With him it's just a case of confidence because he can make that shot, he's really good at the perimeter jump shot. He just needs that confidence because he can make it."
Tennessee will look to Hall to be a factor at the post and at the power forward position, depending on the group of players on the court. The big man likes being able to be versatile when in play.
"I've been working on my shot a whole lot," Hall said. "I think it benefits me and the team if I'm able to make shots from 15 feet or so. Just gives us another dimension."
Now that Hall is back on the court, he is focused to help the team succeed and live up to the expectations the media have put on the team.
"The expectations for ourselves are to play hard and advance in the postseason. We want to make it to the Big Dance (NCAA Tournament) and boogie."
For Martin, he is glad to have Hall back adding depth to the post position.
"I think Kenny Hall, with the addition of probably 10-plus pounds on his body, he is getting hits in practice, he is finishing those baskets, and his game has really improved," Martin said.
With the start of the regular season so close, Hall says the team is more ready than ever.
"I think I speak for the team when I saw we have tunnel vision. We're headed for the number spot, not just in the east but in the whole SEC. We want that number one spot."