Jeronne Maymon rejoins Cuonzo Martin after injury-riddled basketball career
After his playing career was derailed by knee injuries, Jeronne Maymon is reunited with his former head coach as a graduate assistant at Missouri.
Mar. 12, 2019
Jeronne Maymon stands in a polo shirt and sweatpants on the court at Mizzou Arena.
He works with forwards Kevin Puryear, Jeremiah Tilmon and Mitchell Smith, feeding them in the post and giving directions for pregame drills.
In the group of big men, the 6-foot-8-inch Maymon, built like a defensive end, is the most physically imposing of the bunch.
Seven years ago, he was preparing for an SEC Tournament just like the team he now coaches as a graduate assistant. He was an All-SEC selection his junior season at Tennessee in 2012 and transformed under coach Cuonzo Martin into a player bound for a professional career.
But 10 days before the tournament, a torn meniscus evoked a storm of medical issues that saw four knee surgeries in three years — including three in one year — and derailed a promising basketball career.
Before Martin arrived at Tennessee, Maymon had been lost in the shuffle of his college career.
He went to Marquette out of high school — a top-50 recruit — but played only nine games as a freshman, while buried on the bench behind future NBA players like Jimmy Butler and Lazar Hayward.
The lack of playing time led him to transfer to Tennessee, where he played sparingly in 14 games under coach Bruce Pearl his sophomore season.
Pearl, however, was fired by Tennessee in March 2011 after he was charged by the NCAA for recruiting violations. Martin was hired the following season and Maymon flourished. He said that success was partially due to a strong connection with Martin.
“We’re kind of cut from the same cloth,” Maymon said. “He was a driving factor in me becoming who I became. I mean, I already had the tools that it took to lead, and so he just kind of helped me hone in on that and just find discipline within that.”
Maymon began his junior season as a starter and had two straight double-doubles against No. 6 Duke and Memphis at the Maui Invitational, including a 32-point, 20-rebound performance against NBA center Tarik Black in a double-overtime loss to Memphis.
Maymon followed that up with a 15-point, 10-rebound performance against future NBA all-star Anthony Davis in a close loss to Kentucky, who won the national championship with a 38-2 record that season.
Maymon continued playing well in conference play and earned All-SEC second team honors after averaging 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. It was a stark improvement from his average 2.6 points per game as a sophomore. The season proved to be Maymon’s breakthrough.
“Going through all that mess, then going through what I went through with coach Pearl, and to being able to reinvent myself under coach Martin, to show the world who I really am and what kind of player I really am,” Maymon said. “I needed that. If I didn't have any of that, I wouldn't be the person that I am today.”
Despite the fast rise, Maymon was set to face a steep climb. He went down against LSU in February of his junior season with a torn meniscus. He played through it for the rest of the regular season and was given the choice to play in the SEC Tournament or sit the rest of the year. Instead of seeking immediate treatment, Maymon decided to play out the postseason.
With the Volunteers squarely on the bubble, he asked the training staff at Tennessee if the injury would get much worse by playing.
“And they said no ... it's not going to get much worse,” Maymon said. “So I was like, f--- it, I'm gonna play.”
Maymon hauled in 17 rebounds and scored 11 points in the opening round against Ole Miss, but it wasn’t enough. The Volunteers fell 77-72 and were bounced to the NIT.
In the offseason, Maymon got surgery on his left knee and went through rehab thinking he would be back ready to go for his senior season. Maymon cited Russell Westbrook, who tore his meniscus in 2013. The Oklahoma City Thunder point guard returned to peak form just four years later, winning NBA MVP in 2017.
“I was like, ‘Oh, whatever. I'll be back,’” Maymon said. “And then the infection happened and that's what kind of put me in the pit.”
The right knee infection was a culmination of a string of setbacks for Maymon. First, he rehabbed from his left meniscus tear over the summer, but then his right knee began to swell. he was found to have degenerative knee, which included articular cartilage damage, and another surgery was required.
“You’ve got a young man who is coming off an All-SEC season and just can’t seem to take two steps forward without taking one step back, or one step forward with two steps back,” Chad Newman, Maymon’s athletic trainer at the time, said.
While rehabbing his right knee, Maymon faced his largest setback.
As part of the procedure, Maymon’s leg was put in water and had stitches taken out of his knee. He experienced discomfort afterward.
“I could barely sleep,” Maymon said. “I didn't understand what was wrong.”
Neither Maymon nor the training staff saw anything abnormal, so they continued rehab activities, but during one particular stretch, green puss began oozing. Things quickly went from oozing to, as Maymon put it, “spewing like a water fountain.”
It prompted testing of his right knee, which was found to have an infection that required emergency surgery. It ended up being a career-saving moment for Maymon.
“If we didn't find out right then, we probably would have pushed it back a couple of days and then who knows?” Maymon said. “I probably would have been walking without a leg now.”
Maymon and the medical staff found the infection, but that meant another surgery and another rehab ahead. Maymon was forced to sit out, redshirting what was supposed to be his senior season.
“[It] killed my spirit because I wasn't expecting that,” Maymon said. “It grew me up a lot. It helped me look at the game in a different light.”
Maymon returned for 2013-2014 as a redshirt senior and averaged 9.7 points and 8.1 rebounds. As a senior leader, Maymon and Tennessee reached the Sweet 16 as an 11-seed before falling 73-71 to 2-seed Michigan.
As his college career came to a close with several knee injuries, Maymon’s NBA hopes were dashed, so he signed to play professionally in Israel for Hapoel Tel-Aviv.
He still wasn’t able to shake the injury bug in his professional career. In Israel, he contracted a cyst in his right meniscus and went back to Knoxville, Tennessee, for another rehab – his fourth.
After finishing rehab, he signed to play for the Hiroshima Dragonflies in Japan second-tier, where he suffered another injury; a final blow that ended Maymon’s playing career.
Throughout most of his college and professional career, Maymon never considered coaching.
“When I was in Israel, when I was at Tennessee, It never crossed my mind,” Maymon said.
Maymon’s interest in coaching traces back to when he was contemplating retirement while in Japan.
But the trip didn’t last long. The day after an early-season game with Hiroshima, he felt lingering pain in his knees.
“I could barely get out of bed,” Maymon said. “You know, like I could barely walk. My knees were that bad.”
He found out the pain stemmed from an unknown knee injury. Then Maymon was faced with two choices: get his fifth knee surgery in three years, or retire.
With his basketball career running on fumes, Maymon considered retirement. However, his love for the game still lingered.
“I just had a lot of life left in me as far as putting it towards the game,” Maymon said.
That’s when Maymon first thought of coaching, and it led him to call friends and family to talk about the possibility of walking away from playing. Maymon also discussed the matter with his former coach: Cuonzo Martin.
After calls with Martin, as well as friends and family, Maymon decided to retire from playing basketball and left Hiroshima for his hometown, Madison, Wisconsin.
Maymon’s body was wearing down and he feared his life after basketball would be affected by having another surgery and that another rehab would cause permanent damage to his knees.
“I don't have kids, but one day I will and I want, at least, to play with those guys and get up and down and just do stuff active, be active with my kids,” Maymon said. “And I felt like, if I kept going, that wouldn't happen.”
After retirement, Maymon joined the workforce in his hometown. He worked as a behavioral counselor and coached at the prep level and became the freshman boys basketball coach at his alma mater, James Madison Memorial High School, in 2015.
As Maymon was working and coaching in Madison, Martin left Tennessee to become the head men’s basketball coach at the University of California in 2014. Maymon then inquired about a position as a graduate assistant but the timing wasn’t right, as Maymon was just starting his coaching career. He needed more experience to coach with Martin at the Power Five level.
“So, I kept my hands to the plow,” Maymon said. “I kept building, kept trying to get better, kept trying to find myself as, you know, as a coach.”
Maymon went back to work and was hired as an assistant coach at Madison College, a community college in Madison, for the 2017-2018 season. Maymon’s year at Madison College was also Martin’s first at Missouri, and after the 2018 season, there was a GA opening.
Maymon was hired in September 2018, working through the high school and junior college coaching ranks in four years before a return to the Division I level under his former coach.
“These things just start happening for me. Doors are being opened,” Maymon said. “Bridges was being laid down for me to walk across. It's kind of fascinating how I got here, I mean, it really is. I'm blessed and I'm thankful.”
Maymon’s shift from playing to coaching is now complete. He makes scouting reports for Martin and coaches during the season, running practices and pre-game warmups.
But throughout the transition and all the ups and downs of his playing career, one constant remains for Maymon.
“I have zero regrets, zero complaints,” he said. “If things didn't go in that succession, I'd probably be a different guy or on a different trajectory in life.”
Edited by Adam Cole | firstname.lastname@example.org