Golden moment

The prospect of making his second career start in legendary Madison Square Garden has one Tennessee basketball player shaking his head in amazement.

After starting for the first time last week at Thompson-Boling Arena vs. Missouri State, freshman Trae Golden projects to make start No. 2 Wednesday vs. Virginia Commonwealth in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament. That's because senior point guard Melvin Goins remains rusty after missing a week of action due to injury.

"Melvin really looked bad yesterday (Sunday) in practice," head coach Bruce Pearl said following Monday's workout. "His numbers were awful. He was completely off. He was a little better today."

That means Golden probably will be in the starting lineup Wednesday night when the Vols tip it up in a venue widely regarded as the Mecca of college basketball.

"Oh, that'll be great, man," he said, grinning broadly while shaking his head in awe. "It's a great way to have your second start at Madison Square, and I'm just glad to help the team any way I can."

Reared in Powder Springs, Ga., Golden says he has never played at The Garden but that one of his relatives, Morris Almond, did.

"My cousin played for the Utah Jazz for a little bit and played against the Knicks at The Garden, and he said it was just an amazing thing," the Vol rookie said. "Anybody who knows anything about basketball knows that Madison Square Garden is a great place to play."

Although he is converting from off guard to point guard, Golden performed well in his first start - contributing 8 points, 2 assists and just 1 turnover in 28 minutes.

"We do have confidence in Trae," Pearl said. "At the same time, we're going up against a team that likes to full-court pressure. This one's going to be a challenge for Trae or Skylar (McBee). Even Melvin."

Looking back on his first start, Golden sees some good and some bad.

"I thought I did well," he said. "I got everybody involved and took care of the ball. I kept the turnovers down and just ran the team."

His shooting left a bit to be desired, however. He finished 2 of 8 from the field, including 0 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc.

"I don't know what it is but my shot is just not there," Golden said. "They keep telling me to shoot it but I've got to keep working on that."

Shooting woes aside, he believes that first start represented a big step in his development as a college player.

"Just to have one under my belt is good," he said. "To go through something for the first time and get it over with is probably where I benefited the most."

Golden appeared surprisingly relaxed in his start vs. Missouri State. He says that's because he was relaxed.

"Once I get a sweat going," he said, "it's instinctual and everything just comes naturally."

He expects to be even more relaxed for start No. 2.

"I think I will," Golden said. "But who knows? When you get to New York, you never know, but I think I'll be fine."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories