Quick challenge

Handling speedy opponents is a challenge for Tennessee's heir-apparent at point guard, who may not encounter a speedier challenge than the one he faced in Wednesday night's Rocky Top League opener.

As fate would have it, Trae Golden's opening session of RTL action found him going head-to-head with Tony White Jr., son of the former Vol great and the quickest player in the entire summer league.

"He's quick but he's not as big, so I tried to use my size on him," Golden said. "I think I did all right. I've just got to cut down on my turnovers, get used to the rough-and-tumble play in the Rocky Top League."

The mercurial White blew by Golden a few times for layups but, with team defense being a foreign concept in summer-league play, that was to be expected.

"We're not really a team so we didn't know how to communicate (on defense)," Golden said. "But it worked out OK."

Indeed. Golden scored 27 points and led Choice Spine to a 114-106 defeat of White's team, Larry Smith Insurance.

Golden reported to Tennessee at 6-1 and 209 pounds last August. He's been working to shed some weight and gain some quickness ever since.

"I'm in better shape," he said. "I lost a lot of weight - from 209 to 201. I'm so much quicker, able to move on my feet better."

The improved quickness has affected his play in several areas.

"I'm more confident," he said. "I'm a better shooter, a better passer, a better all-around player."

Golden took advantage of the lax defense played in the Rocky Top League to take the ball to the rim on a regular basis Wednesday night. As a result, he shot 14 free throws - making all 14.

Asked if he's making a conscious effort to attack the basket more, he shrugged.

"A little bit," he said. "I've still got a long way to go on my diet, so I need to keep working hard, keep staying in the gym as much as I can."

After backing up senior Melvin Goins as Tennessee's point guard last season, Golden appears to have a clear path to the first-team job in 2011-12.

"I'm not even looking at it like that," he said. "I'm just trying to come in and play as hard as I can - play hard on offense, hard on defense - and help all of our guys out a lot."

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