Slay hasn't lost his touch

You've got to love Ron Slay. The former Tennessee basketball star might have been playing overseas for a couple of years. He might have learned a few soccer moves while in Italy. But he's as entertaining as ever when it comes to firing out quotes.

Slay, the 2003 SEC Player of the Year when he averaged 21.2 points per game, scored 45 points in a recent Pilot Rocky Top League game. He's still got style. He's still got grace. Most of all, he's still got a mouth.

That's not a negative.

Ron Slay is a fun guy with a lot of basketball acumen.

He wishes there had been a summer league in Knoxville when he wore the UT uniform, rather than having to drive to Nashville or Virginia to play hoops.

With the local league, Slay is using it to keep in shape and help school some of the Vol players.

``I want to get Duke Crews,'' Slay said of the rising sophomore. ``I call him my younger. I have to sit him in a corner and spank him now and then, just to let him know who the father is. I'm going to break Duke in, teach him while I'm breaking him in.''

Has Slay asked Crews: ``Who's your daddy?''

``No,'' Slay said, ``but I'm going to let him wear that shirt after the game.''

You don't always get that personality from today's players. Slay used to rub some opponents – and officials – the wrong way with his flamboyant style. But there was always substance behind that stare and flair.

Slay can play the game. He's been a star in the Italian League the last two years, averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds last season.

He said in the overseas game, you get a week to prepare for an opponent, not two or three days, like in college. He also noted another difference.

``In college, you can key on one guy,'' he said. ``In the Italian league, they've got guys at every position that can hurt you.''

Europeans teach the game differently than Americans, he said. Europeans are more technical. Americans are more aggressive and have more speed and athleticism.

``It's a good mixture for me,'' Slay said. ``I still have the aggressiveness and strength. I think our style of ball is better, actually, but it's not up to me.''

Soccer is certainly big in Europe.

``In the preseason, I showed ‘em I had a little bit of Freddie Adu in me,'' Slay said. ``We were playing soccer in the preseason for conditioning, but after the first 20 minutes, it was over for me. I wanted to get back on the courts. That was a little too much running for me.''

The Europeans' passion isn't unique to soccer. Slay said they are very excited about basketball. His team played before packed crowds of over 15,000 enthusiastic fans.

``I didn't expect the fans to be that (excited), especially with soccer being their main sport,'' Slay said. ``They support basketball just as much over there.

``They're shouting in the crowd, taking their shirts off, throwing beer. It was pretty cool. I feel at home over there. The only thing is the language barrier.''

After his team's last game, Slay said fans ripped off his jersey, ripped off his shirt, ripped off his shoes.

When he got back to the locker room, all he was wearing was his spandex.

``I had a great time in the league,'' Slay said. ``I'd love to be back here, though.''

What will it take for 6-foot-8 Slay to get to the NBA?

``I don't know, man,'' Slay said. ``I've been asking that question since I got out of college. They said I needed to get slimmer. I got to 220. That wasn't enough, I'm now in the 230s. I'm able to maneuver on the wing real good and I'm playing good defense. I hope I get the opportunity. We'll see.''

Slay was excited about the news that his former coach, Buzz Peterson, is now director of personnel with the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats.

``We'll see if he takes me,'' Slay said.

Slay's road to the NBA won't be easy. He said you've got to get on an NBA summer league roster, then a veteran's camp, then, hopefully, get on a roster.

``You take one day at a time,'' he said. ``There are a lot of opportunities. Once you get in the right situation, the sky's the limit. It could change overnight. You've got to be ready at all times. That's the biggest part, not getting down on yourself and being ready.''

Slay is staying ready by playing in the Rocky Top Summer League. And he's come away impressed by the UT players. He said they remind him of his freshman season at UT, when the Vols were loaded and deep.

Slay likes UT's incoming players, but he's particularly impressed with the backcourt of Chris Lofton and Ramar Smith.

``To me, they've got one of the top backcourts in the nation,'' Slay said.

Slay is also impressed with coach Bruce Pearl.

``It's amazing,'' Slay said. ``He treats me like he's been my coach and I haven't played one quarter for him. The respect he gives, I can't explain it. I've never been around a guy that I never played for that treats you like that and loves the program the way he does.''

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