Marriage made in heaven

Plenty of former Tennessee basketball players wish they'd had the chance to play four years under current head coach Bruce Pearl. That arrangement wouldn't have satisfied one ex-Vol, however.

"I would've tried to make the NCAA put a new rule in – where I could play for six years," Ron Slay said with a laugh. "No way I would've spent just four with him."

Slay, a 6-7 forward who led all SEC scorers in 2002 and was the league's Player of the Year that winter, is back in Knoxville to play in the Pilot Rocky Top summer league. Given that the colorful Nashville native is a highly emotional player, it isn't surprising that he relishes the excitement generated by the emotionally charged Pearl.

"There's always been excitement in Tennessee basketball," Slay said, "but we never had that coach jumping up and down on the sidelines. That took it to a whole different level."

Although he was not taken in the NBA Draft following his senior season at UT, Slay has been making decent money playing in assorted pro leagues the past few years. He recently had a tryout with an NBA team that could prove fruitful.

"I'm waiting to hear from Charlotte," he said. "I just back got from working out with the Bobcats. I'm waiting on them to get back to me on the summer league. Hopefully, something will happen with that."

In the meantime, Slay will continue to fine-tune his game in the Rocky Top summer league. He's still a big-time scorer, as he showed by pumping in 28 points Monday night in his team's season-opening loss. He's still a big-time fan favorite, as well. The packed house at Bearden High School gym gave him a warm ovation Monday night.

"It felt real good," he said, clearly touched. "I hated to lose like that, but we'll make some adjustments, come back and get a win. And we'll keep putting on a show."

Slay wasn't the best player in Vol history but he was the best at "putting on a show." His crowd-pleasing antics are a great fit in the relaxed atmosphere of summer league basketball. He's clearly having a lot of fun.

"Definitely," he said. "That's what it's about. You want to go out there, have fun, compete and put on a good show for everybody."

Although Slay put on a good show Monday night, one of his summer league teammates struggled a bit. That would be Philip Jurick, a 6-10 Vol signee who picked up three first-half fouls and finished his Rocky Top debut with two points, five rebounds and six blocked shots.

"He looked like he wasn't really comfortable out there," Slay said. "But you could tell he changed a lot of shots and rebounded well."


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