Father knows best

One Tennessee basketball player's regular-season debut had all the dramatic elements of a Hollywood script except for the storybook ending: He missed all four shots he attempted.

After growing up in nearby Rutledge and dreaming of playing for the Vols, however, freshman Skylar McBee isn't going to let one off night dampen his enthusiasm ... or stop him from firing 3-pointers. He's encouraged by a comment from Doug McBee, who coached him as an assistant at Grainger County High and also raised him.

As the Vol rookie recalls: "My dad always told me: 'If the coach wants you to stop shooting he'll take you out.'"

Vol head coach Bruce Pearl has delivered essentially the same message ever since McBee arrived on campus last summer.

"That's what's great about playing for a coach like Coach Pearl," McBee said. "He wants you to have that shooter's mentality - keep shooting and keep shooting."

The 6-2 freshman shot exceptionally well in Tennessee's two preseason exhibition games, hitting 6 of 12 shots from behind the arc. The fact McBee misfired in the regular-season opener prompted Pearl to joke that the freshman couldn't handle the transition from tuneups to real games.

"I just told him he choked, and that's why he couldn't make a shot," Pearl said, grinning mischievously. "He's a freshman, the lights came on and he gagged."

After making abundantly clear that he was being facetious, the coach said he has complete faith in McBee's stroke, in spite of the Game 1 results.

"Every time he shot it I knew it was going in," Pearl said. "And every time he shoots the next one I know it's going in. He's got the confidence of his coaches and his teammates."

That means a lot to McBee, who denied that jitters or pressure affected his Game 1 shooting performance.

"I wouldn't say I felt pressure," he said, "but there was a realization that this is the one that's going into the stat book ... this is the first one that counts."

Fortunately for Tennessee, McBee's Game 1 struggles from the field were of no significance. Scotty Hopson was 4 of 6 and Cameron Tatum was 3 of 6 from 3 as the Vols routed Austin Peay 83-54.

"With Cam and Scotty shooting the way they are, that takes a lot of the pressure off anyway," McBee said. "When you're playing around great shooters like that, it kind of takes the pressure off and you don't have to make everything."

Except for his shots not falling, McBee's regular-season debut was everything he imagined it would be when he used to fantasize about playing for the Vols as a youngster.

"It was great," he said. "It was surreal. Everything just seemed like a blessing. It was sort of like a dream. When you hope to play on this level - especially at the University of Tennessee - it was kind of like an out-of-body experience ... I can't believe I'm really here and doing this."

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