''Ron has been huge to this team,'' the coach said this week. ''I would say Ron has been like the head coach in a way.''
What has made Slay such an unstoppable force on offense -- he's leading the SEC at 21 points per game -- is the fact he can score from the perimeter, as well as on the block. Peterson recalled a teammate of his at North Carolina two decades ago who was similarly gifted.
''Sam Perkins could do a little bit of that; he was an inside-out,'' Peterson said. ''Back in '83, the 3-point line in the ACC was inside the top of the key at 17-7. I remember Sam hit seven 3s against Virginia one game when Ralph (Sampson) wouldn't come out and guard him. Ron reminds me a lot of that because he can do a lot of inside-out.''
Besides boosting his own scoring average, Slay's ability to step outside and hit the occasional 3-pointer opens things up for his Vol teammates.
''What Ron does for us is he stretches the defense so much,'' Peterson said. ''That helps C.J. (Watson) with his penetration, helps (Brandon) Crump inside with his post moves. It's valuable to have a guy at the 4 spot (power forward) who can shoot it.''
Slay always had superior basketball skills but he is doing a better job of harnessing his emotions this year. That has helped him maximize his talents and minimize his fouls. That probably can be traced to Peterson's guidance.
''I tell all my seniors: 'This is your senior season. You've got to make the most out of it. You will look back in years to come -- 15, 20, 30 years -- and say, 'Boy! Those were good old days. Life was simple -- go to class, play basketball, not a whole lot of pressure on me to support my family or whatever,' Peterson said. ''I want them to look back on a good experience. That's why I tell them, 'Make the most of every day and go hard, so you can reach your goals.'
''They'll miss being part of a team, being part of a group that competes to win a lot of games and to compete in the NCAAs and being around each other. Those are things they'll miss. Like I told them the other night, 'There aren't many games left. You're down to seven games, plus your conference tournament. It (end of the line) is right around the corner.' ''