Golden moment

After playing poorly in Tuesday night's Rocky Top Summer League opener, one Tennessee basketball signee truly looked like a different player on Thursday ... right down to his number.

Plagued by blocked shots and turnovers while wearing No. 20 in Game 1, Trae Golden came out wearing No. 32 in Game 2. Perhaps it was mere coincidence, but the change in numbers brought a change in fortunes. The heralded 6-1 freshman from Powder Springs, Ga., hit 6 of 12 shots (3 of 6 from 3-point range) and 4 of 4 free throws in an impressive 19-point performance at Knoxville's Bearden High Gym.

Golden, Georgia's high school player of the year for 2009-10, seemed to be pressing on Tuesday, a circumstance he blamed on trying to do too much in his first outing before Knoxville fans.

"There's always a lot of nerves in general," he said. "Once you get past those nerves, everything's good."

After playing poorly in his local debut, Golden hoped to redeem himself Thursday night. That created some stress, too.

"I think any person may be a little nervous (in that situation)," he said. "I was a little nervous but I kind of shook that. Tonight I got in a rhythm, and it worked out well."

It worked out especially well in the second half, when he drained all three of his 3-pointers and amassed 15 of his 19 points.

"I got off to a slow start," he said of his first-half performance. "I was playing a little timid. They (teammates) told me to be aggressive. I became aggressive, and it worked out well for me."

Golden admitted that the warm reception and encouragement he got from the Vol fans in attendance helped settle his nerves and fuel his big finish, noting that they "boost your confidence and made me feel really good."

Basically, he sees competing with and against his new Big Orange teammates in the Rocky Top League as a win/win situation.

"It helps me a lot - to see the competition and see where I stand," he said. "Tomorrow I'll be back in the gym working on what I need to work on."

Specifically, he thinks he needs work in two areas:

"Definitely my defense, of course," he said. "And I need to make sure I make sound decisions and take good shots."

Most observers see Golden as a combo guard who can help Tennessee at both the 1 (point) and 2 (shooting guard) positions. He shares that opinion.

"I see myself fitting in at the 1 and 2 ... whatever Coach (Bruce) Pearl needs me to do. I can play the point or the 2. Whatever the team needs I'll be ready to do."


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