Not all fun and games

Think of the Rocky Top Summer League as Basketball Lite.

It's more about dazzling dunks than dynamic defensive plays. It's more about one-on-one matchups than teamwork. It's more about showboating than blending. It's more about giving the fans what they want than giving the coaches what they want.

Still, the RTSL is not all fun and games. Don't let the smiles on the participants' faces fool you. Most of them are fierce competitors who take great pride in their abilities. Getting to the league championship game may not be a high priority but getting better is. That's why the players spend two nights per week sweating with their teammates at Bearden High Gym instead of chilling with their friends at a local night spot.

"It helps make you a better player," Tennessee senior Josh Bone said. "And this is good cardio (heart exercise). Plus, this is a chance to work on your one-on-one game and show people what you've got."

Fouls are almost never called in the Rocky Top League. This enables fans to watch uninterrupted, uptempo basketball rather than free throw-shooting exhibitions. It also enables players to improve their quickness and stamina.

"I think the biggest benefit of the league is staying in shape," Vol junior Cameron Tatum said. "You stay with a routine during the summer. And a league like this gives you the ability to go out there and do the things you've been working on in the summer.

"For instance, I'm working on consistency. When I make one shot, I want to make two. I make two, then I want to make three. I make three, then I want to make four. When the game comes around, if you make two and then die off, you don't do any good for your team."

Scotty Hopson, another Vol junior, agrees that the Rocky Top League is a great resource for conditioning and fine-tuning specific areas of your game.

"I think it definitely helps in terms of staying in shape, keeping your mind focused on what you need to work on in your game," he said. "This is not SEC basketball but there are some good players out here. The players play hard, and it's a fun league."

For Vol freshmen Jordan McRae and Trae Golden, the Rocky Top Summer League is serving as a bridge between high school ball and college ball. Though a notch or two below the Southeastern Conference level, the RTSL represents a step up from the prep competition they are accustomed to.

"It's faster," McRae said. "You're playing with more players. Everybody's good here. There's nobody who's not as good as the next one."

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