Bigger and better

Tennessee basketball fans seem pleased with Jordan McRae's play in the Rocky Top Summer League but the heralded Vol signee doesn't share their enthusiasm.

Rated America's No. 9 shooting guard last winter by Scout, the 6-5, 185-pounder from Hinesville, Ga., drew a lot of fans to Knoxville's Bearden High Gym last week. He hit 12 of 29 field-goal tries en route to scoring 27 points Tuesday night but made just 1 of 6 foul shots. Then he sank 7 of 17 from the field Thursday night but was 0 of 6 from 3-point range and again struggled from the free-throw line, making just 3 of 7 tries.

The two-game totals show him shooting 41.3 percent (19 of 46) from the field and 30.7 percent (4 of 13) from the line. Those numbers, he says, are nowhere near indicative of what he can do.

"I'm missing a lot of free throws," he said with a frown. "That's not really me. And I feel like I should make a lot more shots (from the perimeter) than I'm hitting."

McRae declined to blame his shooting percentages on jitters, noting: "I'm not the kind of player that's nervous. I'm the type of player that's not really satisfied with the way I played. I really wasn't satisfied with this (Thursday night performance) but you get better every game."

Getting better is only one of his goals. He also hopes to get bigger. He is so slender that he tends to be outmuscled by some of the more physically mature players he faces in the Rocky Top League.

"I'm in the weight room a lot," he said. "I'm trying to get stronger. It's a big transition from high school to here.

"On offense my weight isn't even a factor. It's on defense (that problems arise). When I'm standing in front of people and they lower their shoulder I want to be able to take the hit."

Like most college freshmen, McRae has a few things to learn about playing defense.

"A lot," he said. "This is a different defense. You've got to stay in front of your man, give a lot of help. And you've got to recover quickly."

McRae is learning a lot from Tennessee seniors Brian Williams and Melvin Goins, who are teammates on the DeRoyal entry in the summer league. He's also benefiting from playing against the Vols who dot opposing rosters.

"This is fun," McRae said. "It's good for me to learn from Melvin, to learn from Baby (Williams), to see Cam (Tatum) and everybody else play."

McRae is versatile enough that he could play small forward or shooting guard for the Vols. Wherever he plays, he believes he'll add something to the lineup.

"I fit in well," he said. "I bring some energy to the game. I'm going to go for those blocks that somebody else wouldn't go for. I bring a lot of energy."

His dynamic quickness could earn him immediate playing time under Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, who favors a blistering tempo. Eventually, McRae sees himself filling a role similar to that of ex-Vol J.P. Prince.

"J.P. had a whole lot of fast-break buckets, being quick getting out (in transition)," McRae said. "I think I'm going to fit in just like he did."

Mere hours before taking the floor Thursday night, he underwent a "media orientation program" at UT to help prepare him for interviews. Asked what he had been told, McRae grinned sheepishly before softly responding:

"They just told us little hints about you all."


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