Getting to the point

He got a Tennessee basketball scholarship last month. Now he's spending his summer trying to make sure he's got a role.

Skylar McBee averaged 13 minutes per game as a freshman wing last season. To keep those minutes in 2010-11, he'll need to fend off the two heralded wings in the Vols' 2010 signing class. Jordan McRae (6-5, 185) is more athletic than McBee and Trae Golden (6-1, 190) is more physical.

With competition clearly heating up on the wing, the 6-3 McBee is branching out a bit and developing his point-guard skills during the Rocky Top Summer League. Instead of looking to shoot his patented 3-pointer, he seems more intent on bringing the ball upcourt and distributing it these days.

"I'm working on my handle, trying to get some point-guard skills so hopefully I can play some 1 next year," McBee said moments after scoring 19 points for First Tennessee Bank in Monday night's RTSL action. "I'm looking to make the right pass, the right play in transition."

Starter Bobby Maze and backup Melvin Goins handled the point-guard duties for Tennessee last season. With Maze out of eligibility, Goins is the heir-apparent for 2010-11. Fellow senior Josh Bone has played some point but is more of a shooting guard. Clearly, there's an opportunity for McBee to earn some minutes at the point if he can develop the necessary ball-handling skills. The summer league provides an ideal opportunity to work on those skills in a game-type atmosphere.

"This is a great time to do it," McBee said. "You can do it in practice but you don't really get the feel of a game. But you can come out here (Rocky Top League) and go through it, and I think it's a great thing."

The Rutledge native also has been playing some point in pickup games with his Vol teammates this summer.

"Coach (Bruce Pearl) stresses for us to work on parts of your game that you're not strong at," McBee said. "That's what everybody's trying to do."

Seemingly intent on setting up others, McBee scored just seven points in the first half of Monday night's game.

"People were hitting," he explained. "We were up and people were shooting it well, so you've got to feed the hot hand."

When First Tennessee fell behind 76-70 midway through the second half, however, McBee began looking to make baskets instead of assists. He bagged three 3-pointers to spark a 30-15 spurt that turned the six-point deficit into a 100-91 lead. Then, fouled on a 3-point attempt with 21.8 seconds left, he calmly drained all three free throws to pull his team within 108-107.

Although McBee is an exceptional 3-point shooter, he wasn't the best long-range gunner on the floor Monday night. That honor belonged to ex-Vol Chris Lofton, who scored 25 points for the opposing team, Ray's ESG. Lofton finished his UT career in 2008 with 431 treys, ranking third nationally in that category.

"Chris is a great player, as well as a great individual," McBee said. "He's helped me out tremendously. He's one of the highlight players in Tennessee basketball, and it's well deserved."

Having grown up a Big Orange fan, McBee elected to walk on with the Vols last season rather than accept a scholarship from a mid-major program. Being awarded a full ride last month was a huge thrill.

"I was very excited," he said. "That was the whole goal. But now it don't stop. You've got to keep working and keep getting better every day."

Especially when you have Jordan McRae and Trae Golden looking to claim your minutes.

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