Maze salutes Vol Nation

He led Tennessee's basketball program to an SEC East title in 2009, then a stunning upset of top-ranked Kansas and the program's first-ever NCAA Elite Eight berth in 2010.

Still, former Vol point guard Bobby Maze says the thing he'll remember most about his two-year stint on The Hill is the rabid support of Big Orange fans.

"Ain't no better place in the world than this," he said earlier this week. "You're not going to get as much love (anywhere else). You can come back and still get support from the fans. There's nothing better than that. I always say this is my second home."

His first home, of course, is Suitland, Md. His next home, he hopes, will be New York ... or Chicago ... or Dallas ... or any city that has an NBA franchise.

Although Maze was a pretty good college basketball player, he's convinced he'll be an even better pro. That would not be an unprecedented occurrence.

"The NBA is a lot about one-on-one," he said. "You've got (Rajon) Rondo, who averages 10 points at Kentucky, then he goes to the NBA and puts up big numbers. Tyreke Evans averaged 15 at Memphis and he averaged 25 in The League. It's more one-on-one - more spread-out - and that's what I like to do."

Maze certainly showcased his one-on-one skills as a late-season replacement in the Rocky Top Summer League this week. He hit 15 of 26 shots (5 of 9 from 3) and scored 37 points in his team's regular-season finale on Wednesday night, then nailed 14 of 21 shots (3 of 8 from 3) and scored 33 in Thursday's third-place game.

The 6-foot-3 Maze has added 10 pounds of muscle the past three months, bumping his weight from 190 to 200. He believes he's in the best shape of his career.

"Right after the (UT) season ended I went to New Jersey to train with Larry Marshall, the same guy that trained (Vol teammate) Scotty Hopson," Maze said. "He trained me on the beach ... 5:30 in the morning running and in the gym twice for three hours a day. I did that for about three weeks straight. Then, when the (NBA) workouts came, it was like a piece of cake."

Passed over in the recent NBA Draft, Maze is finishing up his degree work at UT and preparing to play in the NBA Summer League at Las Vegas. He expects to represent either the Chicago Bulls' entry or the New York Knicks' entry.

Asked what he needs to do to make an NBA roster, he answered without hesitation.

"I don't think I need to do nothing," he said. "I'm bigger, I'm faster, I can shoot the basketball from anywhere on the floor right now. I've got a lot of confidence because I put in 12 hours every day."

Asked what pro scouts say he needs to improve, Maze again had a ready answer.

"Right now they're just surprised at what they see," he said. "There ain't nobody telling me what I need to work on. They're telling me 'You improved a lot. You got better.' They're able to see that I can really play."

Maze showed flashes of that as a Vol senior, averaging 9.4 points and 3.1 assists per game in leading Tennessee to a 28-9 record. He concedes that he benefited from participating in Bruce Pearl's program.

"A lot," Maze said. "Playing for the team, going to the Elite Eight. Playing in the Tournament two years in a row. Being part of a team that won the SEC East."

Although he, Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince have exhausted their eligibility, Maze believes the 2010-11 Vols are capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, as well. He has some advice for them.

"Just play every game like it's the last one and practice hard," he said. "Work hard now, and it'll be easy later."

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