Upon tip-off of the Pilot Rocky Top League on Monday evening, there will be a familiar face running the floor at Bearden High School — although you might not recognize him.
He won’t be wincing at the free throw line nor camped out in Tennessee’s training room receiving treatment for one of the myriad of ailments he suffered during his UT career.
No, Dane Bradshaw actually figures to be completely healthy — almost. While there is some lingering swelling from a nagging ankle injury, Bradshaw says he’s close to 100-percent.
Since playing basketball in The Netherlands, Bradshaw returned to Knoxville instead of his hometown, Memphis, in order to workout with current UT players.
“I knew I was going to be here for the summer,” Bradshaw said on The News Sentinel’s radio show, The Sports Page. “If I’m in Memphis, I’ll be on the couch too long with my mom feeding me.”
Spurning home-cooked meals, Bradshaw is one of many former Vols that will participate in the Pilot Rocky Top League, perhaps the greatest example of a town gone crazy for Bruce Pearl basketball. Damon Johnson and Ron Slay are two of the names UT fans should remember.
“In years past, I think players didn’t necessarily want to come back because there was nothing to come back to and nothing to take pride in,” Bradshaw said. “This Rocky Top League is a prime example of guys wanting to stay involved.”
For some fans, the older guys will be old news. Many will fill the stands and forgo the comfort of modern day air conditioning to see UT’s future, such as guard Scotty Hopson, center Phillip Jurick, point guards Bobby Maze and Daniel West and forward Renaldo Woolridge.
All are signed with UT and will be on the roster this fall. It will be interesting to see how those prospects handle the fun-and-gun atmosphere of the Rocky Top League. Likewise, how will the public grade one of UT’s top classes in school history?
“I don’t want people to start overanalyzing all the talent just yet,” Bradshaw warned. “Just use it for excitement and to get a taste of the talent.”
Some of that talent could be tired on Monday, particularly Hopson, who played in the Kentucky-Indiana all-star games in Indianapolis on Friday and Sunday.
Don’t expect a fatigued (or injured) Bradshaw. He’ll be fresh and ready to lead Toyota of Knoxville, the defending league champs, along with UT forward Wayne Chism and former Vol swingman Rashard Lee.
But don’t expect to see the same ol’ Bradshaw. First, he’s healthy. Second, the consummate team player is determined to work on his one-on-one skills this summer.
“Sometimes I’ve been generous to a fault,” Bradshaw said. “The Rocky Top League is a perfect game to be selfish in.”