“McBee for Three!”
It’s becoming a more common phrase heard in Thompson-Boling Arena as the season progresses, and the Tennessee men’s basketball fans love it.
UT freshman walk-on Skylar McBee connected on all three of his 3-point attempts in the 11th-ranked Vols’ 78-66 victory Wednesday night over East Tennessee State.
Each of McBee’s 3-pointers seemed to draw a larger response from the crowd.
“Oh, yes sir, you could feel the energy,’’ said McBee, a former standout at Grainger High School. “My mom and dad say there are people back home asking about me all the time, too.’’
And why not?
UT coach Bruce Pearl said McBee has “carved” 15 minutes out of the rotation for himself with hard work, hustle and marksman-like shooting.
“His shooting was key for us tonight,’’ Pearl said. “I thought it was huge that Skylar took those shots with great confidence.’’
McBee confided that his father once told him that if a coach wants you to stop shooting he’ll take you out of the game.
That advice came in handy after McBee started the regular season with an 0-for4 shooting performance beyond the arc against Austin Peay and followed up with a 1-for-4 effort in the next game against UNC Asheville.
“When you’ve missed a couple of shots you have to keep your confidence level up,’’ McBee said. “You have to believe the next one is going in.’’
McBee is 8 of 13 shooting the 3-pointer over the past five games for the Vols (6-1).
His 3-pointers against ETSU were clutch, too. The Buccaneers were trying to make a run when McBee starting hitting from the outside.
“They were keeping it close,’’ McBee said, “and it seemed like they had an answer for everything that was happening.’’
McBee grew up wanting to play for Tennessee, but the Vols didn’t offer him a basketball scholarship. His answer was to eschew scholarship offers from Santa Clara, Marshall, Middle Tennessee State and ETSU and walk-on with the Vols with hopes of later being awarded a scholarship.
Pearl has indicated that is quite likely.
“Skylar is a kid who has surpassed expectations, and I think he’ll get even better,’’ UT associate head coach Tony Jones said. “He’s going to help us win games this season.’’
McBee said it’s a matter of adjusting.
“In high school you play 30 or so games, but it’s not as intense, and you’re not traveling as much or having as much to do in school,’’ he said. “You have to learn to manage your time and get your rest.’’
McBee said he paid close attention to the routine employed by former UT All-American Chris Lofton last summer.
“I just tried to watch Chris every day I could when he was back here for the summer,’’ McBee said. “Just seeing how things were supposed to be done on the court on a day-in and day-out basis.’’