Bobby Maze knew people wouldn't understand when he left Tennessee immediately after the NCAA tournament and a loss in the Elite Eight.
"I wasn't mad or anything like that,'' said Maze, who returned to Knoxville to play in the Pilot Rocky Top League on Wednesday night. "But I did what I had to do to get ready, and people weren't going to understand until they could see me play again.''
Maze put on a show, scoring a team-high 37 points on 15-of-26 shooting while dishing out 12 assists to lead First Tennessee (3-3) to a 147-124 victory over DeRoyal Industries (4-2) at Bearden High School.
"I went up to New Jersey and started training right after the season, running every day at 5:30 in the morning and spending at least three hours in the gym,'' said the 6-foot-3 Maze, who added 10 pounds to his frame and is now at 200 pounds. "I've gotten bigger and faster, and I can shoot from anywhere on the floor.
"The scouts that have seen me all say I've improved a lot.''
Maze, who said he will play with the Chicago Bulls in the Las Vegas NBA summer league if not the New York Knicks, said the style of play at the next level suits his talents better than the college game.
"In the NBA, it's a lot of one-on-one,'' Maze said. "That's what I like to do.''
D'Mario Curry scored 34 for First Tennessee, which will play Ray's ESG (3-3) at 6 tonight in the consolation game, and UT's Kenny Hall had 28.
Incoming UT freshman Jordan McRae had 42 points for DeRoyal and UT guard Melvin Goins scored 29.
With the game out of hand late, the teams staged a dunk exhibition, with McRae and Curry each going between the legs before jamming, and Goins stealing the show with a windmill dunk and 360 throwdown.
Central High School's Dre Mattheiu, who stands about 5-9, brought the crowd to their feet with a 360 dunk of his own.