Mike Strange: Four-star reserves get chance at new start

Mike Strange
Cameron Tatum, right, gets his hand on the ball as Jake Troyii attempts to score.

Photo by Saul Young

Cameron Tatum, right, gets his hand on the ball as Jake Troyii attempts to score.

2011 Pilot Rocky Top League

Brian "B.T." Tate is the voice of the Pilot Rocky Top League, manning the microphone with flair at Bearden High School.

Another edition of the summer basketball league tipped off Wednesday night. University of Tennessee basketball fans should be hoping Tate is more than an emcee.

They better hope he's a prophet.

Kenny Hall is Kenny "Highlight" Hall at Rocky Top. As in, "Oh! There's another highlight from Kenny 'Highlight' Hall!''

That, after a slick fast-break conversion Wednesday night in the opening game.

Jordan McRae is Jordan "Money" McRae after a tomahawk dunk or any other variety of basket.

Skylar McBee becomes "Skylar McThree" when he swishes a long one.

Renaldo Woolridge is "Swiperboy," his recording-artist handle.

I wasn't able to stay for the late game on opening night to see what tag Jeronne Maymon might acquire.

The last time I was writing about Hall, McRae, Woolridge and Maymon was fairly deep into UT's 2010-11 season. The gist was that despite the Vols' struggles, they fielded perhaps the nation's only four-star scout team in practice.

Each of the above-mentioned quartet was a four-star prospect according to the recruiting services. Yet they languished on Bruce Pearl's bench, for whatever combination of reasons.

So now Pearl is gone. So are seven other players who were regulars in the rotation.

Gone is 74.5 percent of UT's minutes played. Gone is 69.4 percent of UT's scoring.

Which means the four-star scout team has a chance to be more than a scout team.

Hall was asked Wednesday what difference UT fans would see in him next winter.

After a pause, he answered:

"They're gonna see me play. That pretty much sums it up right there. They're gonna see me play.''

The point is not to second-guess Pearl's distribution of minutes. That's history.

What matters now is that Tennessee needs its forgotten four - or at least a couple of them - to go from no-time players to prime- time players as new coach Cuonzo Martin launches his regime under adverse circumstances.

"Everybody is starting over fresh,'' said Maymon.

"We're just trying to get it right from the start. To work hard and make sure we put the right image in their head so that they know we're here to work.''

Maymon, who became eligible in mid-December, appeared in only 14 games. Hall played in 25 of 34 games as a sophomore, averaging 7.0 minutes. That's roughly half what he played as a freshman, when he even made three starts.

McRae got in 10 games as a freshman. His season's log showed 19 shots attempted.

Wednesday night, he made up for it, launching twice that many in one free-wheeling game. He finished 16-of-38 and scored 48 points in a 111-109 loss.

"At first it was hard last year going from big hopes to not playing,'' McRae said. "But it made everybody mentally tougher.''

That should apply to Woolridge. He tallied a grand total of 13 points all last season. That's one fewer than he scored in the Vols' shocking upset of No. 1 Kansas two seasons ago.

Looking to a new era, the Vols are going to need some degree of carry-over from the summer nights of Rocky Top.

Will Hall provide genuine highlights against Kentucky and Vanderbilt?

Will Swiperboy spin some hits against Florida?

And will another guy with a microphone, Bert Bertelkamp, be shouting "Money!" after McRae goes to the basket?

A fresh start awaits.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 8

VolunteerLifer writes:

There were reasons why these four-stars were sitting on Pearl's bench while former walk-ons and transfers played more minutes. And not all of those reasons were Pearl's fault.

But here's hoping that a new coach and a new start will cure whatever ailed these kids last year.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

A lot of potential, but it just remains to be seen if the players have the heart and the resolve to work hard. If Kenny doesn't improve his footwork, he will avg. 10 min. per game and 4 fouls per game. I think the season will hinge on how he plays.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

If the past few seasons have taught Vol fans anything, it's that these Rocky Top games are not REAL games. The ones that matter are in the regular season. Just because someone drops 30+ @ Bearden during the summer does not mean it will translate in SEC play. I think many fans have had unrealistic expectations of players after watching them play in the summer. That's a no-no.

IdahoVol writes:

I enjoyed watching Bertelkamp during his playing days, but let's hope he learns to shout "Money!" only when someone is on fire. I'm tired of a player missing 5 or 6 in a row, then hitting one and hearing "Money". Catch phrases are only good when used at the appropriate time.

pete_hastings#206889 writes:

16 of 38 ?? McRae wasn't very efficient. I appreciate the pros who put up the points but do it with a high FG%. Jordan was great because he led the NBA in scoring but also shot over 52% from the field. McRae should emulate his namesake's work ethic, focus on defense and his scoring efficiency. Then, he really will be MONEY for UT and at the next level.

Volunatic writes:

in response to BigVolinCarolina:

If the past few seasons have taught Vol fans anything, it's that these Rocky Top games are not REAL games. The ones that matter are in the regular season. Just because someone drops 30+ @ Bearden during the summer does not mean it will translate in SEC play. I think many fans have had unrealistic expectations of players after watching them play in the summer. That's a no-no.

Good point. I also worry that the PRTL games might give players bad habits defensively, since they don't really play defense.

SoFlaVol writes:

in response to pete_hastings#206889:

16 of 38 ?? McRae wasn't very efficient. I appreciate the pros who put up the points but do it with a high FG%. Jordan was great because he led the NBA in scoring but also shot over 52% from the field. McRae should emulate his namesake's work ethic, focus on defense and his scoring efficiency. Then, he really will be MONEY for UT and at the next level.

16 0f 38 is 50% and since many of these were three's I think it's a pretty fair percentage. Better than LeBron in the finals.

SoFlaVol writes:

Oops...senior moment in my math calculation...19 of 38 would be 50% so my mistake. But 42% is still not too bad.

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features