Vols playing bigger roles in Rocky Top League

The Knoxville News Sentinel's Jordan McRae shoots the ball as ChoiceSpine's Andy Tipton defends during the Men's Pilot Rocky Top League championship game at Bearden High School Wednesday, June 29, 2011.

Photo by Adam Brimer, Adam Brimer

The Knoxville News Sentinel's Jordan McRae shoots the ball as ChoiceSpine's Andy Tipton defends during the Men's Pilot Rocky Top League championship game at Bearden High School Wednesday, June 29, 2011.

As the Pilot Rocky Top League draft began at Ray's ESG on Wednesday night, Tennessee basketball players Jordan McRae and Kenny Hall followed top pick James "Boo" Jackson as the draft's No. 2 and No. 3 picks.

The Vols' supporting cast is the main act this summer.

With UT's top three players — Trae Golden (knee surgery), Jeronne Maymon (knee surgery) and Jarnell Stokes (traveling with the United States U18 team) — unavailable for Rocky Top League play, the unheralded are now the heralded.

McRae and Hall, along with teammates Skylar McBee (second pick, second round), Josh Richardson (fifth pick, third round) and Yemi Makanjuola (first pick, fourth round), among others, the Rocky Top League offers an opportunity to steal some spotlight at Bearden High School.

"It's good for those guys to go out there and get some attention and name recognition," Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin said.

Thanks to a change in NCAA summer contact rules, Martin and his staff are permitted to attend the league's upcoming games. That doesn't mean, however, that Martin will be sitting courtside demanding restrictions in the annual defense-free dunk-fest.

"I expect all of them to go out and compete, but that's probably not a place for me to go watch them," Martin said. "A player has to be able to let his hair down and things can't always be so high and competitive. We do that in the practice. They can go have fun."

The league's most Vols-laden team comes from R. Larry Smith Insurance. Former UT players Bobby Maze, Ron Slay and Jon Higgins will guide a roster featuring McBee and Richardson.

Additionally, recent UT graduates Cameron Tatum and Melvin Goins will play alongside current team members Makanjuola and Brandon Lopez for

the Knoxville News Sentinel team, while Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Stephen Pearl will do the same with UT walk-ons Rob Murphy and Galen Campbell on Rice Buick GMC. Hall and former UT star Tyler Smith will share a frontcourt on a Campus Lights team also featuring incoming freshman Derek Reese.

Pat Walden, a walk-on member of Tennessee's 1983 SEC championship team, is in his sixth season coaching in the Rocky Top League. Despite drafting the lone team void of Vols, he noted that the league is a thread that ties together the program's immediate past.

"It encourages a lot of bonding among the former players and the new players and gives them a sense of the tradition that Cuonzo is trying to build on," Walden said.

The six-team Rocky Top League will begin Monday with three games.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 4

luvmatersoup writes:

I can't wait until next year!!!! This ball team is going to be great and Coach M. is a studd!!! Go Big Orange and I love tomato soup!

txvolsfan writes:

in response to TROLLING_IS_FUN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

yea only 1 out of last 7 years, I think I can live with that average being in the big dance and we will be back this year. Not a lot of SEC teams can say that south of Lexington!!!
thanks for the stupid comments though!!!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to txvolsfan:

yea only 1 out of last 7 years, I think I can live with that average being in the big dance and we will be back this year. Not a lot of SEC teams can say that south of Lexington!!!
thanks for the stupid comments though!!!

Good points. UT is always around to pester good ole Kentucky Bluecats!
We couldn't complain about the NIT last year because of our lack of team play that hindsight shows was due mainly to injuries...?
We lost to a very good MTSU team. We wouldn't have with all our players intact. Plus not having Hall was a downer.
You are correct also about the "stupid" troll.

We will be back in the tourney this year. It's hard to say we'll be in the top 2 SEC this year but we might be. We have the talent. We need help from some of these new players at the guard spots. We need Trae to be healthy.

No one will out rebound us. Hear that bigs?? You can't let any team on our schedule out rebound us.

Razzle writes:

in response to TROLLING_IS_FUN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Isn't there some kind of troll school for you fledgling, not too bright trolls? You really aren't making a very good grade at all in the troll department. Maybe your Uncle Goober could give you some pointers.

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