Quinton Chievous watched 19 games at Thompson-Boling Arena last season.
He'd grind through daily Tennessee basketball practices, duel with teammates, work up a sweat. When game time arrived, though, the warm-ups stayed.
Chievous redshirted last year, a decision he was asked to make and ultimately languished over. He thought he was ready to play. He tried to prove it every day.
That lonely season made Monday night all the sweeter. It didn't matter if it was an exhibition against Victory University. He played like it was a league game against Vanderbilt University.
"Running up and down the court, I looked up into the stands one time and saw all the fans and thought, you know, it's finally here," Chievous said after leading the Vols to a 99-57 exhibition win over visiting Victory University.
"All my hard work has finally paid off," he added.
And it produced 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals Monday night.
Chievous will make his official debut on Friday when Kennesaw State visits Thompson-Boling Arena for the regular-season opener.
Against Victory, the Vols tumbled along in a lackluster first half before outscoring the Eagles 61-31 during the final 20 minutes.
In an exhibition last week at Auburn, Victory trailed by 41 at halftime on its way to a 108-57 loss. Against the Vols, the halftime margin was slightly less daunting.
UT led by just 12, 38-26.
"The one thing we talk about all the time is how do you play when the lights come on," UT coach Cuonzo Martin said. "I thought our guys were a little slow out of the gates. They weren't as aggressive, weren't as assertive."
That quickly changed. Tennessee led 50-31 just three minutes into the second half.
Martin got the most out of his roster in a contest that counted only as game film. All 10 Vols who saw the floor each played more than 10 minutes. Only Chievous played more than 30. All scored at least six points.
Jordan McRae matched Chievous' 15 points, while freshman Armani Moore added 11 and Kenny Hall, starting in place of an injured Jeronne Maymon (knee), scored 10.
Martin said after the game that he "talks about sharing the ball all the time." The message produced 38 field goals on 24 assists.
It started with point guard Trae Golden. The junior, who looks 100 percent following offseason knee surgery, finished with eight assists and no turnovers in 20 minutes.
"He did a great job running the team," Martin said. "And I don't think he passed up any shots, either, so that's a good sign because the one thing I don't want him to do is pass up any shots."
The Vols turned 25 Victory turnovers into 35 points.
Having shifted from his natural guard position to the power forward spot this year, the 6-foot-5 Chievous worked the blocks on the defensive end.
The learning curve is still bending. Midway through the first half, a Victory big man easily bodied him under the basket, turned, scored, and drew a foul.
"He got good position on me and I didn't front and didn't do my job," Chievous said.
He'll have the opportunity to make up for Monday's mistakes in four days.
All the Vols will.
"We start on Friday and there's no turning back," Martin said.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn