Jordan McRae embraces role as UT's sixth man

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee guard Jordan McRae looks for an open teammate as Kennesaw State guard Yonel Brown on. Nov. 9 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Photo by Adam Brimer

ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee guard Jordan McRae looks for an open teammate as Kennesaw State guard Yonel Brown on. Nov. 9 at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The starting gig traded hands three times last season.

From Jordan McRae to Josh Richardson to Skylar McBee.

With former Tennessee guard Cam Tatum occupying the small forward position, starting shooting guard duties evolved until McBee took hold for the final 12 games of the year.

Upon Tatum's departure, most thought McRae — a junior who averaged 8.6 points in 21.7 minutes per game — would start over Richardson — a sophomore who averaged 2.9 points in 16.0 minutes.

Makes sense, no?

Apparently not.

When the Vols met Georgia Tech in a preseason scrimmage on the last Sunday in October, Richardson started.

It's been that way since and McRae swears he's fine with it.

"I really don't mind it," he said. "Some people ask me about it and I just tell them that it's my role. It would be one thing if I was getting 12 minutes per game, but I'm still playing 25-plus."

Or even 30-plus. McRae scored 12 points over 31 minutes in UT's last outing, an 83-69 win over Massachusetts a week ago.

McRae has repeatedly said he embraces being a scoring punch off the bench. Egos, though, do exist. It can't be easy to stand idle as Richardson's name is called and fireworks light up Thompson-Boling Arena, as they will again tonight (TV: FSS, 7 p.m.). for the Vols game against Oakland

According to McRae, coach Cuonzo Martin didn't formally tell him he'd be the team's sixth man.

"I'm not the type of person he'd even have to tell that to," McRae said. "I knew I was still going to play, but it maybe makes me go a little harder in practice."

The playing time has been there. So has the production. McRae is averaging 11.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and shooting 46.7 percent from the field through four games.

Starting point guard Trae Golden can often been seen on the floor yelling for McRae to be aggressive.

"We're so much better when he brings it," Golden said.

Even if he's bringing it from the bench.

"To be able to accept that and thrive in that role says a lot," Golden said. "It's perfect for him."

McRae is noticeably better driving the ball into the paint this season and is not being neutralized by physical defenders.

"Sometimes when I'd drive last year I'd have the angle, but get bumped off a little," McRae said. "This year I can take the bump a lot better."

That doesn't mean bigger, stronger defenders don't still present a problem. Oklahoma State had plenty of them. McRae, not coincidently, went 1-for-8 from the field and UT lost 62-45.

That said, the jump shooting is improved. After finishing last year missing 16 of his last 18 3-point attempts, McRae is 7-for-13 to start 2012-13. The key is the right elbow. He's worked with assistant coach Kent Williams on keeping it tucked in when rising for jumpers. When the right-hander swings that elbow out like a car door, an errant shot is on its way.

McRae noted that he's far more comfortable on the floor this year because of the improved stroke and better shot selection. It shows. Remove the Oklahoma State game and he is 13-for-22 from the field.

When he's that tidy, McRae is the scoring option Martin seeks beyond Golden, Jarnell Stokes and the injured Jeronne Maymon.

And a weapon off the bench.

"I like my role," McRae said. "Really, I do."

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

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 11

lomas98 writes:

Time to break the 2 game losing streak to Oakland.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

McRae is the ultimate team player. You couldn't ask more from anyone.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I liked McRae the first day he was here. I can't say I have always liked his play since then but I will say he's progressed a lot. I'd like to see him earn that start this year. He can be really good. However I don't necessarily see him starting over Richardson. I think McBee(as much as I like him) will eventually be the one off the bench for the scoring punch and hopefully McRae is the defensive stop. PLUS we now have Chievous and Edwards in the mix. It's great competition.

eb502us#225637 writes:

The reason McRae doesn't start is that he is way down the list of the best players on this team. He has a limited game (suspect outside shot, below average ball handler and poor decision maker) If not for his athletic ability, he'd never see the floor.

It's a shame that he has never gotten better since the day he arrived. He is Cameron Tatum reincarnated, without the outside shot.

no1djkb#278630 writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

The reason McRae doesn't start is that he is way down the list of the best players on this team. He has a limited game (suspect outside shot, below average ball handler and poor decision maker) If not for his athletic ability, he'd never see the floor.

It's a shame that he has never gotten better since the day he arrived. He is Cameron Tatum reincarnated, without the outside shot.

I disagree. Think being a better team player counts for being a better basketball player. He is not jacking up his shot every time he gets a chance and he is playing with more control. He has also put on more muscle so he can be more physical.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

The reason McRae doesn't start is that he is way down the list of the best players on this team. He has a limited game (suspect outside shot, below average ball handler and poor decision maker) If not for his athletic ability, he'd never see the floor.

It's a shame that he has never gotten better since the day he arrived. He is Cameron Tatum reincarnated, without the outside shot.

So, do you think BQ just made up those numbers that showed that McRae is in fact much better this year? He had a bad game against OK State, but so did everybody else on the team. I noticed in the first game that he was doing a better, if not perfect, job of keeping his right elbow under the ball, and it shows in his improved accuracy. It can still drift out when shoots quickly, but when he takes his time, the good stroke is there. He still needs to be more efficient on his drives, but he is one of the few on the team who CAN take it in from out on the perimeter. In sum, I just don't see how you can say that he hasn't improved since he got here.

Ironcity writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

The reason McRae doesn't start is that he is way down the list of the best players on this team. He has a limited game (suspect outside shot, below average ball handler and poor decision maker) If not for his athletic ability, he'd never see the floor.

It's a shame that he has never gotten better since the day he arrived. He is Cameron Tatum reincarnated, without the outside shot.

EB I typically agree with your comments but today I think your way off. Mcrae has really improved his play. He is shooting over 50% from the arc. I am not sure what you expect from him. Does he have room to improve? Absolutely, but I like his game and see him as a perfect fit for coming off the bench with a green light to let it rip.

VolGrad writes:

The games I've seen so far, McRae isn't forcing as many. Last year he put up way too many bad shots instead of passing the ball. He looks much improved to this point.

Go Vols! Beat Oakland!!!

martinvol34 writes:

EB phone home and get a hug. You obviously are not watching the same McRae as the rest of us.

eb502us#225637 writes:

in response to martinvol34:

EB phone home and get a hug. You obviously are not watching the same McRae as the rest of us.

I hope McRae makes me eat my words, but time will tell especially when we get into SEC play.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

I hope McRae makes me eat my words, but time will tell especially when we get into SEC play.

I used to be down on tatum. Well I had reasons.
But Tatum Did leave a lot of short baskets. He loved those finger rolls or something like it.
Jordan can go to the basket AND this year seems to be shootin' the perimeter much better...so far.

Can't wait till SEC. Really I can't wait to see us against Georgetown. McRae will help us in that game. That's a hopeful prediction.

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