Another weekend, another proving ground.
Jordan McRae departed from Knoxville on Friday for a weekend jaunt to Las Vegas. We will spare you the luck clichés. It takes skill, not luck, to impress the bevy of NBA scouts on hand at the LeBron James Skills Academy.
“What else can you ask for?” McRae said earlier this week. “(You’re) playing in front of everybody. They’re watching you do skill work, watching you play games, watching you walk around. Anything you want, it’s right there. It’s up to you to go get it.”
Twenty college players and 80 of the nation’s top high school players earned invitations to James’ three-day camp. The college players were pooled from the top performers at Nike’s three groundwork skill academies, camps named for Deron Williams (guards), Kevin Durant (wings) and Amare Stoudemire (post players).
McRae was a standout at the Durant camp last weekend and is rejoined by Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III, Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early and Providence’s Tyler Harris, among others, who also starred at Durant’s camp. Harris is the younger brother of former Vol Tobias Harris.
Other notable college players at James’ camp are Michigan’s Mitch McGary, Alabama’s Trevor Releford and Geron Johnson of Memphis.
“These camps are huge for Jordan,” said UT coach Cuonzo Martin. “He has put himself among the elite players in the country. But camps like these are bigger than that because he’s also continuing to work on his craft; developing skills by getting to work with NBA coaches and players.
“At the end of the day, Jordan’s goal is to make the NBA. This helps.”
Of the 25 collegians invited to the 2012 LeBron James Skills Academy, six were taken in the first round of this year’s NBA draft (Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Solomon Hill, C.J. McCollum, Otto Porter Jr. and Mason Plumlee), and four were selected in the second round.
The camp runs through Monday.
On the Recruiting Trail: The NCAA’s recruiting “dead period” will be lifted next weekend, beginning one of three four-day evaluation periods in July. The UT coaching staff is expected to set its focus on the Reebok Classic Breakout Camp in Philadelphia, the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis and the Peach Jam in South Carolina.
Martin and assistant coaches Jon Harris, Tracy Webster and Kent Williams are meeting Sunday to determine who is going where.
Upcoming Team Schedule: The Vols were dismissed from campus on Wednesday and are due back Sunday for the second session of summer school.
Team workouts will be held three days a week, with four days of lifting, through Aug. 9.
Sonny J Lives On: Former UT assistant coach Tony Jones welcomed another flock of grade school and high school campers to his third annual basketball camp this weekend at Bridgewater Place. The camp benefits the Sonny J Scholarship Foundation.
Jones’ father, Clarence “Sonny J” Jones, would have turned 91 this August. He was murdered in August 2009 while delivering food to the needy in Detroit. He had five children and 21 grandchildren.
The camp helps raise funds for a $5,000 yearly scholarship given to a student in Detroit who exhibits “outstanding characteristics and community service.”
“Because that’s what dad was doing when he was killed — community service,” Tony Jones said. “What better way to help his legacy live on than positively impacting kids.”
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him on Twitter.com/BFQuinn