Jordan McRae 'happy with the choice' to return, using summer to improve

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) tries to get around Mississippi State guard Fred Thomas (1) during the second round of the 2013 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Thursday, March 14, 2013. Tennessee won 69-53 over Mississippi State. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) tries to get around Mississippi State guard Fred Thomas (1) during the second round of the 2013 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville Thursday, March 14, 2013. Tennessee won 69-53 over Mississippi State. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Jordan McRae on Robert Hubbs, the PRTL

On Friday morning, the day after the NBA Draft, Jordan McRae will fly north to Washington D.C. The Tennessee senior will head directly to the registration table at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy.

There he will find an array of NBA scouts. They’ll be on-hand defining and refining the stocks of potential picks in next year’s draft.

McRae is looking to improve his fluctuating value.

After rising to rank among the SEC’s top scorers last season, McRae’s stock hit a bear market to close the year. Having averaged 22.3 points over a nine-game, regular-season ending stretch (eight wins), McRae scored 16 points on 6-of-27 shooting in UT’s final two games — losses in the SEC tournament and National Invitational Tournament.

“That’s all just motivation now,” he said Monday night after a ho-hum 42-point outing in the Rocky Top League at Christian Academy of Knoxville.

McRae was an All-SEC first-team selection by both the SEC coaches and media last year. He can expect the same preseason accolades in 2013-14 after spurning the draft to return to UT for his final season.

Those honors mean little to that stock.

“I have a lot to work on,” said McRae, who added that he’ll watch Thursday’s draft with a clear mind.

“It’s over with,” he said. “I made my choice and that was it. I never thought about it again. As soon as I made my choice, it was what it was. I’m very happy with the choice I made.”

The three-day Durant Camp is an invitation-only skills camp for the nation’s top high school and college wing players. McRae will look for balance in D.C. — working on his game while also trying to stand out.

“You want to be vocal out there and try to do more than just scoring,” McRae said. “They know I can score the ball. It’s me showing I have more to my game than just scoring.”

McRae, to the surprise of no one, was the No. 1 pick in this summer’s Rocky Top League. That draft was held at a bar in West Knoxville, instead of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the NBA’s affair.

The disparity hasn’t bothered McRae. He’s lived up to his No. 1 billing, averaging 46.7 points in three Rocky Top League games.

After notching a 61-point performance last week, McRae dominated again on Monday night. Thirty-three seconds into the 93-91 win against Knoxville News Sentinel, he flipped in a step-back, pull-up 3-pointer with an accompanying smirk. In the second half, he reached far, far back and punished the rim with an ohh-ahh dunk. He winked at teammate Jeronne Maymon sitting courtside while jogging back down the floor.

The Durant Camp won’t come as easy. Given last year’s scoring splurge, McRae is traveling with a newfound spotlight.

That attention, he claims, hasn’t altered the offseason work.

“I’m working on everything as if I just started playing — not trying to add too much, but trying to fix what I couldn’t do well and improve what I did do well,” he said.

DeRoyal 118, Next Level 97: UT’s A.J. Davis (29 points) and D’Montre Edwards (27) starred in the win, while Vols freshman Robert Hubbs canned six 3-pointers and scored 28 in a losing effort.

Campus Lights 93, News Sentinel 91: McRae led all scorers with 42. UT alum Wayne Chism scored 25 for the News Sentinel.

Choice Spine 96, Rice Buick GMC 91: Boo Jackson scored 24 points for Choice Spine, which overcame 28 points apiece from UT’s Josh Richardson and Armani Moore.

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

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Comments » 20

eb502us#225637 writes:

McRae will never sniff the NBA. He doesn't have the skill set much less the BB IQ.

He certainly improved his game last season but he still a suspect ball handler, has an inconsistent jump shot, and cannot create on his own. He also doesn't finish well around the basket, takes too many bad and makes just as many bad passes.

Yeah I know it sounds like he's a bench warmer but to make it in the NBA as a guard, you have to have a pretty good all around game with few weaknesses. I hope he proves me wrong and plays lights out this season, but I just don't see it.

Noogaorange writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

McRae will never sniff the NBA. He doesn't have the skill set much less the BB IQ.

He certainly improved his game last season but he still a suspect ball handler, has an inconsistent jump shot, and cannot create on his own. He also doesn't finish well around the basket, takes too many bad and makes just as many bad passes.

Yeah I know it sounds like he's a bench warmer but to make it in the NBA as a guard, you have to have a pretty good all around game with few weaknesses. I hope he proves me wrong and plays lights out this season, but I just don't see it.

And where is it your coaching next season? GBO VFL17

vol98champ writes:

Wow! If I counted right 6 Vols on this years team scored 182 points and probably 4 of them aren't starters. Hope somebody on here watched the game and can comment on what they saw.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I have to say it. I'm 58 years old, can't run at all, and have extreme joint issues.

I can score in the RT League.

That said, We've got players who can score and so do a lot of our opponents. Very few teams are really good at defense. All I'm asking for is a good balance. Team chemistry too. and free throws. and rebounding fundamentals. and good passing and ball handling.

!!!!!

VolzsFan writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I have to say it. I'm 58 years old, can't run at all, and have extreme joint issues.

I can score in the RT League.

That said, We've got players who can score and so do a lot of our opponents. Very few teams are really good at defense. All I'm asking for is a good balance. Team chemistry too. and free throws. and rebounding fundamentals. and good passing and ball handling.

!!!!!

Sad how ignorant some fans are. This is a pick up game just like every city in America has and what every name player in America plays in every summer. That being said, these are college and pro players. In the best moment of your life, you would not score a point in any pick up game with these players. Never.

VolunteerLifer writes:

Problem is, the NBA is strictly an offense minded league. So, while UT needs desperately for him to work on his defense, his desire to play in the league biases him to want to work on his offense.

If he is a consistent scorer AND plays terrific defense, our team will be much improved. If he remains a mediocre defensive player, he'll just give back to the competition in defense what he takes from them in offense.

VolzsFan writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Problem is, the NBA is strictly an offense minded league. So, while UT needs desperately for him to work on his defense, his desire to play in the league biases him to want to work on his offense.

If he is a consistent scorer AND plays terrific defense, our team will be much improved. If he remains a mediocre defensive player, he'll just give back to the competition in defense what he takes from them in offense.

if it was an offensive league the scores would be 225 to 210. These are the best players and best athletes on the planet. No one person can stop another on that level. There is a ton of defense. Those in most areas of the country get it as oppose to the Southeast. Thats ok, another 5-7 season is about 70 days away.

VolzsFan writes:

in response to eb502us#225637:

McRae will never sniff the NBA. He doesn't have the skill set much less the BB IQ.

He certainly improved his game last season but he still a suspect ball handler, has an inconsistent jump shot, and cannot create on his own. He also doesn't finish well around the basket, takes too many bad and makes just as many bad passes.

Yeah I know it sounds like he's a bench warmer but to make it in the NBA as a guard, you have to have a pretty good all around game with few weaknesses. I hope he proves me wrong and plays lights out this season, but I just don't see it.

Thanks for that breakdown Mitch Kupchak.

utvolfan1955 writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

if it was an offensive league the scores would be 225 to 210. These are the best players and best athletes on the planet. No one person can stop another on that level. There is a ton of defense. Those in most areas of the country get it as oppose to the Southeast. Thats ok, another 5-7 season is about 70 days away.

that's ok, you're a troll that often puts some form of Vol in his user name. The z gives you away gator low life

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

Sad how ignorant some fans are. This is a pick up game just like every city in America has and what every name player in America plays in every summer. That being said, these are college and pro players. In the best moment of your life, you would not score a point in any pick up game with these players. Never.

You trying to pick a fight?hehe

I KNOW I would have trouble on the "best day of my life" in any pick-up game with these guys.

Speaking of ignorant! You seem to take everything literal. However I have no doubt that on the best day of my life I could have scored against anybody. You don't need to believe me. It's not necessary.

BTW It was obvious from my "ignorant" statement that I knew it(the RT league) was LIKE a pick-up game. Which was my "ignorant" point entirely. Put on your "thinking cap" and read a little more often. You might learn how to interpret a simple post.hehe

miketn6 writes:

I watched the first two games last night, and saw the last two games last Monday. McRae is the best player I've seen in this league (I missed Selby and Lofton playing the one game they've each played), followed closely by Bobby Maze. Chism is also looking pretty good. UT's freshmen have potential, and at least a couple of them will contribute this year, but don't expect them to look like NBA prospects on a team that will hopefully feature McRae, Maymon, and Stokes. Ryan Westbrook is dominating Hubbs' rocky top team, and Hubbs may need a full year to really get comfortable and improve. After McRae is gone, I'll be surprised if Hubbs isn't a stud. UT's freshmen all look as good or better than McRae looked when he was their age, but McRae's improvement over time is stunning.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to VolzsFan:

if it was an offensive league the scores would be 225 to 210. These are the best players and best athletes on the planet. No one person can stop another on that level. There is a ton of defense. Those in most areas of the country get it as oppose to the Southeast. Thats ok, another 5-7 season is about 70 days away.

I don't care what you say. I think Florida will do better than 5-7. I'd say they'll win at least 6.

beartn#223846 writes:

<<Yeah I know it sounds like he's a bench warmer but to make it in the NBA as a guard, you have to have a pretty good all around game with few weaknesses.>>

I disagree. I had a work collegue who was in the NBA for one year many years ago. He said he was pretty good at everything, but no great at anything. He said the guys in the league were great doing at least one thing. Sure, if you have some weaknesses, you may be a role player on the bench (great 3 poitn shooter, lock down defender, rebounder, etc).

miketn6 writes:

If McRae can continue to become more consistent game to game and eliminate a few of the silly turnovers, he has a chance to play NBA ball. I can't remember a player improving as much as McRae has in 3 years of college ball, and there is no reason he shouldn't be an even better player in year 4.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I don't care what you say. I think Florida will do better than 5-7. I'd say they'll win at least 6.

Hah!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Hah!

Ok ok! I admit to sinking to his level. sometimes it's ok. right? ??

johnlg00 writes:

in response to miketn6:

If McRae can continue to become more consistent game to game and eliminate a few of the silly turnovers, he has a chance to play NBA ball. I can't remember a player improving as much as McRae has in 3 years of college ball, and there is no reason he shouldn't be an even better player in year 4.

That's pretty much the way I see McRae. He has all the physical ability he needs. His slim build could be as much of a plus as it could be a minus. He is quick and explosive, he just needs better judgment about when to take it all the way to the hoop. It would add tremendously to his efficiency if he would learn to break off some of those drives with pull-up mid-range jumpers. I look for him to have a really great year. I don't think he is quite the defensive liability some do. He needs to take more pride in playing tough every possession.

As you say, he just needs consistency. An old saying goes, amateurs practice until they get it right; pros practice until they CAN'T get it WRONG. If McRae learns to do it ALL the time the way he does it when he does it RIGHT, he can play with anybody.

murrayvol writes:

in response to johnlg00:

That's pretty much the way I see McRae. He has all the physical ability he needs. His slim build could be as much of a plus as it could be a minus. He is quick and explosive, he just needs better judgment about when to take it all the way to the hoop. It would add tremendously to his efficiency if he would learn to break off some of those drives with pull-up mid-range jumpers. I look for him to have a really great year. I don't think he is quite the defensive liability some do. He needs to take more pride in playing tough every possession.

As you say, he just needs consistency. An old saying goes, amateurs practice until they get it right; pros practice until they CAN'T get it WRONG. If McRae learns to do it ALL the time the way he does it when he does it RIGHT, he can play with anybody.

You'll grow old and gray waiting for that mid-range jumper john. Excepting a small handful of players, it's a lost art.

murrayvol writes:

in response to VolunteerLifer:

Problem is, the NBA is strictly an offense minded league. So, while UT needs desperately for him to work on his defense, his desire to play in the league biases him to want to work on his offense.

If he is a consistent scorer AND plays terrific defense, our team will be much improved. If he remains a mediocre defensive player, he'll just give back to the competition in defense what he takes from them in offense.

Beg to differ on the NBA comment VL. They play some serious defense in the league. That's what separates the wheat from the chaff at that level.

That said, I agree with the rest of your post. This could be a very good team if everyone plays to their potential. If they don't.......we'll be crying in our beer again come March.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to murrayvol:

You'll grow old and gray waiting for that mid-range jumper john. Excepting a small handful of players, it's a lost art.

McRae took a number of those last year. I agree with you about the general decline of mid-range shooting, but Jordan has already realized that he can be defended if he doesn't have that shot in his arsenal. He found out in the last two games last year that if one defender runs him off the 3-pt line and the rest of them are waiting for him at the rim, he has to have something else for them. His NBA future depends on him finding that "something".

I'm ALREADY old and gray--more bald than gray, perhaps(;-P)--but I do think Jordan is serious enough about being a good player that he knows where he has to improve and has the self-discipline to do so.

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