Vols surprised Jordan McRae's SEC player of the week award was his first

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) blocks the shot of Citadel guard Ashton Moore (12) during their game Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. 
 (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the News Sentinel)

Photo by Wade Payne, © 2013 The Knoxville News Sentinel

Tennessee guard Jordan McRae (52) blocks the shot of Citadel guard Ashton Moore (12) during their game Monday, Nov. 18, 2013. (Photo by Wade Payne, Special to the News Sentinel)

Jordan McRae

Jordan McRae

Jordan McRae shrugged it off.

“It’s cool,” he said. “We’ve got some games coming up, so I’m not too worried about that.”

The Tennessee men’s basketball team plays three games in as many days starting Thursday night at 9:30, when it tips off against UTEP (3-2) in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament at Imperial Arena in Paradise Island, Bahamas. But the player of the week award the SEC bestowed upon McRae on Monday recognized what the senior shooting guard did last week for the Vols (3-1). He averaged 22.5 points in wins against the Citadel and Tennessee State.

McRae receiving recognition isn’t much of a surprise anymore. UT’s leading scorer last season has picked up where he left off. He scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting against The Citadel on Nov. 18, then totaled 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting against Tennessee State on Nov. 22. He made 5-of-9 3-pointers in those two games and also blocked five shots.

What baffled McRae’s teammates instead was the news that the SEC award was the first McRae, a first-team member of the all-conference squad last season, has received in his career.

“Yeah, that is surprising,” senior point guard Antonio Barton said. “Seeing the stat lines he is putting up, even last year, that is kind of unbelievable.”

“It’s kind of ridiculous,” added senior forward Jeronne Maymon.

McRae shrugged off his teammates’ reactions too.

“I don’t care,” he said. “It’s all good.”

Reese is Ready: Early tournaments like the Battle 4 Atlantis can test teams’ depth with games on consecutive days. One UT reserve is hoping coach Cuonzo Martin calls his name for the first time this season.

“My mindset is, I’m going to be in every game,” Derek Reese said. “I prepare myself for every game.”

The 6-foot-8, 220-pound sophomore guard appeared in 14 games last season but has been tethered to the bench this season. The team is not planning on redshirting Reese, according to Martin. But he has been unable to force himself into the rotation after he averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds as a freshman.

“He’s working hard,” Martin said. “The biggest key is just being ready to play. I tell him all the time, ‘You never know when your number is called.’ He is putting the work in. Now it’s just a matter of, when he gets the opportunity, make the best of it.”

Ranking the Field: Two of the eight teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament appeared in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll: No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa.

An expanded look shows Villanova at No. 37, Xavier at No. 38 and the Vols at No. 42. UTEP, Southern Cal and Wake Forest received no points.

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Comments » 1

Plasticman85 writes:

Looking forward to seeing how the Vols fare against some good competition in the Bahamas. History shows we rarely ever win these types on tourneys, however, it would be nice to play against Kansas if we can reach the finals.

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