Two recent articles indicate that University of Tennessee incoming sophomore and former Liberty County Panthers basketball standout Jordan McRae has a new outlook as he prepares for the upcoming UT hoops season.
In an article posted on govolsxtra.com, writer Mike Griffith said McRae learned a few valuable lessons from sitting the bench last year.
In a similar article, InsideTennessee.com’s Randy Moore said McRae is coming back bigger and calmer this season.
Both articles reported that McRae struggled as a freshman, finding it difficult to manage his time off court and controlling his emotions on the hardwood.
McRae told Griffith he admitted he was his own worst enemy during his freshman year.
McRae played in 10 games last season, averaging 5.3 minutes per game. He was suspended for six games due to a verbal altercation that occurred on the team bus in front of Volunteer donors. But according to Griffith’s article, that is all in the past.
“I’m learning to channel my emotions much better,’’ McRae told Griffith. “I was having a hard time with not playing, but by the end of the season, I realized it wasn’t all bad. I got to watch and learn some things, seeing Scotty (Hopson) go through some ups and downs, and my teammates were talking to me and supporting me.”
Moore reported the new and calmer McRae is evident as he displays his talents during the Pilot Rocky Top Summer League playing for the News Sentinel.
On Wednesday, News Sentinel lost to DeRoyal Industries, 111-109, but McRae led the scoring, hitting 48 points.
Moore reported the “calmer” McRae drained 16 of 28 shots en route to 41 points Friday night when the News Sentinel beat Ralph Brown & Associates, 106-96.
On Tuesday night, McRae hit 48 points again on 19-of-35 shooting and was 7 for 7 from the line. But his team fell to Choice Spine, 105-99.
Moore reported it was evident that McRae had bulked up over the year, coming in at 185 pounds for the summer league compared to the 160-pound lean frame he had when he arrived at UT.
Moore said the added weight is a big plus.
“I’m finishing with a lot more contact, just going through it,” McRae told Moore.
Griffith reported that McRae’s longtime friend and Vols teammate Trae Golden has helped keep McRae calm and steered in the right direction.
“I think it was hard on him having to sit the bench, just like it was hard on all of us who didn’t play a lot,’’ Golden told Griffith. “But Jordan has made all the right adjustments, and I think he’s good to go.”
McRae reportedly is more decisive on his shot selections, more eager to set up his teammates for the ball and ready to pull down more rebounds.
“The majority of my game now is getting in the lane and getting to the line,’’ McRae told Griffith. “I’ve been shooting every morning and every night trying to get more consistent on my shot, too.”
But McRae still has his razzle-dazzle moments.
On Friday night, he reportedly entertained fans with a windmill dunk on one fast break and moments later threw down a reverse dunk off an alley-oop from Wayne Chism.