One year after scoring nearly 30 points per game as a senior at McEachern High of Powder Springs, Ga., however, Trae Golden
might not score that many points per month now that he's a Tennessee
The stocky freshman is OK with that, however. He knew that making the switch from shooting guard in high school to point guard in college would involve some adjustments.
"In high school I scored 30 points a game," he said. "Now, instead of coming off a pick and looking to score, I'm coming off a pick and looking for other guys who can score ... but still looking for my shot. There's just a balance there you have to find."
Golden didn't worry about balance as a prep senior. He averaged 29.8 points per game, earning "Mr. Basketball" recognition in his home state. He then scored 21 points in the prestigious Derby Classic at Louisville.
A guy so accustomed to putting up big numbers faces an obvious challenge in becoming a pass-first point guard. After playing the point in dozens of pickup games, six outings in the Rocky Top Summer League and a few preseason practices, Golden believes he is adjusting well to the demands of his new position, however.
"It's been pretty good - finding the balance between scoring and passing, keeping guys involved and learning to serve everybody," he said. "I think I've made a pretty good transition. At first it was tough but now I think I'm doing better."
Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl thinks so, too.
"Trae Golden was a high school scorer; that's what he was," Pearl said recently. "I would say that I've been pleased with his transition because he's only played the point for us. That's the only position he's been working at. He's really good in ball-screen offense. He can shoot it. He can pass it."
Associate head coach Tony Jones has noticed the same attributes. That's why he believes Golden is capable of significantly helping the Vols as a mere freshman.
"Trae Golden is ready to play right now," Jones said. "He's learning to play the point-guard position. In high school he handled the ball a lot but mainly he was off the ball. He can shoot the ball and he can make free throws, which bodes well for him being out there at the end of the game."
At 6-1 and 207 pounds, Golden is built like an outside linebacker. That's good except that Tennessee coaches want him to perform more like a cover cornerback.
"His biggest challenge is keeping the kind of guys that we have to go against night in and night out in front of him," Pearl said.
Jones agrees, noting: "He just needs to improve his defense. He needs to learn to move his feet and keep opposing point guards in front of him."
Despite some defensive limitations, Golden should be a key player for the Vols this season. Most likely he will be the No. 2 point guard behind senior Melvin Goins, who might be his biggest fan.
"Trae Golden is a special player," Goins said. "I've talked to him about it often, and I don't think he understands yet what a great talent he is. There aren't a lot of combo guards who can be efficient at both.
"Trae has a big frame and he's smart. He knows the game. His basketball IQ is very high. He's an assist-first kind of guy but he scores the ball well. Offensively, he's a big threat. He's going to be a great, great player for Tennessee."
In high school his only goal was shooting the ball into one.