"Going 6-0 definitely means a lot," Golden said. "I don't think anything should be as important to a player as winning. My team was having fun, and that's what matters to me: I just make sure everybody else is happy."
Golden made Vol teammate Jeronne Maymon especially happy, assisting him time after time on his way to a team-high 30 points. Maymon, going head-to-head with former UT standout Wayne Chism, was 11 of 14 from the field and 8 of 9 from the foul line.
Golden added 21 points for the champs. He went just 7 of 17 from the field, including 0 of 5 from beyond the 3-point arc, but he ran the team crisply and distributed the ball deftly in directing an offense that The News-Sentinel simply couldn't contain. Choice Spine led 63-50 at halftime, survived a brief rally, then pulled away down the stretch.
Tennessee sophomore Jordan McRae, who was averaging 47.6 points per game coming in, scored a season-low 36 points for The News-Sentinel. Still, he was 11 of 24 from the field, 11 of 16 from the foul line and 3 of 9 from 3-point range. Skylar McBee, yet another UT player, hit 6 of 11 shots beyond the arc en route to 21 points for The News-Sentinel.
Although McRae and McBee had better shooting nights, Golden is the guy who won a championship. And that, he believes, is the way point guards are measured.
"If you look at Derrick Rose and Jason Kidd, they control their teams, recognize who needs to get shots and make sure everybody gets shots," Golden said. "There's a lot that goes into being a point guard."
Golden showed a lot of those qualities during the three-week summer league. Although he averaged 27 points per game, he did a masterful job of getting open looks for his teammates. Ultimately, Choice Spine's offensive efficiency was the reason it went 6-0. And much of the credit for that efficiency goes to Trae Golden, who was the backup to senior point guard Melvin Goins for the Vols last season.
"This did a lot for my confidence," Golden said of the Rocky Top League. "But I'm going to keep working and make sure I keep improving as a player.
"The best thing I did this summer was make sure my teammates were happy. I asked them the first couple of games where they liked the ball because whenever they wanted it they were going to get it. Whenever they were open they knew they were going to get it, so everybody always ran the floor hard."
Winning a summer-league title hardly equates to winning a Southeastern Conference championship. Still, Golden was thrilled to be a key member of the RTL's first-place team.
"It means a lot," he said. "Any time you go out as a competitor, you want to win. I wasn't out here to put up numbers but lose. I wanted to win, and that's what we did, so I'm very happy."
So was Choice Spine teammate Maymon, who couldn't resist a little gloating after the final horn.
"I said before the season that we was going to win the league," the 6-7, 258-pounder said. "Me and Trae wasn't among the top echelon of the picks (in the league draft). That was a bad decision (by the teams that passed over them), so we decided to take it all the way."