Inside players don't get a lot of touches in the guard-driven Rocky Top summer league ... especially if they happen to be Choice Spine teammates of high-scoring Jordan McRae.
"I know Jordan's not going to make every shot, so that gives me opportunities to get offensive rebounds and stuff," University of Tennessee sophomore Quinton Chievous said recently. "It's a win/win. I get rebounds and points at the same time."
That's a nice theory but Vol teammate McRae poked holes in it during Choice Spine's final three games — clicking for 44 points last Wednesday and a league-record 64 points last Thursday, then closing with 47 in Monday night's RTL championship game loss to R. Larry Smith Insurance.
With McRae going off, Chievous scored just 10 points on Wednesday and 3 on Thursday before producing 17 in Monday's finale. But that's OK. The Chicago native is one of those team guys who is perfectly content to rebound, play defense and do all of the little things that coaches notice but fans generally don't.
"I feel like my overall game has expanded, as far as my ballhandling and my overall knowledge of the game," Chievous said.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder was so raw when he joined Tennessee's roster as a true freshman last fall that he wound up redshirting to get some additional seasoning.
"Coming in, I really didn't know the system or the plays or where to be on defense that well," he admitted. "As far as knowing where to be and what to do, I've really developed."
Knowing "where to be" is extra challenging for Chievous, who can play every position except center and point guard.
"I can play inside or out," he said. "At the end of the day, I don't really have a position. I'm just a basketball player. If my team needs me to rebound I'll rebound. If my team needs me to shoot I'll shoot. Whatever my team needs me to do, I feel like I can do it."
Last season his Tennessee team needed him to redshirt. That wasn't the role Chievous envisioned but he watched and waited without complaint. In the end, he believes the experience helped him mature as a player and as a person.
"My overall knowledge of the game improved," he said. "Watching from the bench, I saw where I could help the team at. When we were doing spring workouts, I was watching film with the coaches at 5:30 in the morning, trying to stay committed to being a student of the game."
Because he redshirted last winter, Chievous still hasn't played with his Vol teammates. Thus, playing alongside McRae in the Rocky Top League was a real positive.
"It's good to play with Jordan," Chievous said. "I really haven't played with my teammates, since I redshirted last season. I feel like it's good to get up and down the court with Jordan."
Although McRae handled most of the scoring for Choice Spine, Chievous can produce points, too. He scored 30 in the RTL opener, then added 23 in Game 2. As McRae heated up, however, Chievous settled down. He scored 16 points in Game 3, 10 in Game 4 and 3 in Game 5. Still, he isn't afraid to fire in clutch situations. Chievous sealed one recent victory by nailing a critical 3-pointer with 2:07 left that bumped his team's lead from 94-88 to 97-88.
"You've got to be ready to shoot and knock it down," he said. "If you're scared to shoot or you're not ready, then you might not make it. If you're prepared to shoot, you've got to see it going in."
With eight of the top nine players back from last season, Tennessee has plenty of experience and depth heading into the 2012-13 season. How Chievous fits into the playing rotation remains to be seen but he's confident he'll find a role.
"I stayed in the gym all last summer and all season long," he said. "I feel like I can really contribute as a knock-down shooter for this team this year. I just need to make open shots, rebound and be a great defender ... doing whatever the team needs to get a win."
MONDAY'S ROCKY TOP RECAP
Former Vol Bobby Maze scored 31 points in leading R. Larry Smith Insurance to a 131-124 defeat of Choice Spine in the RTL title game. Current Vols Josh Richardson (27 points) and Skylar McBee (19) supported Maze for the winners. McRae scored 47 and Chievous added 17 for Choice Spine.
East Tennessee State's Lester Wilson gunned in 49 points in leading DeRoyal Industries past The Knoxville News-Sentinel 91-84 in the third-place game. Tennessee walk-on Brandon Lopez scored 53 for KNS.