His Campus Lights team lost in Tuesday’s Rocky Top League title game at Christian Academy of Knoxville but this still might be the best week of Jordan McRae’s life.
The Tennessee basketball standout’s week began with two memorable Sunday workouts on the final day of the Kevin Durant Skill Academy at Washington D.C. It will end with his participation in the LeBron James Skill Academy, which runs Friday through Monday in Las Vegas.
The Durant Academy featured 20 of the top guards in college basketball. The James Academy involves 20 of the top NCAA players, regardless of position. Both are invitation-only, so McRae was understandably flattered to be included in two such prestigious events.
“Those are 1 and 2 as the best players in the world, whichever order you want to put them in,” McRae said of James and Durant. “It’s just a blessing. This summer has been really good so far, and I’m just looking to being the best I can.”
Although enjoyable, the Durant camp was not all fun and games. After working out once last Friday, the invitees endured two two-hour practices on Saturday and two more on Sunday.
“It’s a long day,” McRae recalled. “Not many water breaks and you go two times a day. It’s tough but it’s fun.”
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the Durant camp was meeting elite players from other sections of the country.
“I don’t see the Big Ten play much,” McRae noted. “Gary Harris (Michigan State sophomore) is really good. So is Glenn Robinson III (Michigan). There were a lot of guys that are real good.”
As fate would have it, McRae’s roommate at the Durant camp was controversial Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, known for his on-court histrionics. McRae was surprised to see that Henderson is a different guy off the court.
“He’s one of the most normal guys I’ve ever met, surprisingly,” McRae said. “You’d think he’d be jumping around the room but he’s just normal.”
Asked if he thinks Henderson’s zany on-court persona is a mask he wears, McRae shook his head.
“No, no, no. It’s not a mask,” he said. “Myself, I’m totally different off the court than when I’m on. That’s just part of it.”
Once Henderson took the basketball floor, however, he resorted to the same type of attention-getting antics that made him a household name last season.
“Marshall’s going to be Marshall,” McRae said. “He’s not going to change that. But off the court he’s just Marshall.”
Naturally, the subject of Ole Miss’ two defeats of Tennessee in 2012-13 arose.
“We were talking about how it’s hard to beat a team three times in a year and if we (Vols) had played them (Rebels) again we thought we would’ve won,” McRae said. “He said Ole Miss would beat Tennessee 10 out of 10 times. I just laughed, and that was the end of it.”
When he wasn’t observing his high-profile roommate, McRae was putting on a show for NBA scouts. Basically, it was the ultimate showcase for NBA wannabes.
“According to the coaches, every NBA team had a scout there at one point,” McRae said. “What else can you ask for? You’re playing in front of everybody. They watch you do skill work. They watch you play games. They watch you walk around. Anything you want, it’s right there. It’s up to you to go get it.”
To McRae’s surprise, Durant did more than lend his name to the camp. He was a hands-on participant.
“Durant was there to stretch with us,” McRae recalled. “He did drills with us and he played with us the whole time. He was real competitive; he took it serious. I got a chance to talk to him about my game a little bit. He was throwing little tidbits in my ear. It was a great experience. He told me he liked my game and to try and get better.”
Asked if he got to guard Durant in any of the drills, McRae nodded.
“I guarded him,” he said. “Everybody in the camp got a turn.”
Facing elite talent and rubbing elbows with Durant were only two of the many highlights for McRae. Meeting high-profile coaches such as Todd Day and John Lucas was another thrill.
“It was just a great experience,” McRae said. “All of the basketball knowledge you ever wanted was right there.”
TUESDAY’S RTL RESULTS
McRae scored 51 points but it wasn’t enough to keep The Knoxville News-Sentinel from beating Campus Lights 107-97 in the title game. McRae hit 17 of 31 field-goal tries, including 7 of 15 from 3-point range. He also sank 10 of 12 foul shots. Rawane Ndiaye, the 6-foot-10, 260-pound junior college transfer, hit 2 of 3 from the field and 2 of 6 from the line en route to 6 points. Former Vol Wayne Chism scored 37 points to pace KNS. Vol walk-ons Galen Campbell (25) and Brandon Lopez (14) supported Chism. Campbell was 11 of 20 from the field, 2 of 2 from the line and 1 of 6 from 3. Lopez was 5 of 7 from the field, 3 of 4 from the line and 1 of 2 from 3.
Choice Spine beat DeRoyal 105-97 in the third-place game. Tennessee senior D’montre Edwards scored 33 points for DeRoyal and Vol signee A.J. Davis added 18. Edwards was 13 of 28 from the field, including 7 of 13 from 3-point range. Davis was 8 of 18 from the field, 2 of 2 from the line and 0 of 3 from 3.
The title game drew a packed house at CAK’s gym, including former Vol assistant Tony Jones.