McGhee getting 'Tyndall tough'

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Spring signee Jabari McGhee figured the strict discipline he endured at Hargrave Military Academy prepared him for anything he would face at Tennessee. He was wrong. It didn't prepare him for the rigors of playing under Donnie Tyndall.

"When I came on my official visit he told me this would be the hardest year of my life," McGhee said. "He told the truth!"

NCAA regulations limit Tyndall's offseason practice opportunities but that hasn't stopped strength coach Todd Moyer from putting the Vols through a real grind this summer.

"Coach Todd … man, he's a maniac," McGhee said, flashing a pained grin. "He's cool, though. I've never in my life been through anything like that. I gained like 10 pounds in a week. The weight training is unbelievable."

One workout proved especially memorable. First, each player had to do squats while fighting the resistance provided by thick rubber bands. Next, the player put his back to the wall, then assumed a sitting position with his rear end suspended at knee level. Weights were then stacked on his lap, putting enormous pressure on his stomach, lower back, butt and leg muscles.

"Oh, my God! I don't know what they had going on that day," McGhee exclaimed, shaking his head at the recollection. "That had to be the hardest day. They said it was going to be The Crazy Day, but I didn't know it was going to be like that. My butt was like two inches off the ground, and they just kept piling weight on."

Although Hargrave's players lifted weights, the workouts were nowhere near as intense or taxing as the ones at Tennessee.

"We done a little stuff but we weren't big on it," McGhee recalled. "This is totally different. The bad thing is, they've got Coach Todd everything he needs (in terms of equipment), so he's all full force."

Flashing another pained grin, McGhee added: "I didn't know it was going to be this hard. I knew it was going to be hard but not this hard. I'm still getting mentally ready. I'm going to work my way into it, though."

Don't get the idea that McGhee is soft. He isn't. Now that he understands the level of toughness required to play for Tyndall he is rising to meet the challenge. He says his fellow newcomers are doing the same. That should give the Vols an edge in stamina and mental toughness late in games, when legs are weary and nerves are frayed.

"Oh, it will help us out a lot," the player said. "We're kind of undersized but if you play how we plan on playing you'll fight right through it, man. You'll fight right through it."

The Vols are undersized, all right. Minus 2013-14 posts Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon, a couple of 6-foot-8, 260-pound bruisers, Tennessee's heaviest player is McGhee, who carries just 225 pounds on a slender 6-foot-8 frame.

Tyndall routinely fielded undersized teams at Morehead State and Southern Miss that offset their lack of height and heft with tenacity and toughness. McGhee believes the 2014-15 Vols will be cast from that same mold. Nothing he encountered at Hargrave prepared him for the rigors of playing for Donnie Tyndall.

"Hargrave helped me with the waking up in the morning and the discipline; that's about it," he said. "You've got to be mentally ready for a lot of stuff Coach Tyndall brings at you."

Becoming "Tyndall tough" is a chore but McGhee has no regrets about choosing Tennessee over Ole Miss, South Carolina and an assortment of mid-major programs.

"I don't like the easy road," he said. "I knew it was going to be hard. I knew I was going to have to bang. I knew Willie (Carmichael) was coming here, and me and Willie are similar players. I knew I had to fight for stuff, and that's the kind of guy I am."

McGhee's combative nature is evident in the Rocky Top League this summer. He bounced back from an 8-point effort in Game 1 to score 21 points in Game 2, 16 in Game 3, 23 in Game 4 and 17 in Game 5 on Monday night

McGhee exhibits good shot selection, which is why he has made 38 of 62 field-goal attempts (61.3 percent). He struggles from the foul line, however, shooting just 40.9 percent (9 of 22). The RTL keeps no rebounding stats but he must be in the top four or five in that category.

Asked why he is so strong on the backboards, he shrugged.

"I don't know, actually," McGhee said. "As soon as it goes up, I fly to the rim. That's just how I am, just how I grew up playing."

MONDAY'S ROCKY TOP RESULTS

GAME 1: Vol senior Josh Richardson scored 37 points in leading Choice Spine to a 114-104 defeat of Campus Lights. Richardson was 13 of 25 from the field, 5 of 15 from 3 and 5 of 5 from the foul line. Ex-Vols D'Montre Edwards (30) and Jon Higgins (8) also contributed to the win. Vol junior Armani Moore scored 32 in the losing cause, hitting 10 of 25 from the field, 3 of 7 from 3 and 9 of 12 from the line.

GAME 2: Ex-Vol Bobby Maze scored 45 points and UT signee Detrick Mostella added 43 as Rice Buick tripped DeRoyal 125-118. Mostella hit 17 of 32 shots, including 6 of 16 from 3. He was 3 of 4 on free throws. Fellow signees Devon Baulkman (46) and Willie Carmichael (23) led the scoring for DeRoyal. Baulkman hit 16 of 34 field-goal tries, 7 of 19 treys and 7 of 9 foul shots. Carmichael was 10 of 18 from the field, 0 of 2 from 3 and 3 of 5 from the line. Ex-Vol Wayne Chism added 21 for DeRoyal.

GAME 3: Vol senior Brandon Lopez scored 39 points in leading The Knoxville News-Sentinel to a 115-107 defeat of Clancy's Tavern. Lopez was 15 of 23 from the field, 3 of 8 from beyond the arc and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. Ex-Vol Kenny Hall chipped in 35. Vol signees Kevin Punter (29) and Jabari McGhee (17) led Clancy's. Punter made 9 of 27 from the field, 3 of 11 from 3 and 8 of 12 from the line. McGhee was 8 of 13 from the field, missed his only 3-point try and made 1 of 2 from the line.

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