Trae's on track

Trae's on track

Perhaps no player in the Rocky Top Summer League made more progress from Game 1 to Game 6 than Tennessee signee Trae Golden.

The 6-1, 190-pounder scored 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting in his RTSL debut, with a few too many turnovers and shots blocked. Most of the rough edges were gone in his regular-season finale Wednesday night, however. Trae Golden hit 12 of 20 field-goal tries. He drained 3 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line. He made 4 of 5 foul shots. He finished with 31 points.

Best of all, Golden hit some big buckets late as his Ray's ESG team launched a determined, but ill-fated, comeback bid in a 121-112 loss.

"I was just trying to help us come back, and they was falling," he said of his clutch shots. "I wasn't in a zone or nothing. It was just something I was kind of throwing up there."

Golden's perimeter jumper looked smoother Wednesday night than it had in earlier games. Naturally, seeing nearly half of his 3-pointers fall was encouraging.

"It helps any basketball player's confidence," he said. "It's a great thing to see, and I'm happy they were going in for me."

Although there isn't an awful lot of defense or discipline in the RTSL, Golden is convinced he benefited considerably by participating in it.

"I think I gained a lot, being able to play against college and professional players," he said. "It's a great thing to do."

Asked to pinpoint the greatest lesson he learned in the summer league, he answered immediately.

"Just to be patient," he said. "Make sure I knock down shots and work on my defense some more."

Golden learned a lot just by observing the play of RTSL teammate Chris Lofton, the most prolific 3-point shooter in Big Orange history.

"The guy who taught me the most was Chris Lofton, the greatest Vol ever," Golden said, literally gushing. "He's my personal favorite. I look up to him. He gives me advice all the time. He's my favorite Vol, and you don't see too many people who can shoot like that, so this was great."

One benefit of the RTSL is that it helps UT freshmen like Golden and Jordan McRae bond with the Vol veterans they compete with and against.

"I think I bonded a lot," Golden said. "We bond (in pickup games) at school, too, and it's been a great experience."

Although he made progress in every area during his Rocky Top stint, Golden says he improved most in terms of "my defense and being able to play against higher-level competition."

Although he can play point guard or shooting guard, Golden appears most likely to contribute at the point in Year 1. He believes he refined his point-guard skills in the Rocky Top League.

"I didn't have to play too much with Tony (White Jr.) and Chris (Lofton) on the team but I played enough," Golden said. "I think I did good. I think I got better with each game, and I think I'll continue to get better at it."

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