Summer league ‘is what it is’
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It is what it is.’
‘Take it with a grain of salt.’
I’ll ignore my general distaste for all things cliché when it comes to sports long enough to admit that, well, the Pilot Rocky Top League ‘is what it is.’
It’s a collegiate summer league for players from programs and divisions of all sizes, sprinkled in with the occasional grizzled veteran with years of international basketball under his belt.
It’s a highly-competitive basketball environment at its best and a dunk contest with a game clock at its worst.
It’s a two-week exhibition with a draft, a schedule, a championship and a show-up-if-you-feel-like-it vibe.
Thursday night’s early game at Bearden High School — a 129-94 Choice Spine win over Campus Lights, advancing Choice Spine to Monday’s 7:30 p.m. championship game at Bearden — had to be taken with the aforementioned grain of salt.
Choice Spine’s Jordan McRae went off like only a guy playing in a summer league can go off. He had 36 first-half points and 28 more in the second.
The 64 points set a new league record (breaking the old mark of 61 set by Carson-Newman’s Scott Williams) and accounted for just less than half of his team’s 129. (For the record, Carson Brooks had 24, Odell Parker had 20, Jared Johnson had 14, Calvin Walker had 4 and Quinton Chievous had 3 to account for the other 65.)
McRae, the 6-foot-5 Tennessee forward, made 27 of 39 shots on the night against Campus Lights, which had six of it’s 10 players on roster actually show up for the game.
Out of the summer league context, McRae averaged 1.8 points per game for Tennessee as a freshman in the 2010-11 season. He upped that number to 8.6 as a sophomore last season, starting 15 of 34 games.
Two of McRae’s misses Thursday were followed by McRae rebounds. Followed by McRae put-backs — summer league as summer league gets.
By the time he broke the record (with a little more than four minutes left in regulation) the game had become a one-sided ‘clear out and give McRae the ball’ kind of contest. That was right before it became a ‘everyone gets a shot at a highlight dunk’ contest.
But then again, it is what it is. It’s a summer league.
You can’t blame the players (or the fans, really) for not showing up. It was over 100 degrees Thursday at Bearden. And if the Rocky Top League is known for anything, it’s known for being played in a gym with no moving air. A few less bodies in the Thursday’s half-full gym didn’t hurt the thermostat.
It’s doesn’t help that this summer’s version lacks star power, either. Mainly Tennessee star power in Jarnell Stokes, Jeronne Maymon and Trae Golden.
Stokes, UT’s all-everything rising sophomore, was busy helping the United States 18-under team to a gold medal in Brazil. Maymon and Golden weren’t available for the league after post-season knee surgeries reserved their summer for rehab.
While ‘what it is’ is a summer league, it’s still a chance to get better. It’s hard to argue McRae got worse from scoring 64 points in a summer league win.
You have to show up, though, to get better.
But it is what it is. It’s a summer league.
Grant Ramey is a sports writer at The Daily Times. He can be reached at grantr@thedailytimes. You can follow him on Twitter @grantramey (http://www.twitter.com) /grantramey).