Shooting workouts big boost for McBee
Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012 7:00 pm
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Skylar McBee spent just about every day this summer taking around 500 shots from around the perimeter. It’s an offseason routine the senior guard has maintained ever since he walked on at Tennessee.
All that practice is paying off.
McBee shot 3-of-6 from 3-point range in an exhibition triumph over Victory. He followed that up Friday by going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and matching a team high with 14 points as the Volunteers defeated Kennesaw State 76-67 in their regular-season opener. McBee will try to keep up that torrid pace today when Tennessee faces UNC Asheville in its first game at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
The 6-foot-3 senior’s accuracy should give Tennessee a major outside shooting advantage over UNC Asheville (1-1), which went a combined 2-of-24 from 3-point range in its first two games.
As Tennessee opponents focus their attention on trying to contain 6-8 sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes, McBee and the Vols’ other perimeter players should get plenty of opportunities.
“I’m really confident right now and shooting the ball well,” McBee said. “Hopefully we can continue to do that down in Puerto Rico. A lot of that attributes to the package we’ve got inside. They’re getting double-teamed a lot, so we’re getting some really good looks outside.”
McBee is best known for making an off-balance 3-pointer that sealed a 76-68 upset of top-ranked Kansas on Jan. 10, 2010, but he has long since proved he’s no one-shot wonder.
Before the season, junior guard Trae Golden called McBee the best shooter in the country. Golden considers McBee’s fast start more than just a hot streak.
“I don’t even think it’s a roll,” Golden said. “He’s just shooting the ball much better. I just think he’s a much better shooter this year.”
McBee always has worked tirelessly on his shot.
He graduated from Rutledge Grainger High School, where his father currently works as a drivers’ education instructor after retiring as assistant principal.
His dad had a key to the school gym, and McBee used to go there as often as possible. The former high school quarterback would even shoot baskets after football practice during the fall.
McBee turned down offers from mid-major programs to enroll at Tennessee as a preferred walk-on, though the Vols awarded him a scholarship after his freshman year.
“I grew up a Tennessee fan,” McBee said. “I always liked Tennessee basketball, Tennessee football, Tennessee everything. I’m an east Tennessee guy. This is home. I don’t think it would have mattered who all I had scholarship offers from. If I had a chance to come play at Tennessee, this is where I was going to go.”
McBee has made steady progress throughout his career.
His 3-point accuracy has improved from 31.3 percent as a freshman to 32.4 percent in 2010-11 and 39.1 percent last season.
He wants to shoot at least 40 percent from beyond the arc this year.
His improvement coincided with Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin’s arrival last year. McBee earned more playing time under Martin and was given the freedom to shoot whenever he had an open look.
“My first two years, I was more of a (guy who would) come in and maybe get three attempts a game, one in the first half and two in the second half,” McBee said. “As a shooter, it’s hard to really have good numbers doing that. This last year and then this year, Coach Martin’s super confident in us as a shooting team. He says if you’re open, let it fly.”
Martin’s faith in McBee hasn’t wavered, particularly now that McBee has developed more confidence.
“It’s at the level now that I want him to shoot when he’s open,” Martin said. “His teammates expect him to shoot, and they think the shot’s going in just as well as I do.”
The Vols need McBee’s shots to fall this week as they test themselves against tougher opponents than Kennesaw State.
UNC Asheville went 24-10 and gave Syracuse a scare in the NCAA tournament last season, though the Bulldogs lost four senior starters from that team. Tennessee will face Akron or Oklahoma State in its second game at Puerto Rico. No. 6 North Carolina State looms as a possible championship game foe.
The Vols continue to play without 6-7 senior forward Jeronne Maymon, a second-team all-Southeastern Conference selection last year who likely is out at least through the end of November after having a setback in his recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery.
“We won our first game, but I don’t think our guys were happy with our overall performance,” Martin said. “They’re ready to go.”
Tennessee wil play twice more in the Puerto Rico event this week before hosting recent nemesis Oakland on Nov. 26. Published in The Messenger 11.15.12