He cut it close, but Jordan McRae made it: the Vol senior was taken by the defending World Champion San Antonio Spurs with the 58th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. UPDATE: And how quickly things change: McRae has been traded to Philadelphia.
We profiled McRae earlier this week: a scorer from both the three point line and at the rim who bought in to Cuonzo Martin's defensive philosophy as his career went along, turning in the sixth highest scoring season in Tennessee Basketball history en route to the Sweet 16. The biggest question with his game is simply whether his offensive skill set would translate against stiffer NBA competition, but you certainly can't complain about him landing with San Antonio. He does not lack for confidence and we'll see how well his skill set could fit in what San Antonio wants to do. UPDATE: Well, we also said in the above profile that McRae's ultimate destination mattered far less than Jarnell's, so we'll see what he can do in Philadelphia.
This is a big night for Tennessee Basketball. Since the inception of the two round format in 1989, the Vols saw just seven players taken in the last 25 years until Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae were taken tonight. And of those seven players, none were taken by contenders. Allan Houston is certainly the standard for success in the modern draft, but his greatest team accomplishments came after he went to the Knicks. Most recently the Vols have seen Marcus Haislip go in the lottery to Milwaukee (and flame out), Vincent Yarbrough go to the Nuggets and struggle, and Tobias Harris go from the Bobcats to the Bucks on draft night. For fans of UT Basketball it's been difficult to follow individuals in the league even before guys like Haislip end up not making it, because they've played on teams that were geographically distant, out of playoff contention, and uninteresting.
But after 25 years of that, tonight we get Jarnell Stokes going to hometown Memphis, a contender for the last four years. And then we get Jordan McRae going to the defending champs. Can't ask for anything more. UPDATE: ...well, hey, still pretty good getting two picks in the draft for the first time in a dozen years.
Congrats to Jarnell and Jordan, and best of luck to both of them. This is a sign of continued growth for Tennessee Basketball, which Donnie Tyndall will now look to carry forward.