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McRae talks Tennessee return

Tennessee All-SEC junior guard Jordan McRae broke his big news Saturday morning, going on a local radio show in Knoxville and saying he would return for his senior season with the Vols.

Tennessee All-SEC guard Jordan McRae said Saturday that he'll return to Tennessee for his senior season.

“Next season I plan to be in orange,” McRae told host Steven Pearl on Tennessee Sports Radio’s The Steven Pearl Show.

McRae, a 6-foot-6 guard who came off the bench for UT early last season before storming onto the scene and becoming a legitimate SEC Player of the Year contender, said the chance to play next season for a special team and coach he loves and respects in Cuonzo Martin was a chance he couldn’t turn down.

“I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to have a chance to make a deep run in the (NCAA) tournament,” McRae said. “I look forward to having a great team, and I thought this was just the best choice for me, to come back to school.”

Martin sent a tweet after McRae announced his decision, saying he and several others were thrilled with the news.

“Great news for Vol Nation that Jordan is coming back,” Martin tweeted. “Should be one of the nations best scoring guards.”

The Vols hope to get more good news in the coming days, when All-SEC sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes will announce his NBA Draft decision, but McRae’s decision combined with the expected return of All-SEC senior forward Jeronne Maymon — who redshirted last season while recovering from multiple knee surgeries — should put UT on fairly solid ground, either way. That’s how McRae sees it, anyway.

“I mean, especially getting one of our key players in Jeronne back, we’re just really looking forward to making a deep run next year,” McRae said. “I mean, you know how the NCAA Tournament is. Anything can happen when you’re there, so really just getting in there is the key.”

McRae — or “The Orange Mamba,” as former UT football receiver and Knoxville radio host Jayson Swain and others have started calling him — said no one in the program was satisfied after again narrowly missing an NCAA Tournament last season, and that frustration from that finish has forced most of the players into taking fewer days off than they expected heading into the spring.

The guard said his offseason to this point has included “just a lot of hard work.” He told govols247 that he planned to add 15 pounds onto his chronically slight frame before next season starts.

“I haven’t took much time off,” McRae said on The Steven Pearl Show. “I’m just trying to build my body up, and my mind, and get ready for the future. The team’s really working. If you come to the gym at 6 o’clock in the morning, you’ll see about nine, 10 guys in there just really trying to do everything they can do to help our team.”

Sources close to McRae have been hinting for weeks what the player himself hinted to govols247 moments after the Vols’ final game of the season — that he never expected to be in a position where he could potentially forego his final season of eligibility and turn pro.

Just to be sure, though, McRae said he sent in the paperwork to get evaluated by a draft advisory committee. He didn’t specify what he received his response, saying only that nothing surprised him.

“They just try to give you, like, a look at where you would be in the draft,” he said. “It’s not exact. They just try to give you a little feedback.

“It was what I thought it would say. There were no surprises for me.”

McRae, as he told govols247 he planned to do, said he kept only a few people in the loop throughout the decision-making process, with Martin and his parents taking the most important spots.

“With a process like this, it’s just best to keep everything within a small group,” he said.

Stokes’ NBA Draft decision is expected to come in the new few days, and sources told govols247 as recently as Friday that the Memphis native hadn’t made up his mind.

Contact Wes Rucker at wrucker@247sports.com, www.twitter.com/wesrucker247 or www.facebook.com/wesrucker247

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