Gee McGhee loves to smile and share a joke — even if the joke is on him.
Yet the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga freshman basketball player has a serious side. Especially after a loss, the smile fades and he becomes a lot quieter. Losing hurts.
The Mocs just lost three games in three days in McKenzie Arena, after one at Kansas last Thursday, dropping their record to 1-4. McGhee started each of those games and the 88-53 win over Tennessee Temple to start the season.
He scored six points against the Crusaders in his first collegiate competition on Nov. 12. McGhee, who grew up in Baton Rouge, La., led the Mocs with 19 points against Louisiana Tech on Tuesday in a 71-63 loss.
"My teammates were looking for me," McGhee said. "I was really focused tonight."
His maturation is emblematic of the youthful Mocs. He went 0-for-8 from the 3-point line against Troy on Monday, then led the Mocs in scoring Tuesday.
In the span of nine days the Mocs won a game against inferior competition, led one of the top teams in the country at halftime on the road, scared two teams at home and had Louisiana Tech -- the best team in Chattanooga over the weekend -- on the ropes until the final minute.
"Playing the [CBE Classic] tournament gave us a quick dose of experiences," UTC coach John Shulman said. "We played a variety of teams with different styles, and we've run the gamut in nine days. I think we'll look back and say what a great experience this was for us."
Participation in the tournament paid dividends for UTC's freshmen and the opposition as well.
"We were able to compete against three quality programs, and it was a simulation of a conference tournament atmosphere where you play three games in three days, hopefully," said Louisiana Tech coach Michael White, whose team went 3-0 in McKenzie Arena.
"I was surprised with [the Mocs'] physical toughness," White said, "because a team with young kids, having lost two at home, I didn't expect them to come out with the intensity that they did. If we don't make hard shots late, the game could have gone the other way."
But in the record books each game is either a win or a loss. UTC is 20 percent of the way to a 20-loss season in a year with at least 32 games.
"It's too early to get down our team," Shulman said. "We shot horribly in two games and we still had a chance. These kids need a chance to grow. You know, you have to fail before you succeed."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...