KNOXVILLE - One of the Tennessee basketball program's offseason questions was answered Saturday, when Jordan McRae announced he would return for his senior season.
After leading the Volunteers in scoring as a junior, the 6-foot-5 Georgia native flirted with entering the NBA draft and requested an evaluation from the NBA's Undergraduate Advisory Committee, which offers players a projection of their draft stock.
McRae broke his own news Saturday morning on a radio show hosted by former Vol Steven Pearl.
"I'm not ready for my experience at Tennessee to be over," he said in a program release. "I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be a part of next year's team, because I think we have a chance to have a great season. I also think there are aspects of my game I can improve by spending another year with my coaches and teammates here at Tennessee."
After playing in only 10 games as a freshman and averaging 8.6 points per game in a bench role last season, McRae erupted into Southeastern Conference player of the year consideration and earned first-team All-SEC honors with a midseason scoring binge. He averaged 21.5 points in one seven-game span and 22.3 points in a nine-game stretch as Tennessee made a run that fell short of the NCAA tournament.
McRae registered nine 20-point games and scored 34 against LSU and 35 at Georgia, though he managed just 16 points total in the Vols' postseason losses to Alabama and Mercer to end the year.
"I'm happy that Jordan is coming back, and I also think he was smart to request an evaluation of his draft status after the season he had," coach Cuonzo Martin said in the release. "In the two years I've been here at Tennessee, I've been very impressed with Jordan's development on and off the court. I think he has a chance to go down as one of the truly special players at UT if he continues to work like he has the past two years.
"Jordan is going to graduate, which is something that's very important to him and his parents. It's important to me as well. He's setting himself up for a great future."
The rest of Tennessee's offseason future remains uncertain. An NBA decision is expected soon from Jarnell Stokes, who like McRae submitted an evaluation to the advisory panel. The NCAA's early-entry withdrawal deadline is Wednesday, though the NBA's deadline for declaring for June's draft is 12 days later.
Stokes' decision is more up in the air than McRae's was. Once he makes his decision, it should help clear up the scholarship situation for next season's roster.
With five-star shooting guard Robert Hubbs, forward A.J. Davis and point guard Travon Landry signed for next season and the verbal commitment of Murfreesboro Blackman High School point guard Darius Thompson, the Vols would be one over the 13-scholarship limit should Stokes return for his junior season, meaning one current player or one signee won't be on the 2013-14 roster.
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