Bobby Maze has a unique perspective on Tennessee coach Rick Barnes.
Most Vol basketball fans remember Maze’s 16 points and eight assists as a Tennessee team with just six scholarship players available upset No. 1 ranked and undefeated Kansas in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Most fans remember Maze as a key player on the Vols first and only Elite Eight team later that same year. But what many fans may forget is the former Tennessee point guard started his career at Oklahoma.
Maze faced off with Barnes’ Texas team twice during the 2006-07 basketball season with the Sooners dropping both matchups. The Longhorns ended that season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That experience, coupled with what he’s seen from Barnes as he enters his third season at Tennessee, gives him a good idea of the Vols coach.
“One of my best friends (is) Kevin Durant, who I grew up with and played AAU with went to Texas, so I knew about (Barnes),” Maze told The Daily Times at a camp he hosted at Maryville College on Saturday. “I started off at Oklahoma so we played against coach and we talk some.
“Whenever I’m in the gym back at UT he’s always in the gym too. He’s just one of those guys where his office is practically in the gym. He’s just a basketball a guy. He’s a guy that likes to develop kids and help them grow, and he really just spends a lot of time with those guys.”
While Maze played his last game wearing a Tennessee uniform in 2010, that hasn’t stopped him from getting back onto the hardwood with some of the Vols’ current players.
Maze has been a regular participant in the Rocky Top League, which features most of Tennessee’s players each year. During the 2017 season he played for Tillman Companies which featured two of Tennessee’s newcomers in Chris Darrington and Derrick Walker.
The league allows Maze, who now runs one of the most successful AAU programs in the state of Tennessee, to continue to play basketball in front of fans, but it allows him to connect with Tennessee’s current players.
“Some of them like to get in the gym we’ll do different things,” Maze said. “So I keep up with them after the league is over. It’s a Vol for life type of atmosphere, and I’m here if any of them need anything from me, always will be.”
As for the upcoming basketball season, Maze has taken notice of the players Barnes has continued to add to the program, and he’s excited for what Barnes’ third year has in store.
“I pay a lot of attention over there,” he said. “I think this will be the deepest team they’ve had since Coach Barnes has been there. It will be a big year, we’ve got three kids (in Maze’s AAU program) whose dads coach at Tennessee, so I’m really familiar with it.
“I like the recruiting class they have coming in with Derrick Walker and Chris Darrington and then James Daniel coming over from Howard. They have a lot of good things going and then Admiral Schofield and those guys are just getting better, I think it will be an interesting year for these guys.”