Friday, October 28, 2005

Staff joins Summitt for her father's services

Coach Pat Summitt's staff put the players through their practice paces early Tuesday morning and then left Knoxville to pay their respects to Summitt's family in Ashland City, Tennessee, after her father passed away.

Richard Head, the 83-year-old patriarch of the longtime Cheatham County family, will be buried Wednesday in Middle Tennessee . On Tuesday, Summitt's assistant coaches, Holly Warlick, Nikki Caldwell and Dean Lockwood, and a host of other Lady Vol staff members, traveled to Ashland City for the family's visitation at Boyd's Funeral Home. The funeral service for Mr. Head, who died Sunday evening, will be at 2 p.m. Central Time on Wednesday at Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church in Clarksville, Tenn.

At least four Lady Vol players will make the trip for the funeral Wednesday. Initially the players weren't going to attend so as not to miss class, but several players either do not have a class conflict or can make adjustments in time to join the traveling group.

"Everybody wants to go, but some have tests and some have classes they can't miss," Warlick said Tuesday after practice.

Shanna Zolman , Tye'sha Fluker , Sidney Spencer and Lindsey Moss will definitely make the trip. Sybil Dosty and Alexis Hornbuckle might be able to make the trip. A graduate assistant will drive the players to the funeral Wednesday, and they will return the same day. The staff also will return to Knoxville on Wednesday after the funeral. The two seniors, Zolman and Fluker, then will travel with Warlick on Thursday morning for SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala. Warlick will fill in for Summitt at the conference's media event. The team is off from practice Wednesday and returns to the practice court Thursday evening.

On Friday the Lady Vols will take part in Big Orange Madness at Thompson-Boling Arena. The event begins with a Lady Vol volleyball game at 6:30 p.m., and admission is free. The basketball players will sign autographs on the concourse beginning at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m., the hoops events involving the men's and women's teams get under way on the court and include a three-point shooting contest and a dunk contest. Summitt is expected to be back in Knoxville for Big Orange Madness.

Warlick spoke with Summitt, who was busy with the arrangements and preparing for the influx of people.

"She said there was going to be a whole lot of people there," Warlick said. "He knew a lot of people."

Mr. Head and his family were well known throughout Middle Tennessee, especially in Montgomery and Cheatham counties, and an overflow crowd was expected at both the visitation - Tuesday's was scheduled for six hours - and Wednesday's funeral service. A second visitation will be held for two hours from noon to 2 p.m. preceding the service. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church Building Fund, 5050 Pickering Road, Clarksville, Tenn., 37403.

Summitt had asked Warlick on Monday to keep the players focused on practice. On Tuesday, they took the court at 7 a.m. and ran through various offenses using different combinations of players.

"I thought they were very good at times," said Warlick, who added that at other times the offensive flow wasn't smooth. "It's combinations. Certain combinations aren't good with each other, and some are better than others."

Warlick said the staff is sorting out those combinations now to find out what will work best when the games begin. Warlick, a former player who filled in for Summitt for a second day at practice, sounded like her old coach.

"One moment they'll have signs of greatness and then they just kind of space out a little bit," Warlick said. "I keep saying it's about their discipline, and that's what they've got to get down. We'll get there. When we drill it in their heads enough, we'll make it happen."

PRESEASON SEC TEAM: Three Lady Vols have been tapped for preseason SEC honors in a vote made by head coaches. Shanna Zolman, a senior guard, and Nicky Anosike , a sophomore center, were named to the First Team. Sophomore guard Alexis Hornbuckle was picked for the Second Team.

Rounding out the First Team were: Tasha Humphrey, Georgia ; Seimone Augustus, LSU ; Sylvia Fowles, LSU; Armintie Price, Ole Miss ; Dee Davis , Vanderbilt ; and Carla Thomas , Vanderbilt. The other Second Team picks were: Sarah Pfeifer, Arkansas ; Marita Payne, Auburn ; Sherill Baker, Georgia; Cori Chambers, Georgia; Alexis Kendrick, Georgia; Samantha Mahoney, Kentucky ; and Scholanda Hoston, LSU.

Summitt can learn from Fluker

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. -- Tye'sha Fluker talked with Pat Summitt Thursday and said that her coach sounded good.

Well, as good as can be expected.

"She sounds like a normal person who's had a loss in the family,'' Fluker said at SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala.

Richard Head, Summitt's 83-year-old father, died Sunday night. The funeral was Wednesday and Summitt returned to Knoxville late Wednesday night.

As it turned out, neither Fluker nor any of the players attended the funeral.

Summitt rejoined her team Thursday for an evening practice.

Fluker has a keen understanding of how abnormal such circumstances can be. The Lady Vols senior center lost her grandmother, Charlotte Creamer, last February and went through a difficult recovery.

Creamer was more of a mother figure to Fluker. With Mrs. Creamer's birthday looming, Fluker had been thinking about her this month. Now, she's thinking about her coach.

"I prayed for everything I hoped everyone was praying for me,'' Fluker said.

If Fluker learned anything from her grieving, it's that everyone deals with death differently. Still, she believes that being up front with yourself about the anguish is the best alternative.

"Cry when you want to cry,'' Fluker said. "Holding it in could be the worst thing to do. Deal with the emotions as they come.''

Fluker dealt with her sorrow and she appears to better off because of it.

Lady Vols assistant coach Holly Warlick said earlier this week that Fluker walked off the court after Monday's practice talking about the fun she was having.

"That's the way it should be,'' Warlick said.

Fluker was in a good storytelling mood on Thursday. She recounted a recent encounter with an overzealous fan at a local restaurant.

Fluker left her booth to use the restroom and returned to find the aggressive autograph seeker sitting with her friend, waiting for her return.

This woman skipped past any introductions or any real diplomacy and went straight to her objective, saying: "I'm not letting you leave until you sign this.''

"Everyone in the restaurant was looking,'' Fluker said. "She was very loud.''

In retrospect, Fluker seemed more amused than unnerved or offended.

Fluker's best ally has been time, which she has put to good use. She spent the summer here, working toward the best physical condition of her career.

These days, she's better able to take a deep breath and confront one of her worst tendencies, named to give in to fatigue.

"It's making my life easier,'' Fluker said. "But it's something that doesn't come easy.''

Like Fluker, Summitt has embarked on the same time-consuming healing process. Warlick, who was Summitt's stand-in Thursday, noticed Wednesday how her boss was trying to balance emotion with reason. Warlick said that she plans to be vigilant regarding Summitt's moods.

"For me, I just need to understand how I can help her,'' Warlick said.

It will help to be back with the team. Summitt noted to Warlick that Monday's and Tuesday's workouts were the first practices she had missed in 31 seasons.

It might not hurt for Summitt to visit with Fluker, too. Lady Vols guard Shanna Zolman said that Fluker is "very knowledgeable" after handling her grandmother's death. Moreover, she's very appreciative of Summitt's role in the process.

"She really respects coach because of how she let her go home and spend time with her family.'' Zolman said. "If coach needs someone to talk to, I know Ty will be available.''

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Obituary: Richard Head

Richard Head, 83, Henrietta, died Sunday, Oct. 23, 2005, at his residence.

The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Mount Carmel United Methodist Church with Brothers Steve Kelley and Duane Cowan and Pastor Regina Hall officiating.

Burial will be in Mount Carmel Cemetery. Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. today at Boyd Funeral Home, Ashland City, and from noon until the service Wednesday at the church.

Boyd Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Mr. Richard Head was an active member of the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church for over 73 years, served as Chairman of East Montgomery Utility Board for forty years, a Montgomery County Commissioner for six years and a Cheatham County Commissioner for eighteen years, while serving on other various committees within his community.

Mr. Head is survived by his loving wife of 63 years, Mrs. Hazel Albright Head of Henrietta, TN; three sons, Tommy (Deloris) Head of Henrietta, TN, Charles (Mitzi) Head of Thomasville, TN, Kenneth (Debbie) Head of Oak Plains, TN; two daughters, Pat (R.B.) Summitt of Knoxville, TN, Linda (Wesley) Attebery of Thomasville, TN; two brothers, Conroy (Eleanor) Head of Mt. Carmel, TN, Hughes (late Ruth) Head of Stroudsville; nine grandchildren, Chris Head, Derrick (Jennifer) Head, Chuck (Jacqueline) Head, David Head, Tracy (Brandon) Douglas, Richie Head, Lindsey (Jason) Carney, Casey Attebery, Tyler Summitt; nine great-grandchildren, Meredith Head, Audrey Head, Avery Head, Zachary Head, Joshua Head, Ashlee Douglas, Austin Douglas, Abbi Douglas and Alli Douglas; and a host of close friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, James Clay and Lucy Elliott Head.

Active pallbearers will be Chuck Head, David Head, Brandon Douglas, Derrick Head, Richie Head, Jason Carney, Chris Head and Tyler Summitt.

Pat Summitt's father, Richard Head, passes away

There was one voice missing from Monday’s practice – that of coach Pat Summitt’s – who missed a Lady Vols basketball practice for the first time that anyone could remember. Summitt was in her hometown in Henrietta, Tennessee, because her father, Richard Head, had passed away.

Mr. Head, who turned 83 on Oct. 13, died at home Sunday evening with his family at his side. Summitt made it home and was able to speak with her father before he died. He had been in poor health over the past year, and Pat Summitt had been making trips to Henrietta to see him.
Assistant coach Holly Warlick ran practice Monday in Summitt’s absence, along with assistants Nikki Caldwell and Dean Lockwood. The team learned of the death shortly before practice.

Warlick had spoken Monday morning with Summitt and said she was “emotional but doing OK. … It wasn’t a surprise, they knew it was coming, but still when it happens …. . She’s very emotional. She’s very close to her parents. They anticipated this would happen, but when it does happen, it’s very difficult.”

Warlick said the extended family made it to Mr. Head’s home before he died, and Summitt was able to spend about 20 minutes talking to her father.

“They talked,” Warlick said. “She spoke what she wanted to tell him. He passed after they spoke. She was very thankful that she got to speak to him before he passed. She was at peace with that. Pat is an emotional person, and this is a very trying time for her. I lost my father in high school so I know exactly what she is going through. She spent some quality time with him, especially when he started getting ill. She really made an effort to get down and visit him on her days off.”

The team’s reaction was for Summitt’s well being, Warlick said.

“They wanted to know how she was; they wanted to make sure she was fine,” Warlick said.

The team will practice Tuesday morning, and then the coaching staff will leave Knoxville for family visitation on Tuesday afternoon and funeral services on Wednesday. Summitt’s son, Tyler Summitt, will serve as a pallbearer.

The family will receive friends for visitation at Boyd’s Funeral Home, 101 Elizabeth Street, Ashland City, Tenn., 37015, (615-792-4677) on Tuesday from 2 to 8 p.m., Central Time, and again on Wednesday at Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church, 5050 Pickering Road, Clarksville, Tenn., 37403, from noon until 2 p.m.

Mr. Head’s funeral service will be on Wednesday at 2 p.m., Central Time, at the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church with Brother Steve Kelley, Brother Duane Cowan and Pastor Regina Hall officiating. The other active pallbearers are Chuck Head, David Head, Brandon Douglas, Derrick Head, Richie Head, Jason Carney and Chris Head. Burial will be at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Clarksville.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church Building Fund, 5050 Pickering Road, Clarksville, Tenn., 37403.

The players, who will remain in Knoxville so as not to miss classes, will have Wednesday off from practice.

“They want to go; they all asked to go,” Warlick said. “We made the decision that we didn’t want them to miss any school.”

SEC Media Days are Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. Warlick will travel with seniors Shanna Zolman and Tye'sha Fluker for Tennessee's afternoon media session, and then they will return to Knoxville. The team will regroup on the practice floor Thursday evening. Warlick said she will accompany the players and be available, if needed, for the media if Summitt can't be in Birmingham. It was not yet known if Summitt would make it to Media Days.

“They weren’t great today; they weren’t bad. They were just OK and rightfully so. They were concerned,” Warlick said after Monday’s practice. “Their first reaction was to ask how Pat was doing.”

Summitt’s thoughts weren’t far from her players when she spoke to Warlick.

“She told me before I got off the phone, ‘Don’t let up on them.’ And we didn’t,” said Warlick, who agreed it was strange to not hear Summitt’s voice at practice and added that she couldn't recall Summitt ever missing a practice. “I spoke to Shanna – she was in my office – and she said, ‘You don’t feel like practicing.’ And I said, ‘No you don’t, but it’s something that Pat would want us to do, and it’s what we’re going to do.’ So that’s what we did. We did some good things. We practiced as usual. We just didn’t have Pat here.”

Warlick broke the news to the team and let the players know that “Coach is with her family, where she needs to be, but in the same breath she’s saying, ‘Work hard so that she doesn’t also have to worry about what we’re doing down here,’ ” Fluker said. “So as a team and the rest of the coaching staff, we made a vow that, one, we’re going to keep working hard so that she doesn’t have to worry – she knows we’re taking care of business – and, two, being support for her.”

Fluker lost her grandmother last February and had to leave the team to return to Pasadena, Calif., to see her grandmother before she died, be there for the funeral and also help her mother through the death.

“I totally feel the pain that she has right now,” Fluker said. “It’s important to be with your family at this time. We’re going to let her take care of her family’s business, and we’re going to take care of business for her here.”

Mr. Head was survived by Hazel Albright Head, his wife of 63 years; sons and daughters-in-law, Tommy and Deloris Head of Henrietta, Tenn.; Charles and Mitzi Head of Thomasville, Tenn.; and Kenneth and Debbie Head of Oak Plains, Tenn.; and daughters and sons-in-law, Patricia and R.B. Summitt of Knoxville, Tenn., and Linda and Wesley Attebery of Thomasville, Tenn. Mr. Head was survived by brothers and sister-in-law Conroy and Eleanor Head of Mt. Carmel, Tenn.; and Hughes and the late Ruth Head of Stroudsville, Tenn., as well as nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, James Clay and Lucy Elliott Head.

Mr. Head was an active member of Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church for more than 73 years and served as chairman of the East Montgomery Utility Board for 40 years, a Montgomery County commissioner for six years and a Cheatham County commissioner for 18 years.

Warlick said that Summitt mentioned she would like to speak at her father's funeral if she feels emotionally capable of doing so Wednesday.

Summitt spoke in her speeches about her 6’5 father, known as “The Tall Man,” and in interviews about her life story she would always mention the work ethic instilled by her father, who was a dairy farmer and whose children grew up working on the 1,000-acre farm he steadily acquired. He was a strict disciplinarian, who also made sure that his children got what they needed to succeed. Summitt wrote about her father in her 1998 best-selling book, “Reach for the Summit.”

“But the thing you need to understand is that my father, to a great extent, made me who I am,” Summitt wrote. “His peculiar combination of love and discipline was hard to take, but in the end I was grateful for it. He gave me strength. If you saw the two of us together today, you would see two people who have reached a peace. We finally understand each other. He is a man with a buried sense of humor and a fierce devotion to his family.”

Warlick said she knows the coming months will be difficult for Summitt.

“I’m sure at times it will affect Pat,” Warlick said. “But Pat’s a competitor – y’all know how intense she is – so she’s going to bounce back. She’s going to have her moments, and that’s understandable. She’ll get through it, but she’s having a hard time right now.”

Friday, October 21, 2005

UT to Host Big Orange Madness October 28

Event Showcases Volleyball along with Men's and Women's Basketball

The University of Tennessee will tip-off basketball season a little early this year with "Big Orange Madness".

Big Orange Madness will take place at Thompson-Boling Arena on Friday, October 28th, the night before the Volunteer Football team takes on South Carolina. The event starts at 6:30 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Leading off the event, the Lady Vol Volleyball team will take the court vs. SEC rival Georgia at 6:30 p.m., its second match all-time in the facility. The Lady Vols drew a school-record crowd of 1,571 to its Oct. 31, 2003, contest versus No. 3 Florida in the only other volleyball match to be played in the facility.

An autograph session with both the Vol and Lady Vol basketball teams will take place on the Thompson-Boling Arena concourse from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Autographs are limited to one item per person.

The basketball portion of Big Orange Madness will start at 8 p.m. and will include team introductions, followed by intra-squad scrimmages by both the men's and women's team, on-court interviews with head coaches Bruce Pearl and Pat Summitt, and a 3-point shooting contest with members of both squads as teams of one Vol and one Lady Vol student-athlete will compete against each other.

The final event of the night will be the fan favorite dunk contest with members of the Vol basketball team and much to the fans anticipation Lady Vol Candace Parker will participate in the dunk contest.

Fans will have opportunities throughout the night to win great prizes, starting with the volleyball match and continuing on with the basketball event.

For more information on Big Orange Madness, please call 865-974-1734.

Lady Vol Basketball Preview

Head of the Class

The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer basketball team arrived at a collective epiphany as it began preparations for the 2005-06 season. It was high time that these student-athletes returned to the "Head of the Class" in the collegiate basketball world.

As students of the game, they enjoyed a great deal of success during the 2004-05 season - a 30-5 overall record, an SEC Tournament title, the Philadelphia NCAA Regional Championship and a trip to the 2005 NCAA Final Four. However, the returnees realized that they had failed at one of the most basic components of Lady Vol Basketball 101 at season's end. They didn't cut down the nets at the Final Four.

Because at Tennessee...
We educate.
We graduate.
And along the way, we cut down championship nets.

That philosophy has not changed during the three-decade long tenure of University of Tennessee Lady Vol Head Basketball Coach Pat Summitt. The legend moved to the head of the coaching class on March 22, 2005, when she passed former University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith for the most all-time coaching victories of any NCAA hoops skipper with 880. This philosophy of education, graduation and cutting down championship nets has been embedded into the fiber of the 138 women who have proudly worn the orange and white jersey since Summitt arrived on campus in 1974.

The 11 student-athletes who will take to the hardwood for the Lady Vols in 2005-06 spent their off-season focusing on academics, accountability, initiative, sweat equity on the court and in the weight room and embracing a new sense of leadership.

"Following the end of last season, I saw an instant commitment to getting better each and every day from this group," said Summitt. "I'd have to say it was perhaps the hardest working off-season team in my 31 years of coaching. It was their idea from day one to get in the hit the be committed in the weight room. They took ownership and became accountable to each other. It wasn't just a couple of players; all 11 committed to working hard on their own.

"On one hand you had players who knew what it was like to be in an NCAA title game, and they were extremely disappointed that they lost a big lead and didn't make it to the championship game in Indianapolis. On the other hand you had a mixture of younger players and injured players who got a taste of the Final Four for the first time and were excited to be there."

Nonetheless, both groups shared common denominators - the desire to be at the head of the class and cut down championship nets.

And the lessons learned from the past? Lesson #1, leadership has to be a constant - every practice, every game, from opening day to the final horn in April. Leaders don't take days off. You can be a vocal leader, you can lead by example, but you must lead. Lesson #2, improved math skills are a priority - simple division and percentages. If you repeat as the worst field goal shooting team in Tennessee history, as the 2004-05 squad did (41.6 percent), it will be hard to win BIG games. Lesson #3, develop a balanced attack. Make opponents pick their poison. With so many potentially outstanding scorers on the floor in 2005-06, become hard to guard. Lesson #4, the Summitt script hasn't changed. Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships. If you rebound, you can run and dictate the flow of the game.

Summitt cites senior leadership from 5-10 guard Shanna Zolman (12.5 ppg and 2.3 rpg) and 6-5 center Tye'sha Fluker (7.4 and 5.4 rpg) as keys to the off-season success and outstanding preparation for the 2005-06 campaign.

"To be sure, Shanna and Tye will make sure that the lessons are learned from the past," said Summitt. "This is their last go-round as seniors, and they want to end their careers with a Championship. Without question, Shanna is a terrific leader by example, and she has earned the respect of her teammates and coaching staff. It's time for her to turn up the volume.

"Tye now understands that in order for us to be successful from beginning to end, we must have a consistent anchor inside. We have size, speed and athleticism, but we need to have a player give us that game-in game-out factor in the paint. Tye's responsibility is to take our posts and serve as their leader and help develop that unit into our anchor on the court. Tye, along with Nicky Anosike, Sybil Dosty and Alex Fuller, have to develop into the most consistent and productive post game in America. "They have the size, the defensive skills and board presence - they just have to get it done every game."

A good problem to have, for the coach beginning her 32nd season, is that all 11 players want to get to the head of the class.

"With the talent and competitiveness on this team, everyone will want to sit on the front row. Not everyone can sit there - there just are not enough seats," Summitt said. "I see our players defining their roles and decisions being made every day in practice as to who will sit in the front row. It's up to their individual hard work and commitment to our team game."

This season Summitt and her staff welcome back 10 players and add newcomer Lindsey Moss. Summitt shared that the off-season was also a time for her staff to reflect, regroup, refresh and retool their coaching approach as they entered the 2005-06 campaign.

"I think when we reflected back on last season, as a coaching staff, we realized that we may have given young players too much information early," Summitt said. "We had such a large group of players transitioning from high school to collegiate basketball that we may have overloaded them a bit. Everything was new from terminology to the pace of the game.

"Initially, this year will be more of a refresher course - teach, re-teach and repetition - followed by an advanced class but covering the same material...collegiate basketball, Lady Vol style. They are more comfortable with the subject matter, and we'll be able to work on the key components of the game in a very productive manner."

Right off the bat, Tennessee's veteran lineup will be looking for players to step into the vacancies created by the graduation of 6-2 All-America forward Shyra Ely (14.4 ppg and 7.0 rpg), 6-0 guard/forward Brittany Jackson (8.3 ppg and 2.1 rpg) and 5-9 guard Loree Moore (5.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 3.3 apg). The trio became just the third Lady Vol class to attend the Final Four each year of their careers and posted a phenomenal 55-1 record in regular season SEC play. "Shyra, Loree and Brittany had productive careers and were part of an outstanding run of victories in SEC play," Summitt remarked. "Dropping just one regular season SEC game in four years really sets the bar high for anyone who follows that kind of performance. It's a great challenge and legacy to pass on."

Certainly ready to accept that challenge is Zolman, who returns as the Lady Vols' leading scorer at 12.5 ppg. As a junior, Zolman connected on 68 three-pointers and buried 86 percent of her charity tosses while recording 25 games in double figures, including two break-out contests where she dropped in 28 points. Once again, "Z" showed that she can extend a defense in a hurry. Let her step back, and she will drain treys all night long. Play her too close, and she will drive to the bucket. Get there too late and foul her, and her free throws are automatic points.

"Shanna has proven to be a big-game player, and she is definitely a `go-to'," said Summitt. "Leadership, extending the defense and getting to the free throw line are keys for her. Additionally, she is very improved at the defensive end of the floor. She plays great position defense and is committed to it - it's a priority for her."

Zolman's senior classmate is Fluker, who stepped up her game and earned 22 starts as a junior in the paint, posting 7.4 ppg and 5.4 rpg. Intimidating on defense, she was credited for 28 blocks - second-best on the team. As indicated, Fluker has been asked to take on the role of helping to establish the "anchor" on the block. Last year, she improved four of her five career marks and returns as the second-leading rebounder on the squad.

"We are asking a lot from Tye'sha in the coming season, but I think she is ready to take on the challenge," said Summitt. "First, she needs to be consistent, and we must be able to count on her in every game. For us to be successful, we need Tye to be there from the start to establish the anchor. Second, she has the size, strength, mobility, touch and post skills to be a productive package in the paint," continued Summitt.

Tennessee's seniors, along with juniors Sidney Spencer (5.2 ppg and 4.0 rpg) and Dominique Redding (4.0 ppg and 1.6 rpg), take the "Head of the Class" theme very seriously from an academic standpoint. All four have been on the Dean's List at UT, earned All-SEC Academic honors, and Zolman secured a spot on the 2005 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America District team. Got GPA? These four sure do.

Spencer, a 6-3 forward, had earned a spot in the starting lineup and was playing the best basketball of her career when she was felled by a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee on Feb. 23, 2005, and missed the final 10 games of the season.

"A healthy Sidney gives us a different dimension to our post game," Summitt said. "She is very skilled and can extend and confuse the defense with her ability to play the 3, 4 or 5 spot. Sid is a smart player but needs to develop an aggressive mindset on the offensive end and be willing to be a go-to player. As a defender, she has a great presence and understands the nuances of position play," remarked Summitt.

Mention Redding to the coach and a quick smile appears. As a sophomore, the 6-1 forward doubled her playing time while serving yeoman duty in a back-up role. Redding showed that she could be a cool customer under pressure, coming off the bench to tally seven points in as many minutes in the SEC Championship game against top-ranked LSU. As a junior, she is penciled in for a bigger role.

"Dom appears to be ready to contribute in a significant way and have an impact on the play of this team," Summitt said. "She has always been a player that would come off the bench and make shots. She is committed to being solid defensively and rebounding at both ends of the floor for us. I'm excited for her."

Likewise, Summitt is equally enthusiastic about the four sophomores and the two redshirt freshmen in the second-year class. While Anosike (6.7 ppg and 6.1 rpg), Dosty (2.5 ppg and 2.4 rpg), Alexis Hornbuckle (8.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 3.1 apg) and Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood (3.9 ppg and 1.5 rpg) were wowing Lady Vol fans during their rookie season, classmates Candace Parker and Fuller were sidelined rehabbing knee ailments. The good news is that all are healthy and ready to go.

Anosike, a physically-imposing 6-4 center, registered 25 starts, tallied a team-high 33 blocked shots and made 181 trips to the charity stripe as she was named to the SEC All-Rookie Team. Additionally, an excellent student, she was also selected to the SEC All-Freshman Honor Roll. She returns as UT's leading rebounder after spending a summer helping the USA win the U19 World Championship gold medal.

"Nicky's work ethic, intensity and competitiveness have a great impact on our team," said Summitt. "To elevate her game, offensively, Nicky must be a consistent scorer, and defensively, she has tremendous potential to be an enforcer in the paint. She is a versatile defender who can guard on the perimeter or in the post and fits into our scheme as a full-court defender as well," said Summitt.

Hornbuckle, a rangy guard at 5-11, was just plain fun to watch as a rookie and begins her sophomore year as a seasoned veteran with 21 starts. She led the team in assists (110) and steals (64) in her first season and emerged as one of the best rebounding guards (5.4 rpg) in Lady Vol history en route to All-SEC Rookie Team status. She claimed SEC Player of the Week honors after leading the Lady Vols with 14 points, six rebounds and four assists in the win at Connecticut.

"Alexis has natural leadership qualities, and is a great combo guard and an outstanding rebounder from her position" Summitt said. "She can score inside and out and is great at putting the ball on the floor and penetrating to the basket. Additionally, we will be asking more from her defensively this season with the graduation of Loree Moore," explained Summitt.

Hornbuckle's sidekick in the backcourt is 5-9 guard Wiley-Gatewood, who saw action in just 13 games as a rookie due to nagging patella tendonitis which eventually required surgery in March. Glimpses of her game found a player who could thread the needle, nail treys under pressure and step to the charity stripe with ice water in her veins. She did a little of each, scoring the final six points en route to a career high of a dozen in the win over Connecticut last January. She was UT's best free throw shooter for the season, connecting at a 91.7 percent clip.

"We're excited to have her back," Summitt said. "Sa'de is a naturally-gifted point guard with a terrific feel for the game. She makes timely decisions that you can't teach - she sees and delivers. She is physically and mentally tougher since her surgery, and she is ready to step in and run this team. Sa'de is a big play person. She can create or take and make shots," said Summitt.

Dosty is a 6-3 post who was the most accurate shooter on the team last year, connecting on 56.5 percent of her shots. She showed that she is capable of making things happen in a hurry with an 11-point and 11-rebound outburst in 14 minutes of playing time in the win over DePaul. She appeared in 27 games and averaged 2.5 ppg and 2.4 rpg.

"This season Sybil is more prepared for an up-tempo game" Summitt said. "Last year she was our most accurate post player, offensively, and had a very good off-season preparing to contribute to our front line attack. I would call Sybil one of our most improved post players," commented Summitt.

Impatiently waiting in the wings while tenaciously rehabbing their knees, Fuller and Parker are sophomores academically and rookies in eligibility. Tennessee fans have been anticipating Parker's arrival and her ability to wow the crowd with dunks since she inked her scholarship papers in November 2003.

Parker's high school accolades could fill their own section in this media guide. Suffice it to say she earned a double tractor-trailer load of honors on the prep level but is anxiously awaiting to make her mark in the women's collegiate game.

"Having been off the court with her injury, Candace is just getting comfortable with her team, herself and the game," said Summitt. "She has great presence and instincts. Candace can play inside or out, handle and pass. She has developed and all-around game and the skills to go with it. Defensively, she has a terrific presence and loves to start her offense with her defense," emphasized Summitt.

Parker had a rehab buddy in Fuller, who arrived at Tennessee realizing that she was going to redshirt. A 6-3 forward, Fuller is the lone Tennessean on the roster hailing from the high school hotbed of Shelbyville. A multi-dimensional player and a prep All-American, Fuller knows all about cutting down championship nets.

"I'm pleased with the progress Alex has made since getting back on the floor," Summitt said. "She's a frontline player who gives us both a face-up and post-up option. Alex has a good feel for the game and a nice shooting touch. She is different from other post players since she has solid forward skills to add to the post game. She'll help us stretch defenses," said Summitt.

The Lady Vols' lone newcomer is 6-1 guard Lindsey Moss, who hails from Alpharetta, Ga. (Chattahoochee H.S.). Moss went to both sessions of summer school and quickly assimilated herself with her teammates and the collegiate game.

"Lindsey is a skilled shooter and a solid passer with great open court vision," Summitt said. "We're excited about her offensive game and her ability to step out and shoot the three. As our only true freshman, she has blended in quickly with her teammates," said Summitt.

Eleven Lady Vol players are anxious and excited about the prospect of getting to the "Head of the Class." Along the way, they had better consult their syllabus and be prepared at a moment's notice for pop quizzes along the way to mid-term, final and comprehensive exams. Their report card at season's end will certainly reflect their work ethic and attention to detail.

The opposition, well, the 29 tests, during the regular season will again grade the depth of this Lady Vol team and the development of the offensive and defensive games almost immediately. In addition to the perennial Southeastern Conference powerhouses, the Lady Vols will also tangle with a slew of top rivals, including Michigan State, Gonzaga and Maryland in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands at Thanksgiving, as well as regular season meetings with Connecticut, Duke, Stanford, Texas, Louisiana Tech, Notre Dame, Temple and Old Dominion.

"You know, I say this every year," chuckled Summitt, "but this year the SEC - from top to bottom - will be stronger than it's ever been. There are several teams who are greatly improved, and I see us in the thick of things as we try to defend our SEC Tournament title and hope to regain the top spot in the league during the regular season. To be sure, the SEC schedule will be extremely challenging, no matter if we are in Knoxville or on the road," said Summitt.

The SEC regular season schedule will seem like one midterm exam after another, 14 challenging tests in all, due to the continued high level caliber of players, coaches and teams in the league.

Final exams will start in the postseason, as the 2006 Southeastern Conference Tournament will return to the Alltel Arena in North Little Rock, Ark., Mar. 2-5. The Lady Vols will then be on the road for all NCAA postseason play in First/Second Round and Regional contests in March before culminating with comprehensive final exams scheduled at the NCAA Final Four in Boston, Mass., April 2-4 at the TD Banknorth Garden.

If the 2005-06 Tennessee Lady Vols are students of their sport and pass their 29 tests throughout the regular season, are proficient during their mid-term exams and pass their final exams with flying Orange and White colors, then they will certainly go to the "Head of the Class."

And if they find themselves in that lofty position, perhaps then they can lecture about the
2006 Boston T Party...Tennessee Lady Vols' style.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

NCW - Top 25 breakdown: No. 2 Tennessee

Parker ready to play for Lady Vols

If Duke is a sure thing at No. 1 in's preseason top 25, then Tennessee is an easy pick at No. 2.

Despite losing three key players (Shyra Ely, Loree Moore and Brittany Jackson) who led Tennessee to four consecutive Final Four appearances, the Lady Vols are loaded this season -- although the biggest piece of the Lady Vols' title aspirations still hasn't actually played college ball yet. Redshirt freshman Candace Parker, the national high school player of the year two years ago, sat out last season because of lateral meniscus and lateral articular cartilage knee surgery. Now, Parker is finally healthy. Need proof? In a pickup game last week, Parker dunked over Ryan Childress, a 6-foot-9, 248-pound freshman on the Tennessee men's basketball team.

Parker is expected to be the team's leading scorer right away, and her coaches believe she will change the way women's basketball is played. Like Julius Erving, Parker is expected to take the game above the rim. She could play every position on the court at some point during the season, but will start at small forward.

The backcourt will consist of Alexis Hornbuckle, Shanna Zolman and Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood. Hornbuckle is a very quick guard with excellent scoring ability and Zolman is the team's best outside shooter and leading returning scorer (12.5 ppg). Wiley-Gatewood, who is nursing patellar tendinitis, is the instant offense off the bench, and could assume the starting role at some point. She is a pass-first point guard with scoring ability.

Post Tye'sha Fluker gives Tennessee much-needed vocal leadership, something that was lacking last season.
The front court will be solid, as well. In addition to Parker, Nicky Anosike and Tye'sha Fluker will play in the post. After a season in which she was awful shooting the ball (36.8 percent accuracy from the field), Anosike worked tirelessly -- her work ethic has been compared to that of former Lady Vols star Tamika Catchings -- in the offseason to improve herself. Anosike is fearless under the boards and is projected to be breakout player this season. In fact, her given name, Nkolika, means "All's well that ends well" in Nigerian.

Fluker will provide the team with some much-needed vocal leadership, something that was a weakness last season.

This will not be a rebuilding year for Tennessee. The Lady Vols will go 11 deep this season and use rotations much like they did in 1997-98, when Tennessee went 39-0 and won its last national title. Substitution patterns will be very similar to lines in hockey, when 3-5 players are changed at a time. This team is going to come at you in waves. And they are waves of solid players.

All this and no mention of the coach? Pat Summitt starts her 32nd season with an NCAA-record 882 wins. Last season's Lady Vols were the worst shooting team (41.6 percent from the field) of her coaching career, and Summitt spent all offseason waiting for the pieces to fall into place. Injuries took a team that had 15 scholarship players on opening day down to just nine at the end of the season. Everyone should be healthy when Tennessee opens 2005-06 at home against Stetson on Nov. 20, and the offense Summitt built for last season might now become a reality.

Key additions:
Candace Parker, redshirt-fr., 6-3
Lindsey Moss, fr., 6-1
Alex Fuller, redshirt-fr., 6-3

Key losses:
Shyra Ely, 14.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg
Brittany Jackson, 8.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Loree Moore, 5.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg

Projected starters:
G -- Alexis Hornbuckle
G -- Shanna Zolman
F -- Candace Parker
F -- Nicky Anosike
C -- Tye'sha Fluker

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Just four weeks away from their first exhibition game, the Lady Vol basketball team took the floor for the first official practice of the 2005-06 season. A crowd of several hundred fans welcomed the squad to "The Summitt" in the christening of the new court.

The two hour session began with basic skill work drills, including shooting from various ranges, passing and spacing. Assistant coach Dean Lockwood worked with the post players on box out drills.

"I liked our early play," said Lockwood. "We slipped a bit towards the end of practice but I liked our physicality and our energy early on. We'll continue to refine and polish our technique and skills as the season approaches."

The team played five-on-five full court, using team members as the defenders for the first time since workouts began in August. The workout featured high energy and was met by enthusiastic applause from the onlookers.

Sybil Dosty, still nursing a strained quadricep, worked on endurance by riding the exercise bike on the sidelines.

"The first hour and fifteen minutes we looked strong and sharp," said head coach Pat Summitt. "The second half of practice, you could tell that we were a little over-anxious, we went emotionally flat early in the evening."

The Lady Vols return to the hardwood Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.

It's a 'Rocky Top' season for Flaute, Tennessee teammates

The chant comes near the finish line, a sure sign that the University of Tennessee women's cross country team has accomplished its mission.

"Rocky Top, you'll always be/Home sweet home to me/Good ol' Rocky Top/Rocky Top, Tennessee."

Katie Flaute and her teammates sing the Vols' anthem passionately.

"I knew the words before I came here," the 2002 Carroll graduate said. "My brother Kevin gave me the lyrics as a graduation present. Singing it after a big win makes you feel good. I love it down here in Knoxville."

Flaute, a junior, is enjoying a breakout season for the nationally ranked Vols. She earned Southeastern Conference Cross Country Runner of the Week honors after she finished ninth out of 310 runners in the Paul Short Run on Oct. 1. The distance dynamo clocked 20:53 over 6,000 meters. It was her third straight personal-record performance. She hopes to help 18th-ranked Tennessee to its third consecutive SEC title and another trip to the NCAA Championships.

"I'm running with more confidence and my times are 30 seconds faster than they were a year ago at the same time," said Flaute, who carries a 3.92 GPA in exercise science. "I rely on my stamina more than speed. I'm pretty strong in the middle of my races and I can run aggressively when I need to."

A highlight of the Vols' season always comes when they compete against the tradition-rich Arkansas cross country team. The Vols have outdistanced Arkansas the last two years under coach J.J. Clark and silenced the Razorbacks' own victory chant, "Whoo, pig! Sooey!"

"We don't like each other," said Flaute. "It's always a spirited meet with them."

After claiming the SEC title, members of the Big Orange Pack (they wear bright orange singlets) received a special invitation to a picnic at Pat Summitt's home. Summitt is the legendary coach of the Vols' women's basketball team.

"Coach Summitt sets the standard here with what she has accomplished and is an inspiration to every athlete," Flaute said. "She honored all five of our SEC championship teams (cross country, track, volleyball, soccer and women's basketball) at her house and it was really an exciting day."

Quick hitters

• Junior midfielder Karen Beers (Bellbrook) has set the Otterbein career goal-scoring record.

"My two most memorable goals came against Denison my freshman year when I hit the game-winner in double overtime, and then in last year's OAC tournament, I scored the game-winner against Capital that put us in the national tournament," Beers said. "I have an attack mentality and I'm very competitive."

Beers broke the Otterbein record with a pair of goals in a 5-0 victory over Baldwin-Wallace last Saturday. She has 31 career goals.

• Tennessee volleyball player Chelsea Noble (Vandalia) registered 17 digs against No. 5-ranked Florida last week. Noble has excelled as a defensive specialist/libero.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Smallbone will climb to Rocky Top

SOUTH BEND -- Being the cornerstone in the building of an elite women's college basketball program was tempting.

But being a key component of one of the best that's already established was too good to pass up.

Sydney Smallbone weighed her options, but didn't have to think too long. Once Tennessee called, the 5-foot-10 junior sharpshooter from St. Joseph's High School answered.

Tuesday, she called coach Pat Summitt back to commit to play for the Volunteers starting in the fall of 2007. She chose Tennessee over Notre Dame, Indiana and Purdue. Coaches aren't allowed to comment on recruits until they've actually signed a letter-of-intent.

"I met with the (Tennessee) coaches and the players last weekend and it was the right fit," said Smallbone, who has had correspondence with the Vols since she was in eighth grade. "I want to win. The other programs were great, but playing at Tennessee has always been a dream of mine."

Smallbone shares that dream with another former area athlete, Wawasee High School grad Shanna Zolman. The Tennessee senior guard was Smallbone's host on the trip and personal confidante.

"Shanna took me aside, one-on-one, and told me what it really takes to play there," Smallbone said. "She told me about the homesickness you go through as a freshman being so far away."

Zolman didn't sugarcoat what it takes to survive. She's had her share of struggles before emerging as a leader.

"Shanna said that every day is constant work, whether it's practice or a game," Smallbone said. "There's never a day off, but you love it so much you find a way to get through it."

Smallbone, a solid shooter who can catch fire and take over a game, averaged 13 points a game each of the last two seasons. She played a key role in St. Joe's run to the Class 3-A state championship as a sophomore last year and is hoping for a repeat this season.

"One week after the state championship game, Sydney was playing in an AAU tournament," Indians coach Mike Megyese said. "That's the kind of competitor she is. She's not one to rest on her laurels. She knows what she's in for at a place like Tennessee."

One of the expectations will be to add a little defense to her offensive skills.

"I need to pick up my defense," Smallbone said. "That's a big part of the college game."

"If there's one big area that any player going into college has to work on it's defense," Megyese said. "I've had many college coaches tell me that Sydney will be outstanding because of her attitude. She has a body that's built so well to withstand the physical demands of college basketball."

Physical changes taking place

KNOXVILLE -- Change is in the air at Thompson-Boling Arena, and it extends to things beyond the opening of men's basketball season under new head coach Bruce Pearl next month.

Those drill rigs in the parking lot aren't aiming for oil, though athletics director Mike Hamilton might enjoy supplementing his budget with a wildcat strike or two (in basketball as well as in crude).

Soil samples are being taken to gauge the abilty of the porous earth in that location to sustain a new practice facility next to the arena, and although that project lies in the future, changes have also been made in the arena itself, including a return to orange and white only logos on the court floor, a resurrection of the Ray Mears room and an attempt to move the student section closer to the floor.

In addition, the media room will be relocated farther from donors and closer to the river, with hopes of eventually moving it into or across the river, but that part of the plan for resurrection of the arena is shhh, for now.

``We're looking at renovating this building and making it not just the largest but the best facility in the country,'' Pearl said at Tuesday's basketball media day on campus.

``You won't recognize the Ray Mears room next time you see it. We're moving forward on a new practice facility, which is an absolute necessity. We're changing the student section and with the new court with Pat Summitt's name, this is going to become one of the best facilities in college basketball. This will be a place we can recruit to and be as attractive as any place in the SEC.''

The Volunteers this season will also occasionally be wearing throwback uniforms reminiscent of the height of men's basketball a UT -- the Ernie and Bernie era.

Cosmetic changes aside, the familiar yet new Bruce Pearl Vols will be playing a different brand of basketball this season, with an emphasis on speed and defense that they say is unprecedented in their experience in the program.

``I love the fast pace. It's a style that opens things up for a lot of players,'' senior Stanley Asumnu said. ``Defense is the key. On offense, I'll be able to show more of what I can do.''

Point guard C.J. Watson, who will be the Vols' only other eligible senior when the season opens, says this team is going to use everyone in uniform.

``I think everybody is doing quite well,'' Watson said. ``At first, we weren't quite sure how everybody would fit into it, but now everybody is fitting in pretty good. Everybody's knowing their spots and knowing their roles.''

But how can optimism not reign at this point, among players, coaches and fans?

``It's a new opportunity for everyone,'' Asumnu says.

And Pearl is now the focus of all that is new and positive.

``I think people are going to give us a shot,'' he said. ``I think people are excited about men's basketball, and I tell you, we can win big here in men's basketball.''

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Talk the talk

An integral part of learning to walk the walk, Lady Vols Center Nicky Anosike also must talk the talk

The words came from basic English and yet they sounded like a faraway foreign dialect to Nicky Anosike.

Seal, pin and spin, leg whip, drop step ...

"It was like a whole other language,'' Anosike said.

She was a freshman women's basketball player at Tennessee, eager to learn and hanging on coach Pat Summitt's every word.

Anosike thought that she was right where she wanted to be. And suddenly she was lost.

"I had no clue what Pat was talking about,'' Anosike said. "... You get here and you find out you don't know anything. It's the worst feeling.''

Anosike was laughing as she recounted her bewildering encounter with the basketball vernacular of post play. The comfort comes from being more fluent.

"In basketball speak and post lingo,'' Lady Vols assistant coach Dean Lockwood said, "she's gone from first-year student to third year.''

Wherever Anosike is going with her basketball career, she is following the words and the accompanying voices. They are the cadence for a determined journey that's heading into her sophomore season.

Lockwood has been coaching for 27 years. He has one year's worth of experience with Anosike. Already she ranks as one of the best listeners he's ever coached.

"Her antenna is always up,'' said Lockwood, who works primarily with UT's post players. "She's not afraid to ask questions and challenge something in a positive way. A player like that is going to grow by leaps and bounds.''

During Thursday's basketball workout, Lockwood introduced a shot fake to a shooting drill. Anosike immediately asked for a more detailed explanation.

Lockwood thinks he knows the scope of Anosike's attentive nature. But he really doesn't know. Last season, she pulled herself up from a player who had never played a true post position to an SEC All-Freshman team honoree with double-double potential for points and rebounds. She did so, in large part, by clinging tightly to a few early season words of encouragement from Lockwood.

He told her, "You have great potential. Never lose hope. Never stop fighting.''

"That meant so much to me when Dean said that to me,'' Anosike said. "I don't know if he even remembers what he said to me.''

Be careful what you say to Anosike. Every single world is being processed and refined as fuel for her engine. A timely insight or a thoughtful compliment is, in her words, "like feeding you confidence.''

Anosike built enough confidence last season and during the summer playing for the U.S. U19 World Championship team to approach Summitt about having a bigger scoring role.

In the meantime, she's listening to Summitt's advice on how to best marshal her abilities and achieve her objective.

"Coach, she's harping on the idea that post players need to have composure,'' Anosike said.

Ultimately, Anosike's journey will speak not only for her ambitions but also the coaching she receives. The Lady Vols pledged to develop her into a post player. It was part of her recruitment. Since he wasn't on the staff then, Lockwood wasn't privy to the sales pitch. Anosike brought him up to speed during an individual meeting last season.

"They said they were going to teach me to be a post player,'' Lockwood recalled Anosike telling him. "You have to be patient with me.''

Lockwood is a good listener, too. Last June, during a UT basketball camp, Lockwood came back to Thompson-Boling Arena late one evening to turn out the lights.

He heard the sound of a basketball on the arena floor. Thump. Thump. Thump.

He went up to his office to do some work and wait out a player's work session. Occasionally, he would come down the steps, listen and go back upstairs.

The thump-thump of the basketball carried past midnight until nearly 1 a.m.

It was the sound of Anosike. She was right where she wanted to be.

Notebook: Center Sybil Dosty missed Thursday's workout with a left quadriceps strain. ... The Lady Vols are practicing this morning at the arena. ... Junior prospect Sydney Smallbone, a guard from South Bend, Ind., is making an unofficial visit this weekend. ... Guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, who sat out some basketball workouts last month with a tendinitis flare-up, took part in Thursday's workout.

Athletes roll over UT's finest

Some of the state's best wheelchair basketball players took UT coaches, players, and administrators to school Thursday night for a good cause.

October is disability awareness month, with a basketball game between wheelchair all stars and some of UT's finest highlighted the power of perseverance.

Outside was an example of why so many focused on the HPER building on the UT campus.

"One of the worst spots I know," says Cody Joss, referring to a pothole that most people could walk over.

Joss does not have such a luxury. A broken neck four years ago robbed him of his ability to walk, but gave him the ability to overcome obstacles few could fathom.

"They've cleaned it up a lot in the last few years," Cody says about handicap accessibility on the UT campus. "They really have."

Still, he says there are plenty of trouble spots that still remain. Parking particularly bothers him, as do bumps that makes his navigation around campus more complex than his fellow students.
"It's just a matter of taking a detour," he says. "Once you learn a bad route, you know that bad route, and you always have to go differently."

To hopefully prevent other students from going through what he has, Cody kept his wheels in motion by heading over to watch the game and show some support. It is support the wheelchair all stars appreciate, but do not need.

"It's usually somewhat lopsided," Anthony Ryan said about games like these.

Ryan says those sitting in a chair and playing for the first time end up feeling like their arms are on fire. In the first half, it was the wheelchair all stars who were on fire, passing, stealing, and scoring at will. It put UT basketball players and coaches on the wrong side of lopsided.

"Just their reaction time and their quickness to the ball, these guys on the other side have no chance, not a chance," said Lady Vols Basketball Coach Pat Summitt, referring to some of the players she coaches.

Summitt met with the visitors before the game. While they appreciated the kind words, their focus remained relentless, focusing solely on what they can do now

"Sports are sports whether you play in a chair or not," said Ryan.

Ken Johnson's best sport Thursday was being a good sport. The Director of Basketball Operations operated on his backside, falling head over heals trying to navigate the court.

"It's a whole different experience," he said. "You don't use those muscles everyday."

The score board operator did not use many muscles either counting up the UT total. They had two baskets in the first half.

"They have no mercy," said Coach Summitt. "I just marvel at their athleticism, intensity, and competitiveness."

In the end, the wheelchair all stars won 22-8. To those that supported them, it was just another win.

"Able bodied people are going to be in wheelchairs," Joss said.

To those that watched, it was a lesson about determination.

"They have been able to overcome," said Coach Summitt.

Added Johnson, "It takes a lot of skill."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sydney Cleared To Play

Just eight days before the official start of the 2005-06 season, the Lady Vol basketball team enjoyed a two-hour practice Thursday morning in Thompson-Boling Arena. Head coach Pat Summitt and her 11-member squad will again hit the hardwood Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

The morning session consisted of open shooting drills and post-position skill work. Assistant coach Dean Lockwood kept a close eye on Nicky Anosike, Alex Fuller and Tye’sha Fluker, as they posted-up against defenders and took three-footers from both sides of the basket.

Assistants Holly Warlick and Nikki Caldwell paid particular attention to the guards and forwards as they took turns shooting from all angles outside the paint.

The team walked through several offensive plays, then combined the defense and shot clock to simulate a real game. Sidney Spencer, now cleared to play by the team trainer Jenny Moshak, was particularly effective in this drill, connecting on numerous three pointers and beating defenders to find herself open in the paint.

“We’ve cleared Sidney to participate in contact drills now,” said Moshak. “She will gradually increase her workload as the season draws closer.”

“Sidney brings a different dimension to the team,” said Summitt. “She looked good today, not hesitant at all to get right in there.”

Sa’de Wiley-Gatewood and Lindsey Moss made several beautiful passes inside the lane, zipping the ball through the traffic for easy two-pointers for the Lady Vols.

Sybil Dosty nursed a nagging left quadricep strain on the sideline most of the morning. She rode the exercise bike but did not join in the team drills.

“We are trying to rest Sybil until her injury shows signs and symptoms of dissipating,” said Moshak.

Summitt noted “it’s apparent that the team has not been practicing basketball skills in a week, and that they are in the ‘let’s start the season’ mode. We’ll work out again on Saturday and then with the exception of Monday, the ladies will have next week off in preparation for our opening practice on Friday.”

The Lady Vols will return to Thompson-Boling from 10 a.m. – Noon on Saturday. The first official practice will be in the arena from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, October 14.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Joint Action

Lady Vols will have to collaborate on treating Wiley-Gatewood's sore knee

Tennessee Lady Vols point guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood continues to battle through tendinitis in her left knee.

When Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood lays her head down to sleep at night, she counts questions, not sheep.

How can I be a leader?

How can I build trust with my teammates?

How am I going to get in sync with my teammates if I'm getting pulled from practice?

There are so many questions, but no easy answers.

Wiley-Gatewood, a Tennessee women's basketball sophomore, had offseason surgery to address a severe case of tendinitis in the patella tendon of her left knee. The condition curtailed her rookie season.

The point guard rehabbed during the summer and cruised through the first three weeks of preseason basketball and conditioning workouts.

Then her knee flared up. And the vicious cycle of inquiries ensued.

Lady Vols athletic trainer Jenny Moshak described tendinitis as "very complicated, very never-ending."

While the surgery addressed Wiley-Gatewood's condition, it obviously couldn't change the forces that helped create the condition in the first place.

"The sport is just brutal on the patella tendon,'' Moshak said.

In turn, it can be pretty tough on the player, too.

"I thought this was going to be the year," Wiley-Gatewood said. "It was going to be perfect.''

While it doesn't hurt to be hopeful, Wiley-Gatewood is better served by being realistic.

"This is something that's not going to go away,'' she said.

Therefore, only one question really matters: How does she deal with this?

"I think it's like you have to take her pulse every day and see how she's feeling,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said.

The care will be long term. The first order of business was re-emphasizing the proper line of communication. It runs from Wiley-Gatewood's knee through her to Moshak and then on to Summitt.

"They want me to tell them right away when it starts bothering me,'' Wiley-Gatewood said. "When (the knee) talks to me, I have to go talk to Jenny.''

Last week's dialogue resulted in Wiley-Gatewood doing conditioning rather than basketball when she was unable to endure consecutive days.

The months of down time last year were costly to her stamina. When she played, Wiley-Gatewood said that she was good for only two trips up the court before being winded.

Above all, she wants to preserve the endurance she built during the summer.

That's an easier choice now. As the season draws closer, the tug of the sport will be stronger.

At the root of Wiley-Gatewood's restless nights are the responsibilities of her position. She wants to build a rapport with coach and teammates. The yearning will grow stronger when real practice starts in less than two weeks. Any down time will be downright painful, apart from any knee discomfort.

"That's the hard part," Summitt said, "listening to your body when you want to establish your place with the team.''

It's easier if Wiley-Gatewood also listens to a teammate.

"Everyone is fully aware of what she can do,'' Lady Vol Nicky Anosike said. "I've talked to her. She seems to have a pretty positive attitude. Sometimes that's all you need to pull through is a positive attitude. I'm confident she'll be back.''

A 13-game glimpse of Wiley-Gatewood last season amounted to an eyeful. She hit a pair of clutch 3-pointers and scored nine of her 12 points in the final five minutes of a 68-67 victory at Connecticut, including the decisive driving layup and subsequent free throw with 15 seconds left.

The Lady Vols might be able to cover for Wiley-Gatewood's point-guard duties, but they can't replace her skills or her fearlessness.

Summitt said a mouthful by simply saying: "She can hit the open shots. She's a natural.''

Wiley-Gatewood doesn't need to establish a presence. She needs to try her best to maintain one. That should be her sole concern.

She managed to put together consecutive days of work this week. That ought be worth a restful night.

Notebook: Tennessee's game at South Carolina has been moved up a day to Jan. 4. The change allows for an extra day before the Jan. 7 home game with Connecticut. ... Lady Vol Sidney Spencer, who is recovering from knee surgery, was on the court for Thursday's workout. ... Kentucky, which is coached by former Lady Vol assistant Mickie DeMoss, has received a verbal commitment from Christian County (Ky.) forward Arnika Brown, a consensus top 50 national prospect.