Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lawson has made herself invaluable

No one could convince Kara Lawson she wasn't long enough or lean enough to be a professional basketball player.

She found a way to make it work. Lawson has laughed along with the jokes about her height, knowing her skills on the perimeter made her 5-foot-9 frame obsolete. She's reshaped her body, dropping 12 pounds this season hoping for increased speed and athleticism.

And when it comes to her role on the Monarchs, Lawson continues to dig into the foundation of the franchise with each charismatic smile and buzzer-beating shot.
"I'm short. I'm slower than 95 percent of the people in this league," Lawson said. "I know this. What you have to do is find something that makes you competitive."

The innate message in that statement is what makes Lawson a fan favorite and role model to kids who will run around the arena in purple jerseys with her name across their backs today during Game 2 of the Western Conference playoffs at Arco Arena against the Houston Comets.

"I always tell myself before every game to play as hard as I can and if my shot goes in, then good," Lawson said. "If it doesn't, I know I tried my best."

Those shots have increasingly found their way through the net. Lawson has scored double digits the last six games, including a career playoff-high 18 points in the 93-78 victory in Houston on Thursday.

A Sacramento victory today will clinch the three-game series and advance the Monarchs to the second round."We have to win," Lawson said following a short practice Friday.

A Monarchs loss will force a third and deciding game Monday at 7 p.m. at Arco.

With Lawson's performance Thursday, the Comets will likely spend more time guarding her.

"Kara loves big shots," Monarchs coach John Whisenant said. "She plays better under the gun."

The secret to Lawson's success has little to do with basketball. She is what coaches call a student of the game, with an emphasis on student.

Lawson memorized the U.S. Presidents when she was 3 years old, could name NFL quarterbacks and their statistics at 4, then entered kindergarten reading at the fourth-grade level.

By the time college rolled around, Tennessee's legendary coach Pat Summitt saw in Lawson a player with the ability to make quick, smart decisions on the floor.

"If I'm ever on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,' Kara will be my lifeline," Summitt told Sports Illustrated in 2000.

Lawson has the ability to remember nearly everything she reads or hears, which comes in handy in her offseason gig as a member of the Kings' broadcast team and ESPN studio analyst for the NCAA women's basketball championships.

"She's smart, competitive and analytical, and just loves the game," Whisenant said.

Whisenant often cites Lawson's unselfish attitude as a reason she fits so well into his system. Lawson has started seven games this year and is expected to start today against Houston. Even coming off the bench, Lawson often averages the same minutes as a starter.

Lawson is averaging 8.1 points a game in 22 minutes this season. Her scoring and productivity has dramatically increased since Lawson overcame an early-season setback with an undiagnosed illness that left her fatigued. Lawson missed training camp but slowly began working out after practices and eating healthier in an attempt to regain her strength.

It's paying off. The slimmer Lawson is hitting her stride when the Monarchs need her most.

"She's done a great job for them," Comets coach Van Chancellor said. "She's got a basketball savvy about her. Most of it is a kind of belief in herself. She truly believes she is a good shooter. She thinks every shot is a big shot, from first to last."

Friday, August 18, 2006

Lady Vols Release 2006-07 Hoops Schedule

Tennessee will tangle with a number of non-league rivals, including North Carolina, Connecticut, Texas, Duke, Stanford and Louisiana Tech

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer basketball schedule has been finalized for the 2006-07 season.

In addition to running the gauntlet of the perennial Southeastern Conference powerhouses, the Lady Vols will also tangle with a number of non-league rivals, including North Carolina, Connecticut, Texas, Duke, Stanford and Louisiana Tech.

"Our schedule for the coming season is exciting and challenging," said Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt, who is beginning her 33rd season at Tennessee and is the NCAA's all-time winningest coach, starting the season at 913-177. "As usual, we take on an aggressive schedule which allows us to prepare for post season play.

"I'm glad we'll be playing 18 home dates, including the exhibition games. Our fans have been so supportive throughout the years. I'm excited that we have been able to increase our home dates," said Summitt.

Six teams return to the Lady Vol regular season schedule after a hiatus. Tennessee will meet UCLA for the first time since 1999; UT travels to Arizona State but will play the contest indoors - in 2000 the squads faced off outside at Bank One Ballpark; Middle Tennessee State University returns to the schedule for the first time since 1984; Tennessee and North Carolina have a two-year home-and-home series slated - the last regular season meeting was in 1988, but the two teams have squared-off in NCAA tilts in 1993, 1998 and 2006; Coach Summitt's alma mater, Tennessee-Martin, is back in the line-up for the first time since 1999, and West Virginia University and Tennessee will face off after a 20-year break.

Following a pair of exhibition tune-ups (Carson-Newman on Nov. 1 and the Houston Jaguars on Nov. 5), the Lady Vols officially open the season at home with a pair of games: Nov. 12 against Chattanooga and Nov. 16 versus UCLA.

The remainder of the November slate includes a date at Arizona State (Nov. 19), home games against Stanford (Nov. 24) and Middle Tennessee State (Nov. 26) and a trip to Ruston, La., to face Louisiana Tech (Nov. 28).

Tennessee starts the December portion of its schedule on the road at Chapel Hill, taking on North Carolina in a Sunday night (Dec. 3) prime-time meeting on ESPN. The Tar Heels bounced the Lady Vols out of the 2006 NCAA Tournament in an Elite Eight match-up. The visit will mark Tennessee's first trip to Carmichael Auditorium since 1988. The Lady Vols will then entertain Tennessee-Martin (Dec. 5) and George Washington (Dec. 7) at home before taking a 10-day break for final exams. UT will be in action on Dec. 17 at Texas, Dec. 20 at home versus West Virginia, Dec. 22 at Old Dominion and back home on Dec. 30 against Notre Dame.

In January, the Lady Vols will face two additional non-conference foes before settling into the daunting SEC slate. Tennessee travels to BIG EAST foe Connecticut on Jan. 6 (CBS), and Duke makes an appearance in Knoxville on Jan. 22 in a "Big Monday" meeting on ESPN.

January is a light SEC month at home for the Lady Vols with only Alabama (Jan. 3) and Mississippi State (Jan. 18) visiting the Knoxville campus. UT will be on the SEC road, traveling to Florida (Jan. 11), Georgia (Jan. 14), Vanderbilt (Jan. 25) and Alabama (Jan. 28).

February is almost the reverse schedule for Tennessee, as the Lady Vols will enjoy five home games by taking on South Carolina (Feb. 1), Georgia on ESPN2 (Feb. 5), Kentucky in a "February Frenzy" meeting on ESPN on Feb. 11, Mississippi (Feb. 15) and Vanderbilt (Feb. 25). February road trips include jaunts to Auburn (Feb. 8), LSU on ESPN2 (Feb. 19) and to Arkansas (Feb. 22). Once again, Tennessee will play home-and-home SEC match-ups with Alabama and Georgia this season to go along with its annual home-and-home traditional rival contests versus Vanderbilt.

"It's no surprise that we've taken on another challenging schedule for the coming season," said Summitt. "I'm excited that our fans will get to enjoy such a great line-up of games in Thompson-Boling Arena.

"Once again this year, the SEC - from top to bottom -- will be as strong as it has ever been," professed Summitt. "I expect to see several SEC teams ranked among the nation's top 10. The SEC schedule will be extremely challenging."

The 2006 Southeastern Conference Tournament will venture to Duluth, Ga., March 1-4. The NCAA festivities kick-off with First/Second Round games March 17-20 and four NCAA Regionals, March 24-27. The season will culminate with the 2007 NCAA Final Four at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, April 1 & 3.

2006-07 Women's Basketball Schedule

Date Day Opponent Location TV
11/01/06 Wed Carson-Newman (EXH) Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
11/05/06 Sun Houston Jaguars (EXH) Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
11/12/06 Sun Chattanooga Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
11/16/06 Thu UCLA Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
11/19/06 Sun Arizona State Tempe, Ariz. TBA
11/24/06 Fri Stanford Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
11/26/06 Sun Middle Tennessee State Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
11/28/06 Tue Louisiana Tech Ruston, La. TBA
12/03/06 Sun North Carolina Chapel Hill, N.C. ESPN TBA
12/05/06 Tue Tennessee-Martin Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
12/07/06 Thu George Washington Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
12/17/06 Sun Texas Austin, Texas TBA
12/20/06 Wed West Virginia Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
12/22/06 Fri Old Dominion Norfolk, Va. TBA
12/30/06 Sat Notre Dame Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
01/03/07 Wed Alabama * Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
01/06/07 Sat Connecticut Hartford, Conn. CBS TBA
01/11/07 Thu Florida * Gainesville, Fla. TBA
01/14/07 Sun Georgia * Athens, Ga. TBA
01/18/07 Thu Mississippi State Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
01/22/07 Mon Duke (Big Monday) Knoxville, Tenn. ESPN TBA
01/25/07 Thu Vanderbilt * Nashville, Tenn. TBA
01/28/07 Sun Alabama * Tuscaloosa, Ala. TBA
02/01/07 Thu South Carolina * Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
02/05/07 Mon Georgia * Knoxville, Tenn. ESPN2 TBA
02/08/07 Thu Auburn * Auburn, Ala. TBA
02/11/07 Sun Kentucky * (February Frenzy) Knoxville, Tenn. ESPN2 TBA
02/15/07 Thu Mississippi * Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
02/19/07 Mon LSU * Baton Rouge, La. ESPN2 TBA
02/22/07 Thu Arkansas * Fayetteville, Ark. TBA
02/25/07 Sun Vanderbilt * Knoxville, Tenn. TBA
03/01/07 Thu SEC Tournament Duluth, Ga. FSN TBA
03/02/07 Fri SEC Tournament Duluth, Ga. FSN TBA
03/03/07 Sat SEC Tournament Duluth, Ga. FSN TBA
03/04/07 Sun SEC Tournament Duluth, Ga. FSN TBA
03/17/07 Sat NCAA Tournament (1st Round) TBA ESPN/ESPN2 TBA
03/18/07 Sun NCAA Tournament (1st Round) TBA ESPN/ESPN2 TBA
03/19/07 Mon NCAA Tournament (2nd Round) TBA ESPN/ESPN2 TBA
03/20/07 Tue NCAA Tournament (2nd Round) TBA ESPN/ESPN2 TBA
03/24/07 Sat NCAA Tournament (Regional) TBA ESPN/ESPN2 TBA
03/25/07 Sun NCAA Tournament (Regional) TBA ESPN/ESPN2 TBA
03/26/07 Mon NCAA Tournament (Regional Final) TBA ESPN/ESPN2 TBA
03/27/07 Tue NCAA Tournament (Regional Final) TBA ESPN/ESPN2 TBA
04/01/07 Sun NCAA Tournament (Final Four) Cleveland, Ohio ESPN TBA
04/03/07 Tue NCAA Tournament (Championship) Cleveland, Ohio ESPN TBA

TV Networks: CBS, ESPN, FSN/FOX-Fox Sports

Sat.-Tues., Mar. 17-20 NCAA Tournament (1st & 2nd Rounds) Campus Sites
Eight predetermined sites: Frank Erwin Center (16,755), Austin Texas; Breslin Student Events Center (15,085), East Lansing, Mich.; Hartford Civic Center (14,913), Hartford, Conn.; Galen Center (10,280) Los Angeles, Calif.; Williams Arena (14,669), Minneapolis, Minn.; Petersen Events Center (12,500), Pittsburgh, Pa.; RBC Center (19,500), Raleigh, N.C.; Maples Pavilion (7,233), Stanford, Calif.

Sat.-Tues., Mar. 24-27 NCAA Tournament (Regionals) Campus Sites
Mideast- University of Dayton Arena (13,000) Dayton, Ohio
West- Save Mart Center (15,621) Fresno, Calif.
East- Greensboro Coliseum (12,005) Greensboro, N.C.
Midwest- Reunion Arena (17,767) Dallas, Texas

* Denotes Southeastern Conference Game