KNOXVILLE — Nicky Anosike is known for being her own toughest critic. This week, she is doing her best to change that.
"I'm just trying to stay positive," she said.
It might not be as easy as it sounds.
Anosike, a 6-foot-4 junior center for the Tennessee women's basketball team, is in the midst of perhaps the roughest two-week stretch of her college career.
She has scored a combined 13 points in her last four games and has drawn criticism from Coach Pat Summitt over the past week for being too much of "a finesse player."
Making matters worse, Anosike has yet to overcome the sprained left ankle she suffered in a spill with Vanderbilt forward Carla Thomas in last week's 67-57 win over the Commodores at Memorial Gym. She played only 10 minutes Sunday at Alabama.
Still, Anosike will be in the starting lineup for the third-ranked Lady Vols (19-2, 6-0 SEC) against South Carolina (13-9, 3-4) tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Summitt says her patience has been tested by the lack of offensive efficiency from Anosike, who has connected on 4-of-22 field-goal attempts during her recent slump.
"Nicky has to play to her strengths," Summitt said. "I think she has to get on the block and score on the block. I like the fact that Nicky worked on her face-up game. That doesn't mean she can't use it. But it seems like that's what she's wanting to do — be a finesse player.
"You look at that body and you don't think finesse. You think, 'This could be one of the best post-up players on this team,' because she does have the most physically-imposing body."
Summitt admitted she's even considered benching Anosike in favor of Shelbyville native Alex Fuller, a sophomore forward who is averaging 7.0 points off the bench and had 12 points in Sunday's 80-51 win at Alabama.
"Alex, she's playing really well," Summitt said. "Is she playing well enough to start? Absolutely. But she is such a great player to bring off the bench."
'It's going to take time'
Anosike simply needs time to rest and let her ankle heal.
Summitt said she hopes to sit Anosike as much as possible tonight against the Gamecocks, who have lost 32 straight to the Lady Vols.
Anosike, who limped noticeably during team sprints on Monday, said Wednesday that her ankle had improved significantly.
"I know my ankle's going to get better," she said. "It's not really that serious of an injury. It's going to take time."
Ankles heal slowly, like (team trainer) Jenny (Moshak) said, so I'm just trying to be patient and stay positive."