Saturday, September 22, 2007

President Bush lauds Lady Vols' history of championship success

WASHINGTON - It's not every day that the Marine Corps band strikes up a lively rendition of "Rocky Top" on the White House lawn.

Then again, it's not every day that the Lady Vols are in town.

President Bush welcomed coach Pat Summitt and the Tennessee women's basketball team to the White House on Friday and congratulated them on their national championship victory last spring.

"This team is upholding a long-time tradition for Tennessee women's basketball," Bush said during a ceremony on the South Lawn.

The president called Summitt a "soon-to-be, if not already, Hall of Fame coach" and noted that the 2007 championship is the Lady Vols' seventh national title under her leadership. Summitt already has been inducted to both the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville and the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The Lady Vols were one of eight championship teams from across the country that were honored.

"It is really a lot of fun to be with people who set high standards and work hard to achieve goals, which you've done," Bush said. "You've come from different schools, different sports, but you deserve to be called champion."

Before the official ceremony, Coach Summitt and the entire team met privately with the president inside the White House. Players posed for a team photo with the president and presented him with a couple of gifts.

Dominique Redding, a senior forward who has since graduated, gave him a basketball signed by the coaches and members of the championship team. Another graduated senior, Sidney Spencer, presented Bush with two navy blue jackets - one for him and another for First Lady Laura Bush.

"He was really a nice guy, just laid-back, just a genuine person," Spencer said. "He actually dribbled the ball. He kind of bounced it."

And about those jackets? "He said it does get cold in the White House," Spencer said.

The event marked the seventh time in two decades that the Lady Vols have been invited to the White House.

Earlier Friday, the team was honored during a luncheon at the Library of Congress.

"It's really an honor to be able to a cap off the season with a visit" to Washington, Spencer said.

Notebook: Redding said that she is preparing to head overseas and play professionally in Portugal.

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