Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lady Vols prepare for U.S. team

Summitt implores fans to show respect; Lawson, Moore return

The U.S. national team roster gives Tennessee fuel for thought this week in preparing for their women's basketball exhibition game.

UT coach Pat Summitt also wants to give the fans something to think about in advance of the 3 p.m. tipoff Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The 10-player U.S. roster for its eight-game college tour is headlined by center Lisa Leslie, a three-time Olympic gold medalist. The lineup also includes former Tennessee guards Kara Lawson and Loree Moore.

As if there's not enough size, experience and talent to worry about, Summitt also is concerning herself with history. A trio of former Connecticut players will be here, including Diana Taurasi, who was a target of the locals' ire during her collegiate career.

Her comments this summer regarding UT's decision to end its regular-season series with UConn and the possible circumstances involved were as endearing to Lady Vols fans as one of her long jumpers.

With this legacy in mind, Summitt wants to remind everyone that Taurasi won't be wearing Husky blue on this trip but rather red, white and blue.

"While we're competing against players that have obviously played against us in the past, now they're representing our country,'' Summitt said. "I'll be very disappointed if we don't respect what these young women are doing and how they're representing our country."

Summitt was reminded of the warm reception Lawson and Lady Vol Candace Parker received while playing for the U.S. in an exhibition against Australia in August in Uncasville, Conn., as a warmup for the FIBA Americas tournament."

"We need to show the same sportsmanship,'' Summitt said.

On the other hand, she doesn't want Taurasi and Co. to go easy on her team. Summitt is hoping for just the opposite.

"The timing is great,'' she said. "We'll know a lot more about what we're about."

From Summitt's standpoint, the Lady Vols are not about consistency in their practice preparations for the upcoming season, which opens for real against Chattanooga on Nov. 11.

"There doesn't seem to be the sense of urgency that needs to be there,'' said Summitt after Monday's practice, which she described as average at best. "We tend to turn it on when we need to turn it on."

The Lady Vols continue to practice without freshman center Kelley Cain (concussion) and senior wing Alberta Auguste (calf contusion). There's no word on when they will be back, but their status for Sunday doesn't look promising, which diminishes UT's size, athleticism and depth.

In the meantime, Summitt seems more concerned with UT's leadership, which she described as inconsistent with the exception of senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle.

"It's important for the people who have leadership skills to be consistent day-in and day-out,'' Summitt said.

If it's an early wake-up call the Lady Vols need, they will get one on Sunday.

"(It's) a team this team respects,'' Summitt said of the U.S. squad, "a team full of proven player. It has a great mix that will challenge us."

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