Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pat Summitt Confirmed as Keynoter for NSGA Conference/Summit

MOUNT PROSPECT, IL – Pat Summitt, the college basketball coach who has won more games than any other – men’s or women’s – coach in the history of the sport, will be the keynote speaker at the 44th Annual NSGA Management Conference & 10th Annual Team Dealer Summit, which will be held May 4-7, 2008, at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Ariz.

Summitt, who started the 2007-08 season with 947 victories and whose University of Tennessee Lady Vols are the reigning NCAA champions, has won seven NCAA national championships and 26 Southeastern Conference tournament and regular season titles. Her teams have made an unprecedented 26 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Sweet 16 and have produced 12 Olympians, 19 Kodak All Americans and 69 all-conference performers.

“We are fortunate to have Pat Summitt as our keynote speaker,” said NSGA Chairman of the Board Bruce Ullery, President & CEO of MC Sports. “She has led hundreds of young women to reach great heights, both on the basketball court and in life, and she will share with us the principles that have helped her become the successful leader that she is.”

Through the years, Summitt has worn many hats at the University of Tennessee, as a student, educator and coach. She’ll be the first to say that her success is due to the players who have represented the university since she came on board as head coach in 1974, when she was just 22 years old.

Incredibly, every Lady Vol player since 1976 has played in at least one Final Four during her career at Tennessee. There have been three classes of players in school history to go to the Final Four all four years of their UT tenure.

“Pat Summitt is a special person who has achieved what few can even hope to accomplish,” Ullery said.

The Management Conference title sponsor is the Sport Finance Program from GE Money. Team Dealer Summit co-sponsors are Mueller Sports Medicine, Russell Athletic, Sporting Goods Dealer and the NSGA Team Dealer Division.

A complete schedule of speakers, panel discussions, workshops, networking time and social activities will be included in brochures that will be mailed in January and posted on the NSGA website (

For more information, please contact Sue Wenderski or Chuck Suritz at NSGA, (800) 815-5422, or e-mail:

About NSGA:
NSGA, which has served the sporting goods industry since 1929, organizes and hosts the annual NSGA Management Conference & Team Dealer Summit, the sporting goods industry’s premier educational and networking event (Next: May 4-7, 2008 at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, Ariz.).

For more information on NSGA member services, visit the Association home page (; call Rhonda Onuszko at NSGA, (847) 296-6742, Ext. 131; e-mail:; or fax (847) 391-9827.

Lady Vols, La. Tech cutting ties

After four decades and a lot of history, the Tennessee-Louisiana Tech women's basketball series is about to become history.

Indications are that the storied rivalry will end after next season, after Tech returns to Knoxville to complete a three-game contract between the schools.

The teams played Monday night at Thompson-Boling Arena with the Lady Vols winning, 81-60.

UT coach Pat Summitt said Tuesday that she didn't think Tech wanted to repeat the standing deal and continue playing two games in Knoxville for every UT visit to Ruston, La.

Furthermore, Tennessee has to pare its non-conference schedule in advance of the SEC schedule growing by two games when the league goes to division play in 2009-10.

"We felt like that was one of the games we had to drop,'' Lady Vols associate head coach Holly Warlick said.

The series, which began Dec. 16, 1978, has spanned AIAW and NCAA jurisdiction of the sport. The two teams have met everywhere from the regular season to national championship games.

At the outset, Tech had the upper hand, winning 11 of the first 12 games in the series. In the end, Tennessee has dominated, winning 11 of 12, including the past eight meetings.

Overall, the teams have played 40 times with Tennessee leading the series after Monday's victory, 23-17.

Warlick has experienced the rivalry as a player and a coach. She remembers when Tech dominated.

"I think that was probably why it was so special when we won our first championship," said Warlick, referring to Tennessee's 67-44 victory over Tech in the 1987 national championship game in Austin, Texas, "because we had so much respect for them."

Pressing Matters: Tennessee began preparing for Sunday's visit from No. 4 North Carolina by convening a strong group of male practice players, who simulated the Tar Heels' press and athletic play during Tuesday's practice.

"They're a transition team, and they're an offensive-rebounding team,'' Warlick said of North Carolina. "They're going to run the ball every chance they get."

Despite losing two starters from last season, including star point guard Ivory Latta, Warlick said Carolina still is Carolina.

"They play the same style," Warlick said.

Off The Mark: Summitt thinks the Lady Vols should do better than their 50 percent free-throw shooting (7-for-14) against Tech. For a large portion of Monday's game, they were shooting better on 3-pointers than free throws.

"I think we have to shoot free throws at a whole different percentage level," Summitt said.

Monday's attempts were confined to three players - Candace Parker, Nicky Anosike and Alberta Auguste. Anosike and Auguste did most of the misfiring. Each shot 1-for-4 from the line.

Notebook: Tennessee's 11 blocks against Tech tied for the fourth-most in a game in school history. ... Senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle has moved past Chamique Holdsclaw into 10th place for career assists with 389. ... Senior center Anosike has topped 800 career points.

Monday, November 26, 2007

(1) Tennessee 81, Louisiana Tech 60

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Candace Parker scored 13 points, leading four Lady Vols in double figures to help top-ranked Tennessee beat Louisiana Tech 81-60 on Monday night.

Nicky Anosike and Shannon Bobbitt added 13 points each and Angie Bjorklund had 12 for Tennessee (5-0). Whitney Jones led the unranked Lady Techsters (2-2) with 16 points in the 40th meeting of a long-standing rivalry.

Defending national champion Tennessee jumped on Louisiana Tech by hitting eight of their first nine 3-pointers. The Lady Vols built a 31-point lead in the first half and were never threatened.

Louisiana Tech was unnerved by Tennessee's defense, which scored 28 points off 24 Lady Techster turnovers. The Lady Vols held Louisiana Tech to 27 percent first-half shooting and 32 percent for the game.

Tennessee had 11 blocked shots, including back-to-back rejections by Parker during one stretch of the second half.

JoKeirra Sneed added 15 points and 18 rebounds for Louisiana Tech. Shanavia Dowdell was the only other player in double figures for Tech with 11.

The Lady Techsters are in the midst of a rebuilding project, with eight underclassmen and only two seniors. The program has a lot to live up to -- it's second only to Tennessee's 1,045 on the all-time women's wins list at 918.

The Lady Vols have won the last eight meetings in a series dating back to the 1978-79 season that includes three national championship games. Louisiana Tech's 17 wins against the Lady Vols are the most by any program. Tennessee leads the series 23-17.

The victory was the 952nd for Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who's on track to pass the 1,000-victory mark next year. Just five NBA coaches have 1,000 wins from schedules more than twice as long as the average women's college basketball slate.

Tennessee moves on to host fourth-ranked North Carolina on Sunday in a rematch of last year's Final Four meeting. The Lady Vols eliminated the Lady Tar Heels 57-50 on the way to their record seventh national title.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hornbuckle tops 1,000th for career

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - One basket added up to so much for Alexis Hornbuckle on Wednesday night.

A single jump shot during her homecoming game against West Virginia, pushed the Lady Vols' senior guard past the 1,000-point career mark in Tennessee's 67-49 victory.

In reaching the scoring milestone before a crowd of 10,677 at the Charleston Civic Center, a record crowd for a women's game in the state of West Virginia, Hornbuckle joined UT legend Chamique Holdsclaw as the only other Lady Vol with at least 1,000 points, 550 rebounds, 375 assists and 275 steals for her career.

"I feel great coach allowed me to make my 1,000th point back home,'' said Hornbuckle, who had 12 points and 8 rebounds. "It's an honor to be mentioned with the name of Chamique Holdsclaw."

Hornbuckle's achievement didn't diminish teammate Candace Parker's scoring show. She had a game-high 29 points for top-ranked Tennessee (4-0). The All-American forward also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, part of the Lady Vols' 50-35 dominance.

Lady Vols center Nicky Anosike had a Hornbuckle-like stat line with 10 points, eight rebounds, six steals and five assists.

Olayinka Sanni led No. 16 West Virginia (3-1) with 16 points.

"If we keep packing our defense and board play on the road we have a chance to be successful every night,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said.

Hornbuckle's return to her hometown wasn't exactly in keeping with her low-key intentions. A banner welcoming her was draped across the lobby of the team hotel. The dinner prepared by her parents Tuesday night was served at the family church, complete with the accompaniment of a choir.

Then Hornbuckle picked up a foul during the game's first minute. It didn't slow her down, however, or her team for that matter.

The Lady Vols bolted to a double-figure lead inside the first six minutes. Parker was her usual scoring self, accounting for 10 of UT's first 17 points. But 5-foot-2 guard Shannon Bobbitt reaching a career high for rebounds with five in the first 11 minutes reflected UT's 28-16 dominance of the boards in the first half.

Leading 24-12, the Lady Vols gave the starters some rest and lost some momentum. Three consecutive turnovers gave the Mountaineers an opening to rally and they closed to 24-20.

Tennessee's starters returned and freshman Angie Bjorklund helped restore order with a jumper and a nifty assist, flipping a behind-the-back pass in traffic to Parker for a layup.

Hornbuckle gave her cheering section and the UT bench a scare when she went down hard on a run-out layup after being fouled by West Virginia guard Chakhia Cole. Hornbuckle was fine and so were the Lady Vols, building their lead to as much as 15 points before going off at the break with a 37-26 advantage.

The Lady Vols struggled to keep up their points pace immediately after halftime. West Virginia played almost exclusively in a zone alignment to start the second half, trying to capitalize on UT's 3-point shooting, which never warmed up and finished at 3 for 18.

The Lady Vols had to work a little harder and Anosike was just the Lady Vol to do it. If the senior center wasn't scoring on a putback basket, she was stealing a pass in the backcourt and driving the length of the court against Cole's pressure for a layup.

Anosike's two baskets pushed Tennessee's lead back to 46-31.

UT freshman forward Vicki Baugh played just five minutes. She was held out as a precaution after straining her left knee in the first half.

After $20M upgrade, Tennessee's old basketball arena feels nearly new

Black is the new orange at Tennessee.

After a $20 million roof-to-floor renovation of Thompson-Boling Arena, it's the replacement of the trademark plastic orange seats with sharper-looking black ones that has people talking.

It was the first thing former Connecticut basketball player Diana Taurasi noticed when she returned with the U.S. women's national team to play the Lady Vols earlier this month.

"We actually miss the orange seats, believe it or not. If you find something that's annoying, as a home team, I think you'd want that to stick," she said.

Those were Pat Summitt's sentiments when the Tennessee athletic department announced it was dumping the dated orange seats (think fast-food restaurant) for a more sophisticated look. The coach of the national champ Lady Vols wanted to stick with the traditional look, but she's changed her mind now that she's seen the new decor.

"I went in there and just sat in the chairs and looked around. I was like a little kid. I was just in awe," Summitt said. "I think we'll have the greatest college basketball arena top to bottom in the country."

Tennessee athletic officials commissioned a complete overhaul of Thompson-Boling for its 20th anniversary. Besides the new chairs, the facility now features 32 new luxury suites, upgraded box seats and a $3 million state-of-the-art scoreboard with orange Tennessee signs.

Less obvious is the added load-bearing capacity to the building's ceiling, the polished floors that now look more like granite than concrete and freshly painted trim — orange, of course.

"We've taken America's largest on-campus facility, and we've made it into America's No. 1 basketball venue," men's coach Bruce Pearl said. "It's absolutely off the charts."

Plans were in the works to update the arena before Pearl was hired, but those ideas came to life faster thanks in part to the renewed success of the men's basketball program. It's only fitting that the men's team has sold out their season tickets for the first time in school history.

"You put 21,500 in here, and it will be electric," men's athletic director Mike Hamilton said. "This shows a firm commitment to basketball for years to come."

On top of that, workers are putting finishing touches on a $16 million brand new basketball practice facility, Pratt Pavilion. The practice building houses two full-length courts — one for the men's team and one for the women — locker rooms, film and training rooms and a spot to host recruits that overlooks the Tennessee River.

The combined $36 million price tag was footed by private donors and sales of the new luxury suites, even though the changes are for public benefit.

Players previously split practice and training between Thompson-Boling Arena and the campus' aging field house, Stokely Athletic Center. Now all non-game activities can take place in Pratt Pavilion, freeing up the arena for other moneymaking ventures like concerts, tractor pulls and the circus.

The additional load-bearing capacity in the ceiling should help bring in larger acts than before, like Cirque du Soleil and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill's show. Both acts considered traveling to Knoxville before but passed when they realized the arena was not adequate for their extravagant sets.

Extra revenue from such shows will go to pay Thompson-Boling's annual operating debt, which has averaged between $1 million and $1.5 million and is paid by the Tennessee athletic department.

"One of the things we're most proud about is that we've taken a 20-year-old building that has great bones, and we have a brand-new facility essentially," said John Currie, senior associate athletic director for external operations.

Even Tennessee basketball will be getting extra dazzle with the new scoreboard, which is so bright that operators only turn it up to about 50 percent of its capacity. With multiple displays, game play and replays can be shown at the same time as real-time game stats, advertisements and orange and white graphics.

Clunky guard rails and walls, which might have blocked the view for the smallest patrons of Tennessee basketball, have been replaced with clear, shatter-resistant glass.

Adding the luxury suites and loge section dropped the overall capacity of Thompson-Boling from 24,535 to about 21,000 but gave the cavernous arena a more intimate feel. Bleachers from the top rows in the upper deck have been replaced with regular seats.

Taurasi, who made regular trips to Thompson-Boling with UConn between 2000 and 2004, said the overall effect is striking enough that it might bring something besides the circus to town.

"It looks like an NBA arena," she said. "I don't see why Knoxville wouldn't be the next franchise of the WNBA."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

(1) Tennessee 67, (16) West Virginia 49

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Candace Parker made sure Tennessee teammate Alexis Hornbuckle's homecoming was a success.

Parker scored a season-high 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the top-ranked Lady Vols to a 67-49 win over No. 16 West Virginia on Wednesday night.

Hornbuckle added 12 points in her first game at the Charleston Civic Center since winning four state championships there.

Tennessee (4-0) held a 50-35 rebounding advantage against what coach Pat Summitt called the most physical opponent the Lady Vols have faced. Tennessee beat a ranked team for the third time in six days, including No. 21 Texas on Sunday and No. 10 Oklahoma last Thursday.

"I'm very pleased with the defensive intensity on the boards tonight," Summitt said. "Candace has really played well at both ends of the floor. I'm really proud of where she's taken her game."

The Mountaineers (3-1) had averaged 83 points in their first three games but were held to their lowest output of the season, shot 31 percent from the floor and couldn't figure out Tennessee's taller frontcourt.

"They exposed some of our weaknesses," said West Virginia coach Mike Carey, who fell to 7-32 against ranked opponents. "They interrupted the passing lanes."

Olayinka Sanni led West Virginia with 16 points before fouling out with 6:27 remaining.

Parker scored seven points in a two-minute stretch of the second half and the Lady Vols extended an 11-point halftime lead to 57-39 with eight minutes remaining.

"There's no doubt in my mind she's the best player in the country," Carey said. "She gives you a lot of problems. I'd like to have about three of (her)."

Hornbuckle had gone to the bench one point shy of 1,000 for her career and pleaded with Summitt to put her back in.

"I said, 'Coach, I wanted to get my 1,000th point at home," Hornbuckle said. "She was gracious enough to allow me to do that and I appreciate that."

Hornbuckle's lay-up with 5:25 left gave Tennessee its largest lead, 63-43.

Summitt had arranged the game for Hornbuckle, a three-time West Virginia player of the year. Before the game Hornbuckle received the loudest ovation from the crowd of 10,677, the largest to ever watch a women's basketball game in the state.

"I'd rather that five people be here and we won," Carey said.

The Lady Vols led for all but the game's first two minutes. Parker scored 12 early points, mostly from close range, West Virginia had trouble finishing layups and Tennessee jumped ahead 22-9 midway through the first half.

"We knew our front line could really punish them inside," Parker said. "That was our focal point. We wanted to establish points in the paint."

Tennessee then went scoreless over a four-minute span and Chakhia Cole and Sanni each had two baskets to bring West Virginia within 24-20 with 5:21 left until halftime. The Mountaineers got no closer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hornbuckle returns home for Tennessee's matchup at W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Tennessee coach Pat Summitt wanted to give Alexis Hornbuckle the chance to play before a hometown crowd.

The three-time West Virginia player of the year won four high school state championships at the Charleston Civic Center, site of Wednesday night's matchup between the top-ranked Volunteers (3-0) and No. 16 West Virginia (3-0).

Before Hornbuckle feasts on home cooking, Summitt wants to ensure the focus is on the court.

“If necessary, I will,” Summitt said Tuesday. “She may be all hyped up, there is no doubt about that. But she will put pressure on herself to play well and put the team first.

“While she'll be excited to be there, she knows we are going there to win a basketball game, even if the fans are cheering for her.”

When this game was drawn up two years ago, Summitt had Hornbuckle in mind when she decided she wanted to renew the series with West Virginia. The teams met last year in Knoxville for the first time since 1986.

Although West Virginia will have to travel two hours south on Interstate 79, WVU deputy athletic director Mike Parsons has said it's “a nice attraction for the Charleston area.”

The buildup has focused on Hornbuckle. She brought unprecedented success to the sport in West Virginia and was possibly the most highly recruited girls player from her home state. Hornbuckle was flocked for autographs throughout her career and was credited for soaring attendance at the state tournament.

“I think a lot of people are talking about this because Tennessee is number one and the fact that they have a hometown girl. You can't help but do that,” said West Virginia assistant coach Semeka Randall, who played on the Vols' 1998 national championship team.

“But we have some really great players that can make some big-time plays and be a hero for West Virginia.”

Randall pins West Virginia's hopes on its seven seniors. The Mountaineers didn't have Meg Bulger a year ago when the Vols beat West Virginia 66-51 en route to their seventh national championship.

Bulger missed all of last season and the final 13 games of the 2005-06 season with a left knee injury. She averaged nearly 20 points in her sophomore and junior seasons and has nearly 16 points and nine rebounds off the bench this season.

Summit is most concerned with center Olayinka Sanni, who leads the Mountaineers with 17 points and nine rebounds per game.

“She is a force to be reckoned with,” Summitt said. “They do a really nice job of ball movement and player movement, but they've got Bulger, and (LaQuita) Owens and (Chakhia) Cole. It is not just the inside attack that concerns me. Cole has a great mid-range game, and Bulger and Owens off the dribble are tough.”

The Mountaineers were ranked in the preseason for the first time and their previous regular-season ranking was in 1992.

Randall talks to Summitt several times each month but doesn't appear overly thrilled about the chance to see her former coach and staff.

“I guess I'm not as excited as people want me to be,” Randall said. “Business is business. I don't play this game just to come in second. I play to be a winner. This is a great time for our kids to be able to play against a very good basketball team and see where they belong.”

West Virginia is 7-31 against ranked opponents under seventh-year coach Mike Carey.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

(1) Tennessee 92, (21) Texas 67

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Top-ranked Tennessee raised a banner celebrating last season's NCAA title over their home court on Sunday then played like national championship contenders in a 92-67 win over No. 21 Texas.

The Lady Vols (3-0) dominated inside, grabbed steals and forced turnovers. They finished with 42 points in the paint, 40 points off turnovers and 18 steals.

"We love to play fast, to make the rebound and control the boards," Tennessee's Alexis Hornbuckle said.

Candace Parker led the team, grabbing six rebounds and scoring 21 points, including Tennessee's first 11. She was one of seven Lady Vols to score in the first half.

Parker said she was excited to see the banner honoring her first national championship.

"Our class came in wanting to win a national championship, and to see the banner raised was an amazing feeling," she said.

The Lady Vols went on an 11-2 run that ended when Sidney Smallbone drove down the court to shoot a quick layup that spun on the rim before going in.

The basket put Tennessee up 41-18 for its largest first-half lead with 5:02 to go, and the Lady Vols entered halftime with a 51-31 lead.

The Longhorns (2-1) got within 15 points twice before halftime on a free throw by Kathleen Nash and again on a basket by Brittainey Raven with about 2 minutes to play, but it was as close as they would get.

Texas never led and committed 30 turnovers.

"They shared the ball really well and obviously caused many, many problems for us with their defense," said first-year Texas coach Gail Goestenkors, who as Duke coach was 5-4 against Tennessee.

Raven finished with 18 points, Nash had 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Carla Cortijo added 12 points.

"We just need to slow down," Raven said. "Coach always says, "Poise under pressure."'

The Lady Vols gradually built their lead after the half to 31 points on a Smallbone 3-pointer and again when Hornbuckle drove the court and made an underhanded shot beneath the basket.

Hornbuckle ended with 13 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Alex Fuller had one of her strongest games as a Lady Vol, going 7-for-8 from the floor, 2-for-2 at the line and making both of her 3-point attempts. She finished with 18 points and four rebounds.

Angie Bjorklund scored 16 points before fouling out.

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who earned her 950th win with Sunday's game, said she was glad to see so much balance offensively and felt the Lady Vols played their best defensive ball of the young season.

"Going into this game I was concerned because our transition defense has been soft," she said. "We had tremendous intensity on the defensive end, and we did a better job of controlling the boards."

Summitt counting on signees

Lady Vols’ class has big shoes to fill

Before directing six freshmen next season, Pat Summitt gave herself some guidance.

“I just have to make sure,’’ Tennessee’s women’s basketball coach said, “I’m working on my patience.”

That’s good advice for her. It’s not intended, however, for a Lady Vols signing class that’s talented, athletic and versatile. Summitt hopes those traits add up to the group being precocious, too.

“They know what we lose,’’ Summitt said. “They know that we need them to come in and help us right away.”

Tennessee will lose at least four players next season (seniors Nicky Anosike, Alexis Hornbuckle, Shannon Bobbitt and Alberta Auguste). Summitt is anticipating red-shirt junior Candace Parker also leaving. These departures will impact not only UT’s roster size but also virtually every position.

These personnel matters help explain why Summitt differentiates this six-player class from the celebrated six-pack of four years ago. There will be more roles to fill next year.

The absence of lingering knee issues, which cast a shadow over the previous six-pack’s arrival, is another difference.

“They’re coming in healthy, knock on wood,’’ Summitt said.

Summitt also likes the collective personality of this year’s signees and their devotion to basketball.

“They love basketball,’’ Summitt said. “I’m not convinced that everyone who comes here loves it. They love the idea of playing at Tennessee. But with this group, they love the game. This group, they’re in the gym.”

The smallest signee — 5-foot-3 point guard Briana Bass — might have the biggest responsibility because of anticipated uncertainty at her position. Starter Bobbitt and point-guard sidekick Hornbuckle are leaving. Sophomore Cait McMahan is recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Bass officially completed the class by signing Saturday and faxing her paperwork to UT.

When Summitt began recruiting Bass, she thought of former LSU mighty mite Temeka Johnson. That was before Bobbitt came along.

“She reminds me an awful lot of Shannon Bobbitt, not only in size but in style of play,’’ Summitt said. “They’re so much alike, it’s really amazing.’’

While Bass is locked into one position, Summitt sees all sorts of possibilities for the rest of the class.

For example, Summitt describes 6-foot-2 Shekinna Stricklen as “a big-time guard” who could play either backcourt position, along with small forward.

“She’s got deep three-point range,’’ Summitt said. “… She’s got size; she can shoot over people. We can post her up at the guard spot. She has the potential to be a great guard for us.’’

Glory Johnson, the 6-3 Webb School star, is the first Knoxville player to sign with UT since former Central star Tanika Smith in 1992. Johnson’s greatest variety show might play out on defense.

“With her quickness, her size and her range with her arms, I see her as having the potential to guard all five spots,’’ Summitt said. “She’s got a little toughness and edge there that I like.”

Summitt said 6-1 Amber Gray could play either forward position but is better suited for power forward because she likes playing physical.

“She doesn’t mind using her body,’’ Summitt said.

Alyssia Brewer, a 6-3 left-hander, is capable of playing any position along the front line, Summitt said.

“I think she does a great job off the dribble for someone her size,’’ Summitt said.

When Summitt first saw 6-1 Alicia Manning play AAU basketball, the coach liked her at power forward. Summitt’s updated projection includes small forward and off guard for a player she describes as hard-nosed and competitive.

“I see her as someone who can play off the dribble,’’ Summitt said. “She has a good pull-up shot.”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

One banner for all the memories

After tribute, Lady Vols have business vs. Texas

An unforgettable journey will be remembered today with an official trip down memory lane.

The Tennessee Lady Vols will make the visit before the 3 o'clock women's basketball tipoff against Texas at Thompson-Boling Arena (ESPN2), raising the banner to commemorate last season's national championship, the seventh in team history.

"I'm so proud of the student-athletes that represented us,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "It was a great journey."

The return trip will include departed seniors Sidney Spencer and Dominique Redding. A video tribute featuring highlights from last season will be played on the new arena scoreboard. And there will be a pause as the banner is raised to allow for photos.

As well as sweet, the visit will be short. The ceremony is expected to last about five minutes. That's also fitting. It's a new season and there's pressing business that demands attention.

"We can't be in the past once the ball goes up,'' Summitt said.

The top-ranked Lady Vols (2-0) need to look no farther than the opposing bench today for a startling reminder of how much difference a season makes.

After 15 seasons as Duke's head coach, Gail Goestenkors exchanged her Duke blue for Texas burnt orange, replacing retired coaching legend Jody Conradt as the Longhorns' new coach. She has her new team off to a 2-0 start and ranked No. 21.

One of Goestenkors' assistant coaches is former Lady Vols assistant Mickie DeMoss. She was here nine months ago as Kentucky's head coach, when UT celebrated the 20-year anniversary of its first championship team. And now comes this pregame party.

"They certainly haven't missed me, winning another championship,'' DeMoss said. "Maybe that's what they're trying to say."

Another unusual reminder of the new season is the box score from last Thursday's 70-67 victory over No. 9 Oklahoma at the ESPNU Classic in Tampa. Fla.

Although nothing tops winning a national championship in terms of degree of difficulty, beating a top-10 team with essentially two scorers is somewhere high on the list.

After Candace Parker (28 points) and Shannon Bobbitt (career-high 27 points), six other Lady Vols combined for 15 points and 5-for-23 field-goal shooting (21.7 percent).

"We need more balance,'' Summitt said. "From an offensive perspective, we need more balance."

Thursday's game was an extreme example of an early season scoring trend for Tennessee. Including the two exhibitions, the Lady Vols have had just two double-figure scorers in three of their four games. In the two regular-season games, Parker's 25.5 points-per-game scoring average accounts for more than a third of UT's 73-point scoring average.

Tennessee needs more from such veterans as Alexis Hornbuckle and Nicky Anosike, who shot a combined 2-for-12 against Oklahoma. Summitt rebuked Hornbuckle for picking up two fouls inside the first two minutes and missing 11 minutes in the first half.

"Lex is a senior, you don't do that,'' Summitt said. "She has to have more discipline."

Tennessee's freshmen, who combined for two baskets, received more hands-on attention, meeting with the coaching staff on Friday.

"We just talked about what we expected and then asked them how they felt,'' Summitt said. "They all want to contribute."

Along with her points, Parker's 15 rebounds Thursday reflected another glaring imbalance. She gathered nearly half of Tennessee's 33 rebounds.

Oklahoma's 44-33 rebounding advantage did look like last season. But that's a reminder Tennessee could do without against an athletic, fast-paced Texas team that's averaging 46 rebounds per game.

"I've been talking about boards now for ... well obviously last year, not a good rebounding team,'' Summitt said. "This year is not a great rebounding team. And if they don't become one it could be costly for us."

Notebook: The gates will open at 1:30 today. ... Freshman center Kelley Cain (knee) will miss her third consecutive game.

Lady Vols offer free tuition to help fill stands

Knoxville — Even Tennessee, the NCAA's top draw in women's basketball, knows it takes more than seven national titles to put fans in the stands, especially students.

"One of the things we have always heard from students is that they have so much going on. So I said, 'What can we do to entice you?'" said Jimmy Delaney, the Lady Vols marketing director.

The promotion Delaney and coach Pat Summitt came up with? Free tuition.

Delaney said he is unaware of anyone else offering something comparable. "In the realm of women's basketball, we are always trying to be the leader," he said.

The Lady Vols will give away a year's instate tuition (for 2008-2009) to a student who attends at least 10 of 14 home games. The winner will be picked randomly from those eligible, tallied electronically when they swipe their student cards at the gate.

It's a $6,000 value.

"This is a win-win situation!" said Anna York, student body vice president and a student member of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees. "The students can enjoy our amazing Lady Vols while also having the chance to win free tuition and other prizes."

The other prizes include two tickets and hotel accommodations to the Women's Final Four in Tampa, Fla., assuming the Lady Vols are in it. The winners will fly down with the players.

"Some people are more stoked about traveling with the team than getting free tuition," Delaney said.

Tennessee has ranked No. 1 in home attendance in nine of the past 10 years, according to the NCAA. The Lady Vols averaged 14,678 fans a game during their 2007 championship season. No. 2 Connecticut averaged 10,802.

But filling a 444-seat student section with screaming, cheering, waving Lady Vol faithful, game in and game out, remains the goal in newly remodeled 21,678-seat Thompson-Boling Arena.

"The enthusiasm of our fans, especially the students, brings such an electrifying atmosphere to our games. We hope they fill the seats at every game," Summitt said.

The Lady Vols drew over 2,000 students last season to their game against Duke, but they have a ways to go to reach the intimidating consistency of the Blue Devils' "Cameron Crazies" home crowd.

But so far so good. The Lady Vols' exhibition game against the USA National Team on Nov. 4 drew nearly 500 students and an exhibition against Carson-Newman the following Tuesday — the fifth sporting event on campus in five days — attracted about 200 students.

"We want the base to be 500 kids," Delaney said. "But obviously our goal is 1,000, 2,000, whatever. We want to get as many students in there as we can."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Candace Parker and Shannon Bobbitt lead No. 1 Tennessee past No. 8 Oklahoma 70-67

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt turned to her experienced players and it paid off.

Candace Parker had 28 points, Shannon Bobbitt scored 22 of her career-high 27 points in the second half and No. 1 Tennessee beat No. 9 Oklahoma 70-67 on Thursday night.

Bobbitt secured the win with two free throws to put Tennessee up 70-67 with 1 second to play, after the Lady Vols forced a jump ball on Oklahoma's previous possession.

"We had to go with our veterans," Summitt said. "Our freshmen played like freshmen, but that's OK. They're going to get better. With the schedule we have, they don't have any choice."

After Oklahoma went ahead 67-66 on Courtney Paris' basket with a half-minute left, Tennessee (2-0) took the lead for good on two free throws by Alexis Hornbuckle with 26.7 seconds to go.

Paris had 19 points and Danielle Robinson added 14 for Oklahoma (0-2), which was coming off a season-opening 76-66 loss to then fourth-ranked Maryland on Sunday.

"I thought our young guys handled the grand stage and the pressure and everything that goes with it beautifully," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "I'm really, really thankful that we had this opportunity to face this team here in November."

Tennessee outscored Oklahoma 8-3 to take a 63-55 advantage with five minutes remaining. Bobbitt completed the stretch with a 3-pointer.

"I just took what the defense gave me," Bobbitt said. "They definitely crowded Candace, and Candace did a great job of finding me. My teammates did a great job and I just had to knock down the shots."

Bobbitt hit 9-of-15 shots, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range.

"We knew that it was going to be a battle of the front-line tonight," Parker said. "Obviously, with both Paris twins, they're a very established front line, so we just had to battle."

Paris scored four points during a late Oklahoma charge to cut the deficit to 65-63 with two minutes left. Amanda Thompson then tied it at 65 on two free throws less than a minute later.

Robinson keyed a 5-0 run that pulled Oklahoma to 55-54 at the 8-minute mark.

"I'm actually nervous before every game, but it's just another basketball game and I've been playing basketball pretty much my whole life," said Robinson, a freshman.

Thompson had a 3-point play during a 13-8 stretch, helping Oklahoma overcome a three-point halftime deficit and take a 42-40 lead with 16 minutes left.

Tennessee trailed 15-8 midway through the first half, but put together a 16-7 run to go up 24-22 with four minutes left in the half. Parker tied it at 22-all with an in-close basket before Alex Fuller hit two free throws to give the Lady Vols a two-point cushion.

Tennessee scored five of the last seven points in the first half to take a 32-29 lead at halftime. Bobbitt hit a 3 and Parker, who was fouled with 1 second remaining, made two of three free throws.

Parker finished the first half with 18 points. She hit 7-of-10 shots.

Now it's serious for 'normal kids' Parker, Paris

Marquee matchup in Tampa for Lady Vols, Oklahoma

TAMPA, Fla. - To women's basketball, they are two of the nation's most celebrated players and a marquee matchup for the ESPNU Invitational.

To each other, Tennessee's Candace Parker and Oklahoma's Courtney Paris are pretty much just Candace and Courtney.

"She's really down to earth and humble," Paris said of Parker. "It's just cool to be around people like that."

Parker gets a kick out of Paris' sense of humor.

"She's constantly full of smart remarks,'' Parker said. "She's hilarious, a jokester."

These players, who will face each other when the top-ranked Lady Vols (1-0) and the No. 9 Sooners (0-1) square off at 9:30 tonight (TV: ESPNU) at the St. Pete Times Forum, were USA Basketball teammates and roommates. Parker indicated that they aren't inclined to compare resumes.

"We don't talk about anything serious,'' she said. "Our conversations are always funny."

Paris has her former roomie's back on that thought.

"It's not about oh Courtney Paris and Candace Parker,'' Paris said. "We're just normal kids like we were before all this happened."

What has happened on the court makes them anything but normal. Parker, a 6-foot-5 redshirt junior forward, won the Wade Trophy and the Women's Wooden Award last season and helped lead the Lady Vols to a national championship, averaging 19.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per game.

She completed her third extended stay with the U.S. national team this fall, helping the team clinch a berth for next year's Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

Paris, a 6-4 junior center, was the Associated Press player of the year last season, averaging a stunning 23.5 points and 15.9 rebounds per game. She owns 10 NCAA records and is the only player in NCAA history to record 700 points, 500 rebounds and 100 blocks in a season. And she's accomplished that three-feat twice.

Paris played a reserve role for the U.S. team that clinched the Olympic berth at the FIBA Americas tournament in Valdivia, Chile, in late September.

In a Tuesday press conference, Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said Paris and Parker are destined to be "icons." She mentioned tonight's game, which follows Duke versus South Florida at the site of this season's Women's Final Four, in the same context as Magic Johnson meeting Larry Bird in the 1979 NCAA men's championship game.

The connection between Parker and Paris extends as far as their "CP" initials and the No. 3 jersey they both wear.

"I think everyone has been waiting for this match-up for a long time,'' UT coach Pat Summitt said. "I am glad that all of the women's basketball fans who have an interest in the match-up will be able to see it."

For all of their accomplishments, these legends-in-waiting aren't above grappling with obligations to which any Courtney or Candace could aspire.

Paris is trying to be a better practice player this season for a team that lost six seniors, who played a part in three Big 12 championships.

"When the lights are on, I'm all about it,'' she said. "In practice, that's where my mentality has really changed. Coach is always saying your best player has to be your hardest worker. Last year I would think , 'Oh, whatever.' Now I really understand because I've seen (U.S. national player) Diana Taurasi every day in practice going hard, slapping our hands hard.

"Off the court she's smiling and she's funny. On the court, it's all business and that's how I want to carry myself."

Summitt is looking for more defensive intensity from Parker, who matched her career high with five steals last Sunday against Chattanooga despite struggling with her shooting throughout the first half.

"She understands that it could be something that would inspire our team and also allow us to bring more size on the perimeter,'' Summitt said. "It is just a matter of time before we are able to play a big lineup and have Candace or Nicky (Anosike) on the perimeter and have Vicki Baugh or Kelley Cain in the paint."

Lady Vols assistant coach Dean Lockwood is more descriptive, not to mention ambitious, with his defensive hopes.

"I call it the Michael Jordan syndrome," Lockwood said. "Where it's like I don't care who I'm playing against, I want to cut you open and leave you for the buzzards."

He has a specific Candace in mind for that undertaking, not just any down-to-earth, normal kid.

Manning signs with Lady Vols

Tennessee has received the signing papers from Alicia Manning, a 6-foot-1 forward from Woodstock, Ga.

The lone remaining Lady Vols recruit yet to sign is point guard Briana Bass from Indianapolis, who will sign either this weekend or on Monday.

Lady Vols to commemorate 2007 National Championship on Sunday

The University of Tennessee women’s basketball program will officially raise the 2007 National Championship banner prior to their match-up against the University of Texas on Sunday, Nov. 18.

“We’re so excited about raising our seventh national championship banner,” said Pat Summitt, women’s head basketball coach. “We hope all Lady Vol fans will be there to help us celebrate this special occasion.”

“It’s always a great game when Texas comes to town,” Summitt continued. “Our fans provide such great support – I can’t wait to see all the Tennessee orange in the stands this weekend.”

The first 500 fans in attendance will receive a commemorative national championship Coca-Cola bottle.

Tickets are still available, to purchase call (800) 332-VOLS or visit, or the Thompson-Boling Arena Ticket Office.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lady Vols claim No. 1 2008 class

No need to rub your eyes or worry about flashbacks. Those "Lady Vols Sign Super Six" headlines don't mean you've teleported back to 2003.

Though it is, in a way, back to the future.

Just as she did four years ago, coach Pat Summitt has coaxed a talented half-dozen to Tennessee. For the second year in a row, the Lady Vols will have the No. 1 signing class in America, according to

Anyone still worried about life after Candace Parker?

Though declaring Tennessee the mythical national recruiting champion for the 2008 class, will not release class rankings until after the early signing period, as several key players traditionally commit later. Foremost among them this year is the No. 6 prospect, Nneka Ogwumike of Cy-Fair, Texas. She'll likely choose between Baylor and Stanford, though Duke and Notre Dame each have an outside shot.

High-school seniors can begin signing National Letters of Intent today through Nov. 21.

Though it may not match the panache of the 2004 class that Blue Star director Mike Flynn called "the greatest in modern history," Tennessee's class is impressive. During the four years since the Lady Vols' original Super Six, women's basketball has grown considerably. There is a lot more parity on the court and recruiting is far more competitive.

So landing five prospects ranked in the top 20, as Summitt did in the 2008 class, could be considered nearly as mind-blowing as her 2004 feat. It remains to be seen whether No. 3 Glory Johnson, the homegrown talent out of Knoxville, Tenn.; No. 4 Amber Gray of Cincinnati, Ohio; No. 8 Shekinna Stricklen of Morrilton, Ark.; No. 15 Alicia Manning of Woodstock, Ga., and No. 20 Alyssia Brewer of Sapulpa, Okla., can manage to stay together in a way that 2004 class could not.

Of course, this class doesn't include Candace Parker. It doesn't even include the best prospect in the class, Elena Delle Donne. That distinction belongs to Connecticut, which recruited the No. 1 prospect in the HoopGurlz Hundred for the third straight year, Tina Charles and Maya Moore being the first two. The Huskies added Caroline Doty of Doylestown, Pa., and Tiffany Hayes of Winter Haven, Fla., both of whom HoopGurlz considered interchangeable at Nos. 10 and 11. Coach Geno Auriemma's haul also included Heather Buck, a mobile post ranked 31st overall.

The story of the 2008 recruiting class really isn't the way the two traditional superpowers, Tennessee and Connecticut, dominated recruiting, it is the way the top four programs monopolized the elite prospects. The Lady Vols, Huskies, Rutgers and LSU are expected to sign, between Nov. 14 and 21, an eye-popping 13 members of's national top 20. And the four will end up signing 20 of the top 69 recruits overall.

There are three "franchise" type players in the class, according to, and Rutgers was the third program to snare one. In No. 2 April Sykes of Crawford, Miss., C. Vivian Stringer has recruited the most imposing offensive weapon in high-school basketball. No. 9 Brooklyn Pope of Dallas is not far behind, either. SoCal stars Jasmine Dixon and Nikki Speed, Nos. 26 and 27 are burners, and No. 35 Chelsea Lee of Miami, Fla., brings an inside presence at both ends of the floor.

Speaking of back to the future, Van Chancellor collected three WNBA championships and Hall of Fame credentials between stints at Mississippi and now LSU, for whom he's recruited the most top 100 prospects -- six -- in his first class. He's covered three key positions - forward (No. 12 LaSondra Barrett of Jackson, Miss.), center (No. 14. Ayana Dunning of Columbus, Ohio) and point guard (No. 17 Destini Hughes) with top-20 prospects. No. 55 Taylor Turnbow of Clarkston, Ga., and No. 69 Courtney Jones of Midfield, Ala., add even more size to the LSU front line, and No. 59 Crystal Riley of Memphis, Tenn., adds speed and ballhandling.

This year's Tennessee class does not match the balance of Summitt's 2004 class, which included two forwards (Parker and Nkolika Anosike of Staten Island, N.Y.), two guards (Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood of Lawndale, Calif., and Alexis Hornbuckle of Charleston, W.Va.) and two posts (Sybil Dosty of Tucson, Ariz., Alex Fuller of Shelbyville, Tenn.). Fuller and Parker sat out their freshman year with knee injuries and Dosty transferred to Arizona State, while Wiley-Gatewood transferred to Maryland.

So nothing, of course, is guaranteed. Four years ago, All-Star Girls Report ranked Parker No. 5 in her class. Jerry Gatewood ranked his stepdaughter, Wiley-Gatewood, No. 1 for All-Game Sports.

Parker today is considered one of the best women's basketball players in the world. Wiley-Gatewood is a senior who has averaged 6.0 points in 44 career games.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lady Vols Head Coach Pat Summitt, Talks About The Team's Upcoming Games

On the season-opener against Chattanooga:

“We had good intensity on the defensive end from the beginning. We struggled offensively, we just didn’t shoot the ball well. It is hard to look good when you don’t shoot the ball well. We kept our defensive intensity and maintained our commitment on that end of the floor. We have to get better on the offensive and defensive boards in terms of consistency. Overall, I was pleased with what we got in the second half of play, particularly from our inside game. That is when Candace really stepped up and did a good job for us. I thought Nicky Anosike was solid and Alex Fuller came off the bench and gave us a good spark, as did Vicki Baugh. We struggled to shoot the ball well from the perimeter, but I am still encouraged that we stayed with our defensive game plan.”

On Oklahoma:

“Oklahoma presents a challenge for our post game with its size. I am impressed with how they work the high-low game. It will be a good test for our inside game as well. We are anxious to see how we will match up and how our post people will be able to defend and also to score against the size that Oklahoma brings and presents against our offensive attack in the paint.”

On the hanging of the 2007 NCAA Championship banner on Nov. 18:

“A lot of our fans are really excited about it, and I know our team will be when it occurs. The team has really had a single focus on one game at a time. I’ve been pleased with how they’ve been able to maintain that. Right now all eyes are on Oklahoma, but there is no question that it will be a special day. What we’ve done with (the renovations) to Thompson-Boling Arena and (the building of) the Pratt Pavilion and to add to that the excitement of being able to put another banner up in Thompson-Boling and for this to belong to this team, with only a couple of players missing. It will be special for all of us.”

On the match-up of Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris vs. Tennessee’s Candace Parker:

“First of all, I think everyone has been waiting for this match-up for a long time. I am glad that all of the women’s basketball fans who have an interest in the match-up will be able to see it. Courtney has size, great shooting touch and does a great job posting for position to receive the ball. She is a proven scorer in the paint. I think that will be a challenge for us. They do a great job in their high-low actions and getting the ball from the wing to the inside. Courtney is a go-to for them. We will be challenged and may have to change up our defensive schemes as the game plays out. That has to be a priority for us going against this Oklahoma team: how we defend in the paint, both in the low block and the high-low action.”

On Oklahoma’s Ashley Paris:

“There is a great one-two punch there. I thought Ashley did a great job of taking some pressure off of her team by being aggressive and taking and making shots. That is how they do an effective job of spacing and being able to execute the high-low action.”

On where Candace can improve her game:

“The real challenge for Candace and a part of what I think could be a great addition and upside to her game is her intensity on the defensive end. Her ability not only to defend on the block but out on the court. She has size and a great presence. I think she has demonstrated a different commitment on the defensive end. She understands that it could be something that would inspire our team and also allow us to bring more size on the perimeter. It is just a matter of time before we are able to play big line up and have Candace or Nicky on the perimeter and have Vicki Baugh or Kelley Cain in the paint. The length and the size of that type of match-up is a possibility as we get better and challenge people to defend in that fashion.”

On your being honored by U.S. News & World Report and Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership as one of America’s Best Leaders last night:

“It was great. It was a different format and a good opportunity to be there and to be among a lot of great leaders. (Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University) David Gergen was pretty much in charge and he did a great job. We had a Q&A which was neat, to talk about different leadership styles. There was a variety, from the standpoint of who was present, and what type of background with which they are involved. We are all involved in some type of leadership, so it was neat.”

On there being a player who is the face of women’s basketball in your opinion:

“When people think of women’s basketball, I think there are some programs that have established themselves as some of the best in the country. Tennessee and Connecticut have been in the spotlight in that role and you look at what has happened in the ACC with Maryland, North Carolina and Duke and with Maryland winning a championship. Competition is much greater than ever before. In terms of players, Candace Parker and Courtney Paris have been two players that have brought a lot of attention to the game. The fact that we have that match-up coming in Tampa later this week, there are a lot of people that are really looking forward to watching that particular match-up. I think Candace has had a strong influence on women’s basketball with her style of play, her ability to play above the rim and the play we saw from her last year in our NCAA title run.”

On there being a more regional recognition of women’s players throughout the country than men’s players:

“Regionally, the recognition is more prevalent now than ever before in my 30-plus years at Tennessee. It is great to have players that have the name recognition and reputation of being talented players and All-American types. I think it is good for the game.”

On Doris Burke’s definition of Candace Parker’s legacy being defined by winning another NCAA Title – comparing her to Cheryl Miller:

“The game is quite different now than it was in the 1980s. I say different in terms of the parity in the game. Certainly I hope Candace can help us win another NCAA title, but if we don’t, I don’t think that it will take away from how people view Candace Parker, her impact on the game and her place in the game. I think realistically we have to recognize the growth of women’s basketball. Maybe in the 1980s you had three or four teams that you thought could win an NCAA championship. Now I think there are six or seven teams who could possibly cut down the nets.”

On games against Texas head coach Gail Goestenkors in the past:

“We’ve competed against Duke and Gail and haven’t enjoyed a lot of success of late. With her style of coaching and play, I think she’ll be a great fit for Texas. They are a baseline-to-baseline type of team. I know with Duke, up-tempo was what they favored, particularly in the offensive end. I would not be surprised to see Texas pressing more than perhaps Duke extended its defense. While the Duke team could extend pressure, I think with the makeup of the Texas team, Gail will take advantage of the speed and quickness and their overall athleticism and ability to play baseline-to-baseline. I think Gail is a great coach, and she does a great job of taking the personnel and making it a good fit – putting people in the right place. In the Big 12, with that style of play in the conference, she’ll be well prepared and have her teams well prepared.”

On relationship with former Texas coach Jody Conradt:

“Jody is a friend of mine and yes, we do speak. She has been a tremendous ambassador and role model and one of the most successful coaches in the history of women’s basketball. When you think of the great coaches and people of influence, Jody is on a very short list. She has received a lot of recognition already, but I think that her legacy is such that when you think of women’s basketball, Jody is at the forefront. I am excited that I had a chance to work with her through USA Basketball and to be able to compete head-to-head with Jody and to still remain friends. The main thing is that I am going to miss her. It will be different playing Texas with Jody not being on the sideline.”

On the perception of Texas women’s basketball nationally:

“I see a Texas team that has a tremendous upside. The teams that play hard invariably are some of the most competitive ones that we face. The one thing that always stands out is the tempo and pace at which they play. They have great fans. I know they’ve had some challenging seasons, but they’ve also had an injury or two that has probably hurt them in a significant way. When I think of Texas, I think of a program that has been in the spotlight of women’s basketball for many, many years. I expect them to be back and to be very competitive in the Big 12.”

On your passion for women’s basketball being as strong today as it was 34 years ago:

“I do have the same passion. It is in my blood. I love it. The day I don’t have it, is the day that I no longer want to coach. It would not be fair to the student-athletes that choose to come to Tennessee and play for Coach Summitt. I feel a great deal of responsibility when they make that decision to be here. I told our team last year. It isn’t about me winning more games, it is about trying to help them achieve their goals. I know that they come to Tennessee to win a championship. I have so much respect for their decision to do that, and I just wanted to help them. I will coach as long as I have the fire, desire and energy. When I don’t have it…and I hope that I will know when I don’t have the fire and passion anymore. My assistants say they will be rolling me out in a wheelchair. They are convinced that I will do this forever. I do hope I’ll know, because I never want to cheat the young women who choose to wear the orange.”

Lady Vols' signing class has talent, bit of a mean streak

Amber Gray and Glory Johnson set aside their friendship much like they would a women's basketball warm-up suit when they take the court.

"Once we step on that floor," said Gray, who will sign a national letter of intent with Tennessee today. "We have the mindset that we have no friends."

Gray and Johnson, the Webb School star who also will sign with UT, often end up on the floor as a result. Gray remembers knocking down Johnson during an AAU tournament in Nashville two summers ago. Last year in North Carolina they both hit the deck after colliding while chasing a loose ball.

"It's the type of thing where we don't help each other up," said Gray, who plays for Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio.

And these two are going to be Lady Vol teammates. Imagine how that's going to work out?

Gray thinks it'll be great. Along with Johnson, she is well acquainted with signee Alicia Manning. Gray also has made an effort to familiarize herself with the three other members of Tennessee's signing class: Shekinna Stricklen, Alyssia Brewer and Briana Bass.

Collectively, these players have strong recruiting ratings. Johnson (3), Gray (4), Stricklen (8), Manning (15) and Brewer (20) are ranked among the top 20 national prospects by has everyone but Bass rated among its top 18 prospects.

Gray thinks that they all have the right attitude as well.

"We all want to win; I've seen everyone play," Gray said. "We're willing to do whatever it takes to win, whether its beating each other up in practice or being cheerleaders on the bench."

Johnson has a similar take on her future teammates, who made their official recruiting visits the same weekend in early October.

"We all want to play the same way," Johnson said.

The first order of business will be building relationships, both competitive and otherwise.

Tennessee's recent recruiting history offers a mixed review of a six-player signing class. The celebrated six-pack of four Novembers ago was impeded by knee surgeries on the front end and then broken apart by the transfers of Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood and Sybil Dosty during their sophomore years.

It took three seasons for Candace Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle and Nicky Anosike to forge a power trio from the class. They spearheaded Tennessee's drive to a national championship last season.

Gray is well aware of the history but noted, "everyone's story is different. Who ever really knows what the situation is going to be? It's kind of hard to say how it's going to turn out."

At this point, the signing class isn't lugging the same amount of orthopedic baggage as their predecessors. Bass suffered a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament last season but has recovered. The 5-foot-3 point guard for North Central High in Indianapolis, who is flying low on the ratings radar, scored 26 points and scored the game-tying basket with five seconds left in regulation of a 65-61 victory over Mooresville last Friday.

With Tennessee losing at least four players and possibly as many as six after this season, there will be more openings and less hierarchy on the roster.

Bass could figure prominently in Tennessee's point-guard plans next season. The Lady Vols are losing starter Shannon Bobbitt and heir apparent Cait McMahan is recovering from offseason knee surgery.

Likewise, Stricklen, who already has been ringing up 30-point performances this season for Morrilton (Ark.) High along with her share of rebounds, assists and steals, might inherit a key role on UT's perimeter with Alexis Hornbuckle leaving.

The crowd will be gathering at forward, where Gray, Johnson Brewer and Manning will be deployed.

"It's going to be a dogfight for playing time,'' Gray said.

By her thinking, a good scrap probably is a good thing. Apparently, it hasn't hurt her and Johnson.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Summitt calls leadership award one of a kind

Lady Vols' Hornbuckle, Cain remain sidelined

Pat Summitt was mingling with select company Monday night.

The Tennessee women's basketball coach traveled to New York to be honored after being named by U.S. News & World Report magazine in its weekly issue as one of America's best leaders.

"I think obviously because its really a leadership award and not a coaching award, it's unique to any award I can remember receiving," said Summitt before departing team practice Monday afternoon.

Summitt is among 18 individuals featured in the magazine. Other include James Baker and Lee Hamilton, co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, actor Michael J. Fox, founder of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's research, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I'll be in awe of a lot of these people,'' said Summitt, who is the lone honoree connected with sports.

The magazine issue explores elements of leadership in society today. It also features a national poll in which 77 percent of those surveyed believe there is a leadership crisis in the country.

"Americans may have lost confidence in the current crop of leaders, but they haven't lost hope,'' said U.S. News & World Report editor Brian Kelly in a press release.

Regarding the honorees, Kelly said: "This group's conviction to lead in authentic and effective ways is truly remarkable."

Down on Depth: The Lady Vols were down to eight players for Monday's workout. Freshman center Kelley Cain remained sidelined after suffering a knee injury last Wednesday. Senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle, who has dealt with tendinitis throughout her UT career, also sat out.

"If we stay healthy we're a great basketball team,'' UT associate head coach Holly Warlick said. "If our numbers are low, it cuts into what your game plan is."

Hornbuckle indicated she's OK with a game against Oklahoma looming Thursday in Tampa, Fla. Cain was examined Sunday by Dr. Greg Mathien, UT's orthopedic specialist. For now, the prognosis remains uncertain.

"We get her back to practice, then we'll see what happens,'' said Jenny Moshak, the Lady Vols' assistant athletic director for sports medicine.

Notebook: UT remained a unanimous No. 1 in the weekly Associated Press Top 25 poll. Oklahoma dropped three spots to No. 9 after losing to No. 3 Maryland Sunday, 76-66. ... The Lady Vols spent considerable time Monday working on their transition defense. ... Warlick on UT's ability to play through a slow shooting start in Sunday' 76-56 victory over Chattanooga: "We didn't have to coach effort. They didn't let their offense affect their defense."

Summitt among nation's best leaders

U.S. News & World Report magazine names Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt among America's best leaders in its weekly issue, which hits newsstands today.

The issue explores elements of leadership in society today. It also features a national poll in which 77 percent of those surveyed believe their is a leadership crisis in the country.

Summitt is featured with 18 individuals, including James Baker and Lee Hamilton, co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

(1) Tennessee 76, Chattanooga 56

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Candace Parker was discouraged after an uncharacteristic poor-shooting performance in the first half.

With a little encouragement from her coach and teammates she went right back to the basket in the second half and finished with 23 points, leading No. 1 Tennessee to a 76-56 victory over Chattanooga in its season opener Sunday.

"It was tough. Sometimes, you're going to have a lid on the bucket," Parker said of going 1-of-8 from the floor in the first half. "In the first half, there were shots that I'm used to making that were not falling."

Parker hit eight of 10 shots in the second half, and the defending national champions won their season opener for the eighth straight year and improved to 31-3 in openers under coach Pat Summitt.

Freshman Vicki Baugh added 11 points, and freshman Angie Bjorklund became only the 11th Lady Vol to start the first game of her career. She finished with eight points. Nicky Anosike had 10 rebounds and nine points.

Summitt called the game a good reminder of how opponents will be prepared for the defending champions.

"Winning a national championship provides even more motivation for the other team. We face that every game, because we are Tennessee, and because they want the chance to beat the defending national champions. They want to prove their worth," Summitt said.

"It's not going to be easy for us, because we don't schedule easy games. Chattanooga spread us out as much as anyone will this season, except for maybe Stanford," she added.

Tennessee scored the first five points and never trailed. Chattanooga (1-1) didn't score until Laura Hall's 3 with 16:26 to go and trailed 32-28 at halftime.

Chattanooga went to the NCAA tournament last season as the Southern Conference tournament champion. Coach Wes Moore said his goal was to come in, stay close and have a chance at the end.

He thought his Lady Mocs did that with the exception of a few runs by Tennessee, a team he predicted will get better as the season goes on.

"I know this wasn't one of their better days, but you're talking about defending national champions, the consensus No. 1 in the country, they have pretty much everyone else intact and added some talented freshmen," Moore said.

"They still have to do it on the court, but they have an opportunity to repeat and if they do that then they'd have to be considered one of the best teams ever," Moore said.

Chattanooga stayed close by hitting 8-of-22 from 3-point range.

But the Lady Vols forced Chattanooga into 32 turnovers, and Parker hit 8-of-10 in the second half as Tennessee padded the lead.

"With their defense and their press, they get after people," Hall said. "Coach Moore told us a few days ago that's what they do. They get a layup, get in the press, get a steal and get a 3 and that's what happened today."

Hall led Chattanooga with 15 points, and Shanara Hollinquest added 13.

Pat Summitt: The No. 1 Volunteer

Tamika Catchings was in the eighth grade the first time she witnessed "the glare."

As a young basketball player growing up in Duncanville, Texas, Catchings caught her first glimpse of the Tennessee Lady Vols on TV and remembers her first impression of Coach Pat Head Summitt.

"The camera came across her face and that glare," Catchings said. "I noticed that intensity and the way she motivated her players and thought I wouldn't mind playing for her."

Four years later, Summitt was in Catchings' living room on a recruiting visit.

"I was nervous because not everyone gets the opportunity to meet her, let alone play for her," she said. "You know when you're going to Tennessee you're going to be playing with the best players in the country and you're going to be playing for the best coach ever with the best glare ever."

Summitt and her glare come to town this week to help tip off the college basketball season. The defending national champion Lady Vols will take on Oklahoma on Thursday night in the ESPNU Invitational at the St. Pete Times Forum. In the first game of the doubleheader, South Florida plays Duke. The season begins where it will end, in Tampa, the host of the 2008 Women's Final Four.

Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in basketball history - men or women - will be seeking her eighth national championship. But she's about more than victories and titles.

"She is undoubtedly the single most influential person in our game," said Judy Southard, LSU's associate athletics director and chair of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee. "And she uses that influence the right way. She's been enormously successful. She will give anything back to the game to help grow the game."

And she'll do anything for the University of Tennessee.

Vols football coach Phil Fulmer enlists Summitt's help from time to time for recruiting. He recalled a time a top prospect was visiting the campus. As soon as Fulmer discovered how much the player's parents loved Summitt, he knew where the tour would begin.

The group headed to a Tennessee basketball practice, where despite her regimented schedule, Summitt took the time to speak with the player and his parents.

That player committed to Tennessee.

"People are in awe of her when they first meet her, but she relieves that immediately with her demeanor," Fulmer said. "As a sports figure, she is someone you really should be in awe of, but once you get around her, you find out that's she's really just a great person."

"Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts, who developed a friendship with Summitt during her work at ESPN, hears from the coach on a regular basis. With each phone call, Roberts, a standout player at Southeastern Louisiana University in the early 1980s, finds herself spitting out her gum and sitting up a little straighter out of ultimate respect.

"Her contribution goes so far beyond basketball and the University of Tennessee," Roberts said. "It is immeasurable, her impact for women. Not just women athletes, but women period."

Her impact on Catchings remains immeasurable. Without Summitt, Catchings might still be hiding behind the embarrassment of hearing loss and a speech impediment. While at Tennessee, Catchings stopped wearing her hearing aids, even though she was missing some of the things her coach was saying. Summitt called Catchings into her office one day to talk about the problem, but not how it related to becoming a better player.

"She sat me down and talked to me about my future and how I was going to play professional basketball one day and I would have a platform to reach all these people that were hearing impaired or had speech problems," said Catchings, a four-time All-American and member of the WNBA Indiana Fever. "She got me back to wearing my hearing aids. It was just the way she broke it down for me. I knew she really cared about me."

That's what insiders know intimately about Summitt. Go past the 947 victories, the seven national titles, the glare, and there lies the heart of a coach who ultimately wants the best out of her players - on the court and off.

"There's just something about her," Roberts said. "She's such a loving soul. She's such a caring person, but one of those rare individuals that God blessed with that uncanny ability to just make things happen. People would walk through fire for Pat.

"She could coach and do anything."

This summer, Summitt proved that by coaching her son's 16-and-under AAU basketball team. Tyler Summitt's team was overmatched by more physical and experienced teams and finished the national tournament 0-4.

Think Summitt coached the boys any differently than her Tennessee players? Think again. She benched a player during one game when he came off the court complaining about his tough assignment.

"I can't guard that guy," the player told Summitt.

She replied as she would to any of her Lady Vols players.

"I can't relate to 'I can't,' so somebody else get in there and guard that guy," she said.

To learn where Summitt gets her work ethic and her desire for those around her to put forth the same effort, look no farther than Henrietta, Tenn., and the farm she was raised on. The fourth of five children, and the first daughter, Summitt's daily chores ranged from baling hay to chopping tobacco to plowing the field.

At a recent dinner in Tampa for NCAA corporate sponsors, Summitt recalled her days on the farm and how they shaped her.

"Cows never take a day off," she said.

So Summitt doesn't. This is a woman who never missed a day of school from kindergarten through high school. Not one.

"She's really committed to being the best and staying on top," Catchings said. "Everything has to be done to a T."

This is a woman who went into labor during a recruiting visit. In 1990 while recruiting Michelle Marciniak, Summitt's contractions began in Marciniak's Macungie, Pa., living room. But she stayed until the recruiting trip was over, then hopped on a plane and landed in Knoxville just in time to give birth to Tyler.

It's not all intensity with Summitt. She showed off her sense of humor and sense of adventure when she donned a cheerleading uniform, stood atop a human pyramid and sang "Rocky Top" at a Tennessee men's basketball game. It was payback to Coach Bruce Pearl for sporting body paint at a women's game.

"I've never been so nervous in my life, no championship game, no nothing," she said.

And that was after weeks of practice in front of her mother.

Those who know Summitt well notice how she's mellowed over the years and changed her coaching style to relate better to her players. What will never change is the glare, which is just as intense as ever, and her drive to succeed.

"I'm so competitive," Summitt said. "People that don't compete hard, they don't need to come to Tennessee. They know that up front and I tell them that when I make the visit because I won't be happy. And if I ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. It's having the desire to be the best you can be. That's means something to me."

Friday, November 09, 2007

Parker repeats as preseason player of the year

Two seasons was all it took for Candace Parker to lead Tennessee to a national title.

Now, she's back for her junior season and looking to lead the Lady Vols to back-to-back championships for the first time since 1997-98.

Parker already has one double sewn up: her second straight honor as's preseason player of the year.

Parker was the unanimous choice among contributors Mechelle Voepel, Graham Hays, Kara Lawson, Beth Mowins and editor Melanie Jackson.

Two years ago, the Parker punch line was all about her dunking prowess. Last season, we focused on her versatility and the fact she can play all five positions on the court. Now?

"Don't worry about figuring out what position she plays; she's the best at all of them," Hays writes. "The debate is whether she's the best women's player in the world right now."

Yes, at 21 years old (she redshirted her freshman season, 2004-05, as she recovered from a pair of offseason knee surgeries), Parker already has established herself as a key part of USA Basketball's senior national team. By this time next year, she might be able to add "Olympic gold medalist" to her résumé.

In the meantime, how has all her time with Team USA helped Parker's game?

"Her patience as an offensive player is improved from a year ago," writes Lawson, an ESPN analyst and Parker's USA Basketball teammate. "She is more composed handling double teams and the attention that comes with being the nation's premier player. The most notable addition to her offensive repertoire is a more consistent perimeter jump shot."

"Although you would love for Candace to develop and expand her game, against collegiate competition her biggest advantage is her ability to score around the basket," Lawson continues. "A more mature Parker understands that it isn't necessary to showcase all of your abilities offensively if a team has trouble stopping just a few of them. In other words, keep doing the same thing until someone proves they can stop it. "

In 2006-07, Parker averaged 19.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 2.4 assists, 1.8 steals and shot 53 percent from the field. Her skills and natural ability are obviously impressive, but Parker's game has evolved way past raw athleticism.

"Parker understands the game and anticipates things the way the greatest athletes do," notes Voepel.

Parker already has accumulated an impressive list of accolades. Last season, she became the first junior to win the State Farm Wade Trophy and Wooden Player of the Year award. The Kodak All-American also garnered the Honda Award for basketball player of the year, was the Basketball Writers Association national player of the year, voted a first-team Associated Press All-American and was the NCAA Final Four MVP.

The only major honor she hasn't won yet is the Naismith Award (Duke's Lindsey Harding won last season).

But this might be Parker's last chance at a sweep -- she'll be eligible for April's WNBA draft and could be bound for Los Angeles. The Sparks have the No. 1 overall pick.

Parker, of course, could have left after last season. But Parker's decision to possibly leave early is something she and coach Pat Summitt rarely discuss.

"I want Candace to just enjoy the moment," Summitt told Voepel recently. "I think the feeling is that this is her last year -- and if she can arrive at that decision, she's got a lot of things going on. With the WNBA, and with USA Basketball, wanting to make that Olympic team next summer. The main thing I want her to do is what's best for her."

And we're looking forward to enjoying our front-row seat.

"Her defensive impact is always felt clearing the glass or blocking shots," Lawson writes. "Her ability to use her length and athleticism to control the game on that end could tilt the scales in Tennessee's favor for a repeat run."

Lady Vols could be better than last year

KNOXVILLE — With a modest nod of the head, Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt confirmed what women's college basketball teams around the country already might have suspected.

The defending national champion Lady Vols are back for a run at another title and they could be even better than they were last year.

"Are we (better) right now? No," Summitt said. "But I think that we can be."

If so, it will have plenty to do with experience. Four starters, including junior All-American Candace Parker, are back from the team that brought Tennessee its seventh national title, ending a nine-year drought.

And, even with one title already under their belts, they're as hungry as ever.

"I think with winning comes greed," said Parker, who averaged a team-high 19.6 points and 9.8 rebounds as a sophomore. "You just want more and more.

"I think we had the same hunger last year. We wanted to win a national championship because we'd never experienced it. But once you experience it, you realize how great of a feeling it is, so you want to do it again."

Tough to repeat

Regardless of desire, Summitt said, it's easier said than done.

Tennessee's 34th-year coach, who ranks as the NCAA's all-time wins leader, speaks from experience. Her teams failed to repeat after four of UT's six previous national championships and the only two times she succeeded came during the Lady Vols' run of three consecutive titles from 1996-98.

"This is one of the hardest things to do in sports, to repeat the performance of a national championship," Summitt said. "You have a big target on you. We have to not look ahead. It's about daily improvement in practice. …

"Last year, we had great chemistry. What I see right now appears to be something that will be special chemistry. But they are not aware of what it's like to carry the big ol' national championship on your back every possession, every game."

Impact freshmen

The addition of a talented freshman class, combined with the losses of only two players from last year's roster, should help.

Sharp-shooting forward Angie Bjorklund headlines the incoming group of freshmen, which also includes 6-foot-6 center Kelley Cain, 6-4 forward Vicki Baugh and guard Sydney Smallbone.

Bjorklund is expected to make the most immediate impact, taking over the starting spot vacated by Sidney Spencer, the second-leading scorer on last year's team.

"I love the girl's game," senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle said of Bjorklund. "I said that from the get-go. If I have an option, I'm going to Angie. I'm driving and kicking to Angie and (starting point guard) Shannon (Bobbitt). That's my first two 3-point threats."

Cain and Baugh, meanwhile, will give the Lady Vols four players 6-foot-4 or taller, counting Parker and senior center Nicky Anosike.

Junior forward Alex Fuller, a former Shelbyville High standout, and senior guard Alberta Auguste will join Cain, Baugh and Smallbone on a bench as deep as any Tennessee has ever had.

"We don't really drop off too much substituting," Hornbuckle said, "and that's hard to say across the board on any NCAA team."

No. Player Class Pos. Height
00 Shannon Bobbitt SR G 5-2
2 Cait McMahan SO G 5-4
3 Candace Parker JR F 6-4
5 Angie Bjorklund FR G/F 6-0
14 Alexis Hornbuckle SR G 5-11
20 Sydney Smallbone FR G 5-10
21 Vicki Baugh FR F/C 6-4
33 Alberta Auguste SR G/F 5-11
44 Alex Fuller JR F 6-3
52 Kelley Cain FR C 6-6
55 Nicky Anosike SR C 6-4

F Angie Bjorklund
F Candace Parker
C Nicky Anosike
G Alexis Hornbuckle
G Shannon Bobbitt
2006-07 RECORD: 34-3 overall, 14-0 SEC

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pat Summitt Says Lady Vols Need To Be "Very Focused" Against Lady Mocs

UT Coach Pat Summitt, in a teleconference, said the Lady Vols need to be "very focused" in Sunday's game at home versus the UTC Lady Mocs.

On the upcoming game against UTC:

"I haven’t had much time to focus on them at this point. We are trying to get better ourselves. I know they do a great job, and we are familiar with their style of play. Coach Wes Moore does a great job of preparing his teams and having them get up and down the floor, and they really have great spacing offensively and a toughness to them. We are going to need to be very focused and go into that game understanding that we have to defend. We certainly will have to defend the three-ball, the inside game and dribble penetration. That is what we need, and I think that is exactly what we will face”

On the two exhibition games against the USA National Team and Carson-Newman:

“The two exhibition games really served a purpose of what we had in mind. First of all, the USA team really challenged us right out of the gate. Overall, we grew in that game, and because of it we got tougher from the first to second half. We identified some areas where we could get much better, in particular with our defensive transition game. We had to make sure we could get five people on the same page in order for our defense to really be as strong as it needed to be. Overall, with offensive execution I thought we did a good job, but we had too many turnovers and not enough good screening action. That game pointed out a lot of things that we know and knew as a staff going into the game that we would have to get better at. Now we can go back and work on those things. In the game last night vs. Carson-Newman, I thought that was really a great way to get our four freshmen some quality playing time and challenge them to play extended minutes and see how they would fight through a little adversity. Overall, I thought they did a nice job. I wanted them to have to learn to play and play together, to get up and down the court, defend and talk. After watching the tape I was pleased overall with the effort they gave.”

On the loss of three-point shooting in 2007 seniors Sidney Spencer and Dominique Redding:

“I am encouraged by this team. I think going into this year we had potential to really improve our spacing, because I thought we had more players who could stretch the defense, Angie and Sydney in particular. Alex, depending on how much time she spends at the four versus the three, she will stretch you if she is playing the four. Because, at the top of the floor, she has solid consistency and three-point range. From that standpoint, I do feel like we have been able to fill the void, so to speak. It is hard to replace the experience of our two seniors last year, but certainly with the skill coming in, I think we have a chance to be successful and to help our offensive spacing overall.”

How do you handle teams of yours that have had to defend NCAA titles?

“First, we really look at what level of intensity we bring to the court. Because of the way we play, if we’re going to play an up-tempo game, it is difficult to be successful in that if you don’t have five people committed to running the floor and really attacking on the offensive end. Defensively, because we like to pressure, if you have a player or players who are not committed, it is very difficult to run that type of defense. We all have to be on the same page and commit to the system that we put in place. We did not do that in the first half of the game against the USA. In the second half there was a different intensity and a different commitment on both ends of the floor. That gave us a chance to be much more competitive. As a coaching staff, we have to get people to understand and be accountable for their play and the intensity of their play. We have to have consistency at that level of intensity and the commitment to our system.”

On freshman Vicki Baugh

“She reminds me a lot of Carla McGhee. It is like she has no fear. She is going to rebound and just bring the ball up. She’s plays a lot instinctively right now, which is not a bad thing. I like to have a player like a Vicki that has that size, athleticism and skill. She will get so much better and tighten her skills up as she goes along. The energy in her style of play is an aggressive style. You don’t always see that out of an incoming freshman. She has played with no fear.

On Baugh possibly defending away from the basket

“I think she could come away from the rim some. That has not been an area where we have gotten her a lot of reps or made that a priority. First things first with her, we wanted to make sure she understood how we defended the post game, and for that reason she hasn’t really been on the perimeter much, but certainly in the future that will be a priority.”

On starting out with tough opponents in Oklahoma and Texas so early in the season:

“Hopefully this will have a positive impact on this team. This team will go into these games with respect for their opponents. We didn’t play Oklahoma last year in the NCAA Tournament, when we thought we may, and we were looking forward to that. A lot of people wanted to see Courtney Paris and Candace Parker go up against each other. We didn’t have the opportunity to see that head-to-head last year. I think that will be appealing to both teams and spectators of women’s basketball to see how they will match-up and play.”

On Candace Parker’s excitement for playing Oklahoma:

“I think our team is excited about playing Oklahoma. Candace has not indicated that specifically, but as a team they have talked about the fact that they are excited about having the chance to play Oklahoma.”

On three-point defense – limited opponents to six treys in two exhibitions:

“We’ve done a better job of extending on the perimeter. One thing that will allow us to continue to grow in that area is our size in the paint. That gives us a sense of comfort at times to be able to over-extend defensively and also the aggressiveness of our defensive philosophy. Try to deny and limit touches, that has perhaps been a factor, but we’ll see as we progress and take on a very challenging schedule.”

On Shannon Bobbitt defensively during the exhibition games:

“She has probably been the target of a lot of challenges from me. I have stayed on her. I felt like early on there was a lack of intensity and commitment on the defensive end. I know she can push tempo and create shots for others and herself, but where I saw a drop-off from last year to this year in practice was her commitment to getting after people on the ball and in the passing lanes from a defensive standpoint. I really placed a pretty significant daily challenge on Shannon and she has responded very well. I told her last night I was really pleased with what I’d seen and how she’s responded.”

On the importance of defensive intensity as a team:

“Defense is a place in my opinion and philosophy where you can be consistent night-in and night-out. You don’t always know if you’ll be on and make shots so you have to be able to rely on second-chance opportunities and creating easy scoring opportunities. I think we have a very rangy group that can get out into passing lanes. They are tall, have great length and can extend in passing lanes. Understanding the benefits of committing to the defensive system and up-tempo basketball is what we try to emphasize to them and re-emphasize all the time what they have to do.”

On extended minutes by freshmen last night:

“I was very pleased that they were able to play that much. They pushed themselves through it. Kelley Cain was the one who was challenged the most because she hasn’t been on the floor as much or had the up-and-down, as far as overall time and conditioning and reps in scrimmage situations that the rest of her teammates have. I was pleased to see her fight through that.”

On turnovers (13 by freshmen 22 by upperclassmen in two exhibitions):

“We have to do a better job in our decision making. Some of that comes in the full-court but probably more has occurred in the half-court. We need to do a better job of reading our post defense. We have turned the ball over trying to force it, particularly the young players not really opening up and securing the passing lanes to the post. The tempo for them is a little different, we have played pretty fast even for our upperclassmen. With that you will have turnovers, but we do plan to cut those down significantly.”

University of Tennessee’s Lady Volunteers Deemed Women’s College Basketball’s "America's Team" for 2007

Lady Vols Honored for Commitment to Integrity, Sportsmanship and Community Involvement

Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 7, 2007 - Today, the America's Team™ Foundation announced that it has chosen the Lady Vol Basketball Team to receive the 2007 America's Team Award for women’s college basketball. Based on integrity, teamwork, sportsmanship and commitment to the community, the America's Team Award honors American sports teams and their athletes in the achievement of overall excellence.

"The America's Team™ Award celebrates athletic excellence as well as recognizes team dedication to community development. This year we are honored to give the America's Team Award for women’s college ball to the Lady Vols," said Bryan Reichel, America's Team Foundation president. "This team gives of themselves on and off the court – from organizing basketball clinics to hosting kids movie nights. The team's commitment to improving the lives of children and their families in Tennessee is appreciated and admired by many alumni, students and fans."

The award was presented at the Nov. 6th game to the team and coaching staff of the Lady Vols by Bryan Reichel, president of the America's Team organization.

Past America's Team Award trophy recipients include: Minnesota Twins (professional baseball), Pittsburgh Steelers (professional football), and Florida Gators (men's college basketball.)

About Lady Vols
Tennessee compiled a 34-3 overall record during the 2006-07 season and brought home the program's seventh NCAA Championship. Head coach Pat Summitt earned SEC Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year Honors. Candace Parker earned SEC Player of the Year, John R. Wooden Player of the Year, State Farm Wade Trophy Player of the Year, ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America honors and first team All-American by almost every publication in the country. Nicky Anosike and Sidney Spencer garnered Academic All-District recognition, while Alexis Hornbuckle and Spencer picked up All-SEC accolades. The team won two ESPY Awards and placed six of its 10 members on the SEC All-Academic squad.

About America’s Team™
The America’s Team™ Foundation is an organization that celebrates the role of good will in athletics and offers recognition for the honest effort put forth by athletes, both on and off the field. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, America’s Team Properties LLP honors excellence and commitment in American sports through awards, promotions and community giving. Learn more at

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Candace Parker leads All-America squad

Candace Parker helped Tennessee win a national title and the United States qualify for the Olympics. Now there's one more honor to add to this run the last few months: a unanimous choice for the preseason All-America team by The Associated Press.

The Tennessee junior was joined on the squad Tuesday by Oklahoma's Courtney Paris, Stanford's Candice Wiggins, LSU's Sylvia Fowles and Maryland's Crystal Langhorne.

Hall of Fame coach Pat Summitt of Tennessee already knew Parker could score. It's the other aspects of Parker's game that impress her.

"If there is one thing to separate her out, it's her commitment to defending," Summitt said. "Her intensity on the defensive end is so much better. She's also much better attacking the basket."

Parker sparked the Lady Vols to their seventh national title last April and the national team to a spot in the Beijing Games. She was the top scorer on the U.S. team that won the FIBA Americas tournament in September.

Parker was on every ballot of the 50-member national media panel. The only other previous unanimous selections were Chamique Holdsclaw, Diana Taurasi, Alana Beard and Seimone Augustus.

"That's a special group," Parker said. "I wouldn't be who I was without my teammates or coaches support."

Paris came close to a unanimous selection, getting 48 votes. Wiggins drew 43, Fowles 41 and Langhorne 28. Paris and Parker were All-Americans last season. Langhorne, Wiggins and Fowles earned second-team honors.

Summitt saw Parker, Paris, Wiggins and Fowles play with the U.S. national team this fall.

"I thought just watching them play, they are impact players on their respective teams," she said. "They did some amazing things for the U.S. team."

The four have known each other for years, playing on various U.S. teams. Their friendship was evident in a discussion with the AP at the national team training camp.

"We've been friends for a long time," Wiggins said. "I've know Courtney since freshman year in high school and I've know Candace forever and Syl, too."

When they aren't facing each other on the court, the four always check out how the others are doing.

"I'm a fan of our game," Paris said. "It's hard not to follow everyone's career. The media does such a good job. It's easy to pop on the TV, or open up the newspaper and follow them."

The 6-foot-4 Paris was third in the nation in scoring at 23.5 points and second in rebounding with 15.9 last season en route to becoming AP Player of the Year. Oklahoma coach Sheri Coale has seen a change in the junior's ability to move without the ball.

"Her greatest strides have been what she does when she doesn't have the ball in her hands," Coale said. "That's always the last part of a game to develop. She's already thinking. She's wiser and is always looking to expand her game."

Maryland coach Brenda Frese marvels at Langhorne's ability to score.

"She's the best finisher in the game and her explosive quickness makes her very hard to guard. ... There are very few players like Crystal," Frese said.

Langhorne became the third player in NCAA history to lead the nation in field goal percentage two straight seasons — no player has done it three years in a row. She shot .707 last season, the sixth best mark ever.

"With all the great players in the country, I'm honored to have been chosen among such elite players," she said. "I have to credit my teammates and coaches because they've been a big part of my career and my development."

Fowles has carried LSU to three straight Final Four appearances, and with new coach Van Chancellor hopes to get the elusive championship.

"That's always the goal," Fowles said. "Just putting the work in 24-7 definitely plays its part. With coach we have a new system coming on. Whatever he wants to do to change the system will do to win a championship."

Wiggins led Stanford to the another Pac-10 title, then came a second-round loss in the NCAA tournament to Florida State. The 5-11 guard averaged 16.9 points last season. She had a busy summer winning gold medals for the U.S. on the under-21 and Pan American teams.

Paris, Parker, Langhorne and Wiggins were all preseason All-Americans last year.

Said Paris: "That kind of stuff never gets old. ... It's really cool."