Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sister, Sister At Tennessee, Gonzaga

Bjorklunds to go at each other when Lady Vols play Gonzaga

SPOKANE, Wash. - Pat Summitt might have to double up as a family therapist.

The coach of No. 1 Tennessee is worried freshman starter Angie Bjorklund is not in the right frame of mind for Sunday's game. That's because Bjorklund's big sister, Jami, is a starter for Gonzaga.

"Angie is excited to see her sister," Summitt said. "Angie hasn't even thought of what happens if she has to guard her. We have to get her attention on that before the game."

The Bjorklund sisters starred at the same high school in the Spokane area. Jami, recruited by numerous West Coast schools, stayed close to home. The 5-foot-11 junior guard is averaging 8 points and 6 rebounds for Gonzaga (6-3).

Angie, one of the nation's top high school players last season, committed to Tennessee (7-0) as a junior. The 6-0 guard is in the rare spot of starting as a freshman for the national champions and is averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds.

Sunday's game poses a wardrobe problem for parents Jim and Kris Bjorklund, which they solved with some ingenuity.

"They made Tenn-zaga T-shirts," Jami said Wednesday. "They cut two T-shirts down the middle and sewed them together."

The parents were flying to Tennessee on Wednesday and not immediately available to model their shirts.

Jami said this is the first time the sisters have squared off in an official game. Since they play the same position, she expects they will end up guarding each other.

But she's more interested in spending quality time off the court with her sister, whom she hasn't seen since August. Jami figures the best time to visit will be between practices Saturday.

"I'm excited to go down there and see her and see Tennessee and where she lives," Jami said. "We like to eat together."

The sisters spoke Tuesday night, trying to set up the best time for a reunion. There was no smack talk.

"We were really talking about how Angie has played," Jami said.

Angie was taking finals this week and not available to speak with the media, Tennessee officials said.

Summitt said the game was scheduled after Angie committed to the Lady Vols. Tennessee will return the favor by traveling to Gonzaga next season.

"A lot of people are anxious to see the two of them on the court together," Summitt said.

As youngsters, the girls would often have their father drive them to gyms at 5:30 a.m. to practice shooting. Their enthusiasm was not surprising considering the family tree.

Uncle Steve Ranniger played basketball at Oregon; grandfather Duane Ranniger played basketball at Washington State; and grandfather Leon Bjorklund ran track at Washington.

Jami, who turns 21 Thursday, became a starter during her freshman year at Gonzaga. Last season, she averaged 9 points and 3.7 rebounds per game as the Zags went to their first NCAA tournament.

Angie, 18, became Tennessee's first recruit from Washington, saying she had been a Lady Vols fan for years.

The Zags fly to Tennessee on Saturday, making the first use of a charter plane provided to the basketball program by boosters. They leave after Sunday's game.

"We'll only be there 26 hours," Jami said.

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