Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Catchings hopes to play in Olympics

INDIANAPOLIS — Tamika Catchings won’t rush back from a major foot injury for the start of the WNBA season, instead focusing on playing in the Olympics in Beijing.

The Indiana Fever forward missed the final 13 regular-season games last season after injuring her left foot. She returned for the playoffs, then tore her right Achilles’ tendon in the Eastern Conference finals and spent the entire offseason rehabilitating.

She doesn’t expect to play when the Fever open the regular season at home against Washington on May 17, but the U.S. national team member plans to be ready for the Olympics in August. She’ll have to prove she’s healthy to make the final roster.

“It’s definitely something I feel like I can be ready for,” Catchings said. “That is why, on the front end, we’re kind of taking our time. I want to get back and get back to the team and get back into playing shape and hope to be playing 100 percent by the Olympics. Hopefully, before that.”

Catchings is a five-time WNBA All-Star and was defensive player of the year in 2005 and 2006. She averaged 16.6 points and a career-high nine rebounds last season.

She said she’s at best 80 percent right now.

“We have time,” she said. “That’s what everybody keeps saying. I’m just trying to use it wisely.”

After the Olympics, Catchings expects to help the Fever during the stretch run as they fight for their first WNBA title. She doesn’t have to hurry back at the beginning of the season because the Fever traded for Katie Douglas in the offseason.

Douglas, who can play both shooting guard and small forward, is a former two-time WNBA All-Star and a three-time member of the all-defensive team. She averaged 17 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists for the Connecticut Sun last season.

The Fever gave up former All-Star Tamika Whitmore as part of the trade to get Douglas, but Catchings said the versatile 6-footer provides a much-needed perimeter presence. Douglas averaged two 3-pointers per game last season.

“We’re really excited,” Catchings said. “Obviously, losing Miko (Whitmore), it was a big loss for us, but I think getting Katie is a gain for us. She’s a great shooter, and that’s something we’ve struggled with, is having the consistency with someone to be able to score other than myself. We expect that from her, to come in shooting and bring a different aspect to our offense.”

Instead of getting familiar with her former rival as a teammate, Catchings is working out by spending time in the swimming pool, riding a stationary bike and doing individual drills. Catchings, known for being a tireless and intense player, is not worried about conditioning.

“When you’re used to being in shape, you kind of know how to get back into shape,” she said.

She wishes she could be a bigger part of this new-look Fever squad during preseason practice, which started Monday, but early regular-season games aren’t as important as representing her country and winning a WNBA title. Catchings took the U.S. loss to Russia in the world championship semifinals in 2006 personally, and she’s motivated to make up for that loss.

“We need to go in there and take care of business,” she said.

For the U.S. to do that, Catchings feels the newer players need to emphasize doing the little things she’s always taken care of as the team transitions from older to younger players.

“My role was to be a defender, to rebound, to do all the dirty work,” she said. “That’s the thing that we lack from the new team. That’s something we need to focus on. We need to figure out what role everybody needs to play and everybody needs to accept it so we can win this gold medal.”

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pat Summitt finalizes divorce from husband of 27 years

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has finalized her divorce from R.B. Summitt after 27 years of marriage.

Summitt's lawyer, Bernie Bernstein, says the final paperwork was submitted in Blount County Circuit Court on Friday. Court clerk officials said Monday that the paperwork was still being processed.

Pat Summitt's petition, filed in August after the couple had been separated for several months, claimed irreconcilable differences. The pair have one child, 17-year-old Tyler.

Pat Summitt is the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history and just won her eighth national title. R.B. Summitt is the president of Sevier County Bank.

Bernstein said at the time the divorce paperwork was filed that the biggest issue likely would be division of property, though details of their divorce settlement were unavailable Monday.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Geno: No chance for game vs. Tennessee

The women's basketball version of "he said/she said" finally took on a little substance Tuesday.

For months Tennessee coach Pat Summitt refused to answer why she canceled the annual rivalry series with UConn and deferred all explanations to Huskies' head coach Geno Auriemma. But for every "Ask Geno, he knows," that Summitt spit forth, Auriemma would respond, "Ask Pat."

Until Tuesday's news conference to wrap up the 2007-08 UConn season, that is.

Pressed several times to comment on rumors created by the public silence of the two coaches, Auriemma finally responded.

"She accused me of cheating in recruiting, but she doesn't have the courage to say it publicly," Auriemma said. "So yeah. Geno does know. I've said it."

"There are a lot of things I know about a lot of people, but that doesn't mean I cancel the series. But this is the same person who said that if the Duke fans don't treat her players right, she was going to cancel that series. So if people don't stop misbehaving, she is going to play only regular season scheduled conference games. Unless that starts to bug her."

IMHO, Geno needs to be nominated for the Massengill Douche Bag Award.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Adidas signs Candace Parker

PORTLAND, Ore. — Los Angeles Sparks rookie Candace Parker has signed a multiyear endorsement deal with Adidas. Parker was the top choice in the WNBA draft and The Associated Press player of the year.

Adidas declined to disclose the value of the deal. Parker’s agent was not immediately available.

Parker played three seasons at Tennessee and helped win two national championships. She is headed to Beijing as part of the 2008 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gathering of Angels helps Salvation Army

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Pat Summitt may make quite an impact on the basketball court, but Thursday it was all about her influence off the court.

Summitt was on hand at the annual Gathering of Angels, which supports the Salvation Army's mission by providing funds to five different programs, including men and women's transitional housing and domestic violence shelters.

The Salvation Army is hoping to raise more than $200,000 to help with their efforts.

Workers with the Salvation Army say without donations they would have to shut down some of their programs.

"We have a big program at christmas, and we have our thrift stores, but this, by far in one day, is the biggest fund raiser that we have."

If you would like to donate, call 525-9401.

Caldwell leaves Lady Vols for UCLA head coaching job

LOS ANGELES -- Nikki Caldwell, one of the top assistant coaches in the nation, has been named the head women’s basketball coach at UCLA, Bruin Senior Associate Athletic Director/Senior Women’s Administrator Petrina Long announced today. Caldwell will be introduced at a press conference in UCLA’s Hall of Fame press room at 4:45 pm. ET.

"It's Tennessee's loss and UCLA's gain," Pat Summitt told WVLT's Rick Russo. "I'm confident that she will go there and get that program where it needs to be."

Caldwell, who becomes the fifth women’s basketball coach in UCLA history, has served as an assistant coach at two-time defending NCAA champion Tennessee for the past six seasons.

“We are thrilled to welcome Nikki to the Bruin family,” said UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. “She is bright, articulate and an outstanding coach and recruiter who is a rising star in her profession. Nikki has been a winner as a student-athlete and an assistant coach and is the perfect person to make our program nationally competitive on a regular basis.”

“Nikki embodies everything we were looking for in a head coach,” said Long. “She has worked with some of the best coaches in the history of women’s basketball, and we look forward to her establishing her own reputation as a great head coach.”

The 35-year old Caldwell comes to UCLA after serving on the staff of legendary women’s coach Pat Summitt as an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee for the 2003-2008 seasons (195-24 record; five Final Fours; two NCAA Championships). Caldwell has been lauded as an excellent floor coach and a consistent star among college recruiters.

In her 14 seasons as a collegiate player and assistant coach, her teams have posted an amazing 404-76 record and appeared in the NCAA Tournament each season, while winning three national championships.

In 2008, the Lady Vols captured a second-straight NCAA championship and finished with a record of 36-2. National Player of the Year Candace Parker, the No. 1 selection in the WNBA draft, led a group of five Lady Vols to be drafted into the WNBA on the day after the championship.

Caldwell joined the Tennessee staff for the 2002-03 season and became the recruiting director in the spring of 2003. In the fall of 2003, the Tennessee staff signed perhaps the most prolific freshman class in the history of women’s collegiate basketball. For the 2004-05 season, Tennessee welcomed six 2004 high school All-Americans, including three Players of the Year. In 2007, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) named Tennessee as the best recruiting school in the nation. In 2008, three of the top 15 current high school seniors in the country committed to play for Tennessee in 2008-09 (hoopgurlz.com), and five played in the McDonald’s All-American Game.

Prior to her return as a coach at her alma mater, Caldwell served as an assistant at the University of Virginia for three seasons (2000-2002). She was responsible for recruiting, scouting, film exchange, player development, camps and monitoring academic progress of the student-athletes. UVA compiled a record of 60-36 in her three seasons in Charlottesville and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each campaign. She helped to develop standout Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) players Telisha Quarles at guard and forward Brandi Teamer, the 2002 ACC Rookie of the Year.

A guard during her playing days at Tennessee (1991-94) when the Lady Vols put together a 118-13 record, Caldwell was known for her tough defense and three-point shooting. She still ranks among the all-time top 10 at Tennessee in three-point field goals made (128) and three-point shots attempted (364). She scored 20 points in her first collegiate game against Stanford and went on to be named to the Southeastern Conference’s (SEC) All-Freshman team. In the 1991 NCAA title game victory over Virginia, Caldwell’s defense was considered a key in UT’s overtime win.

Caldwell received the Gloria Ray Leadership Award in both her junior and senior seasons at Tennessee. After graduating with a degree in public relations in 1994, Caldwell moved behind the microphone as a color analyst on Tennessee games for Fox Sports Net South. She went on to become the color analyst for the SEC’s Game of the Week from 1995-97. Her television exposure opened the door for her to become the hostess of the sports segments for the Knoxville, TN based cable network show, Shop at Home (1997-98). She then decided to return to her first love, coaching, in 1998 when she became a graduate assistant for administration on the Lady Vols women’s basketball staff. During the 1998-99 season, Tennessee went 31-3 and captured the SEC regular season and SEC Tournament titles. Caldwell was responsible for assisting the coaching staff in all aspects of basketball operations.

A native of Oak Ridge, TN, Caldwell is single.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

SI’s 2008 National Championship Commemorative

Sports Illustrated Presents has published a special collector’s issue commemorating the Tennessee Lady Vols’ national championship. The 80-page magazine, with a limited press run of 95,000 copies, will begin hitting newsstands and area retailers, including Wal-Mart, Kroger, Food City and Walgreens throughout the state of Tennessee today and will be available on Amazon.com. The special edition, which will be sold at a price of $6.99, features Alberta Auguste, Alexis Hornbuckle, Candace Parker, Nicky Anosike and Shannon Bobbitt on the cover with a billing that reads, “TENNESSEE LADY VOLS … Celebrating A Dynasty.”

Highlights of the special issue include:


The day before the NCAA championship final in Tampa a reporter asked Pat Summitt if she had thought about how she’ll react when she realizes she has coached Candace Parker and four seniors for the last time. Summitt didn’t seem overly concerned about being staggered by emotion at the wrong time. “We all say, Once a Lady Vol, always a Lady Vol. They’ll come back, just like the others. They will always be a part of the family,” Summitt said. How many programs have players who yearn for the day they can reminisce with future players and swap coach stories? “I can’t wait till I come back in 10 years, when I’m thirty-something years old, telling stories about the Tennessee program,” said Candace Parker (page 10).


Win or lose, Tennessee’s 27th NCAA tournament was bound to draw to a bittersweet conclusion. The euphoria that would follow a successful defense of its 2007 championship would ultimately give way to the sadness of having to say goodbye to five key contributors to that run of back-to-back titles. How well will Tennessee fare without the nucleus of a team that has combined for 101 wins over the last three seasons (page 31)?


Three years ago at this time, Alexis Hornbuckle was a wide-eyes freshman starter on a veteran Tennessee team that had designs on reaching the Final Four. She had no idea what to expect. “I was so nervous,” said Hornbuckle, adding that she could’ve benefited from a little direction from her more experienced teammates. Fellow senior Nicky Anosike remembers being just as lost back then. “They kind of left us in the dust,” she said. Determined not to complete the cycle with this year’s underclassmen, Anosike and Hornbuckle convened an informal briefing session before the first round of the NCAA tournament at the team’s hotel to take questions and allay anxieties. “I feel like it’s the seniors’ job to step up in the postseason and lead the team, because we’ve been here and we know what it takes,” Anosike said (page 35).

THE HEROES: (pages 50-60)

  • Regarding Candace: As anyone who has ever seen her play will tell you, number three is one of a kind.

    “My experience here at Tennessee has been great. I look back at my growth, not only as a player but also just as a person, and I feel like it’s been the best four years of my life. I wouldn’t change anything.” – Candace Parker

  • Rocky Top Journey: The long road to Tennessee ended with two national titles for Shannon Bobbitt.

    “She’s the kind of kid that you root for because she’s small, she’s tough and she wants to be successful so bad.” – Teammate Alexis Hornbuckle

    THE TITLE TEAMS: (pages 62-77)

  • 1987 - Finally First Prize at the Big Dance: After eight tries the Lady Vols brought home the trophy.
  • 1989 – Vols that Glitter Are Gold: With a wealth of talent, Tennessee was on the money once again.
  • 1991 – Just tougher than the Rest: “Playing for Pat,” the Lady Vols gutted out an OT win over Virginia.
  • 1996 – Bringing Up the D Word: Defense? Drive? Determination? Yes, but we’re talking dynasty.
  • 1997 – Going Back-To-Back the Hard Way: The Lady Vols overcame injuries and adversity on the way to repeating.
  • 1998 – “Meeks” Inherit a Place in History: Chamique, Semeka and Tamika led Tennessee to a third straight title.
  • 2007 – Returning to the Summitt: After a nine-year drought, Tennessee reached the top again.


    A Collector of Championships: It’s never just “another year, another trophy” for Pat Summitt (page 80).

    As with all Sports Illustrated Presents commemorative issues, this special collector’s edition is separate from the current weekly issue of Sports Illustrated, which is dated April 21, 2008.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Candace Parker wins second Wooden Award, Pat Summitt wins the John R. Wooden Award Legends of Coaching honor

Tennessee's Candace Parker won the 2008 Women's John R.Wooden Award, as the college basketball player of the year, at this evening's Wooden Award Gala hosted by The Los Angeles Athletic Club at the Los Angeles Downtown Sheraton Hotel. Wooden Award Chairman and longtime fixture in the Los Angeles sports community, Richard J. 'Duke' Llewellyn, made the announcement and presented Parker with the unique Wooden Award trophy whose design was inspired by Coach Wooden's idea of the 'total basketball player.'

A 6-4 junior forward, Parker led Tennessee to its second straight national title on Tuesday night, capping off an inspiring performance in the NCAA Tournament, in which she fought through a shoulder injury.

In the title game win over Stanford, she had 17 points (her 44th straight double-figure game), 9 rebounds and 4 steals. Parker was the first pick in Wednesday's WNBA draft; she will play next season for the Los Angeles Sparks after representing the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Also the 2007 Wooden Award winner, Parker averaged 20.6 points and 8.8 rebounds this season to lead her team in both categories. She is a three-time first-team All-SEC choice, the 2006 SEC Freshman of the Year and 2007 SEC Player of the Year.

Balloting by more than 250 members of the media and women's college basketball experts was conducted through the games of the Sweet 16. Voters selected 5 players for the Wooden All-America team from the 17 student-athletes listed on the ballot, and ranked them from 1 to 10.

Voters were asked to take into account performance during the regular season and postseason, as well as a player's character and academic performance. All players on the ballot were certified as maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA at their current school, including the most recent semester.

Parker received 274 points to win the Award. The other four finalists were Connecticut's Maya Moore (144 points), Sylvia Fowles of LSU (134 points), Candice Wiggins of Stanford (121 points) and Courtney Paris of Oklahoma (79 points). In addition to the Player of the Year Award, The Los Angeles Athletic Club also presented Tennessee Women's Head Coach Pat Summitt with the John R. Wooden Award Legends of Coaching honor. Summitt's Lady Vols won their eighth NCAA title last weekend.

Parker is the second two-time winner, following LSU's Seimone Augustus who won the Award in 2005 and 2006.

Pat Summitt - Best Coach Ever

Best Coach Ever by Mo Johnson.

Baugh is unfazed after diagnosis of torn ACL

Vicki Baugh will undergo surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee and faces up to six months of rehabilitation, it was learned Friday.

But despite the prognosis, the former Sacramento High School star said she remains in good spirits following Tennessee's 64-48 victory over Stanford in the NCAA women's basketball championship game Tuesday.

"I'm fine with it," she said during a phone interview from Knoxville. "I feel I can come back better than ever. The way I see it, the surgery will help my tendinitis and make my knee stronger than ever."

Baugh, a freshman, scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in that game, suffering the injury after scoring on a second-half layup.

Dr. Greg Mathien, Tennessee's team orthopedist, said an MRI confirmed that the injury, initially considered a sprain, was a torn ACL.

Baugh said she plans to rehabilitate the knee until she has surgery after final exams in early May.

Tennessee officials didn't give a timetable for Baugh's return to the court. But Barbara Baugh said her granddaughter is expected to be out at least six months.

"Naturally, I'm hurt by the situation," Barbara Baugh said. "But I'm very optimistic and confident that the doctors will help Vicki make a complete recovery."

Baugh landed awkwardly after the layup. After falling, the 6-foot-4 forward-center lay on the floor for about a minute before being helped off the court.

Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said she hopes Baugh will recover soon.

"I'm excited about Vicki's future," Summitt said in a news release. "The knee will be a setback, but I know she will come back stronger and more determined than ever."

Baugh said she was not worried, focusing instead on the Lady Vols' eighth national championship.

"I'm still excited about what we accomplished as a team," she said. "The national championship was always a goal of mine. Had we lost every game in the regular season but still won the national championship, that would have been fine with me."

As a senior, Baugh led Sac High to the 2006-07 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship. She was The Bee's Player of the Year in her junior and senior seasons.

This season, Baugh averaged 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds as a key reserve for the Lady Vols (36-2). She was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week in late February.

Baugh is expected to start next season on a team that lost starters Candace Parker, Nicky Anosike, Shannon Bobbitt, Alberta Auguste and Alexis Hornbuckle. All were selected in Wednesday's WNBA draft.

"As a freshman, Vicki played a significant role for our basketball team," Summitt said. "Some of her key contributions came in the six games during our national championship run and in the Southeastern Conference title game.

"Things were really starting to come together for her, and it's just so unfortunate that she suffered a torn ACL."

Barbara Baugh said her granddaughter will remain in Knoxville during the offseason, attending summer school and rehabilitating her knee.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lady Vols freshman forward Baugh tears ACL

Knoxville, TN - University of Tennessee freshman forward Vicki Baugh has torn the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, the school announced Friday.

Baugh was injured in the NCAA Women's title game on Tuesday against Stanford. Her driving layup with about seven minutes to play gave the Lady Vols a 55-44 lead en route to their eighth national title.

Baugh played in all 38 games this season, averaging 5.3 points and four rebounds. She had eight points and four rebounds against the Cardinal.

"As a freshman, Vicki played a significant role for our basketball team," said Tennessee women's head coach Pat Summitt. "Some of her key contributions came in the six games during our national championship run and in the SEC title game - things were really starting to come together for her and it's just so unfortunate that she suffered a torn ACL.

"I'm excited about Vicki's future...The knee will be a setback but I know she'll come back stronger and more determined than ever," Summitt added.

Baugh will continue rehab until surgery is performed following her final exams.

Tennessee Lady Vols freshman Vicki Baugh tore ACL in left knee in title game

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Freshman Vicki Baugh tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee during Tennessee’s NCAA championship win over Stanford.

Head trainer Jenny Moshak said Friday an MRI confirmed the torn ACL. She will rehabilitate the knee until she has surgery after final exams later this month.

The 6-foot-4 forward was injured with seven minutes to play Tuesday in Tampa, Fla., after making a driving lay-up that gave the Lady Vols a 55-44 lead en route to their eighth national title.

Baugh, who had eight points and four rebounds in 13 minutes against Stanford, played in all 38 games this season. She averaged 5.3 points and four rebounds a game.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Summitt focusing on new team at UT

TAMPA, Fla. — The records, the milestones, the numbers are starting to lose their notability in the memorable career of Pat Summitt.

She’s already the winningest college basketball coach, men’s or women’s, in the history of the game. Tennessee’s back-to-back titles the last two seasons pushed her a comfortable three championships ahead of rival Geno Auriemma of Connecticut. She topped the 100-win mark in NCAA tournament games this season, the first in college basketball to accomplish that feat.

But there’s one significant record she doesn’t hold, one mark that most college basketball fans thought would remain forever untouched — former UCLA coach John Wooden’s 10 national titles.

Summitt, as star Candace Parker signified with her fingers as she left the court for the final time late in Tennessee’s 64-48 win over Stanford on Tuesday, now owns eight championships.

“Do I have a desire to try to beat Coach Wooden’s record? No,” Summitt said. “I just want to help the next team get back to the Final Four. That’s always our goal every year.”

Her goal will be much more difficult to attain next season, a fact Summitt acknowledged as she sat next to five departing players during Wednesday morning’s national championship press conference. And not just any five players. She loses five selections in Wednesday’s WNBA draft, including four in the first 16 picks.

“I’m not going to be nearly as smart this next year,” Summitt said. “We’re going to have a young team, but we’re going to have talent.”

Once again, Summitt is welcoming the nation’s top recruiting class. The group is led by Knoxville’s Glory Johnson, a 6-foot-3 forward considered the best at her position in the country along with Alyssia Brewer out of Oklahoma.

Guards Amber Gray, Shekinna Stricklen and Alicia Manning of Etowah, Ga. — all ranked among the best nationally — are headed to Knoxville along with 5-foot-2 point guard Briana Bass, who reminds Summitt of Shannon Bobbitt.

But these players probably don’t comprehend the Tennessee style of basketball employed by Summitt. She’s obsessive about defense, an aspect of the game those five offensive stars on the podium Wednesday didn’t understand until last season following two early exits in the NCAA tournament.

“I think that’s why she has eight titles and is the leading coach in the world,” Parker said. “She knows what she’s talking about, and we bought into her system. Finally.”

The Lady Vols held Stanford to a season-low point total, limited LSU to 46 points and gave up just 48 points to Texas A&M in their last three tournament games. Summitt hopes the message was sent to the signees watching at the St. Pete Times Forum and on TV.

“We’re going to have to drill it into their heads because most of them come in as shooters and the best offensive players on their teams,” Summitt said. “I’m sure they were all watching. The returning players and the coaches have to sell it and talk about how we do it at Tennessee.”

Freshman Vicki Baugh gave Summitt a preview of her abilities against Stanford with eight points and four rebounds in just 13 minutes before leaving with a knee injury that has not been evaluated. As she was helped off the floor, Baugh also flashed some leadership by passionately screaming, “Let’s go!” to her shaken teammates on the bench.

“We said we were going to leave it all on the court. So I wanted to encourage my team to keep on going and get me out of their head,” Baugh said. “My confidence was up there. I want to be a leader on the team. I want to use that for next season because we’re going to be young.”

Baugh will join forward Alex Fuller and guards Angie Bjorklund — who faded late in the season — and Sydney Smallbone as returning players. Point guard Cait McMahan and center Kelley Cain will be back from injuries.

They are charged with helping Summitt catch Wooden, even if breaking one last record is not her intention. She just wants to keep coaching.

“As long as I can be effective as a teacher and a coach, that’s what I want to do,” Summitt said. “The day I walk in the gym and I don’t have the passion is the day I give it up.”

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tennessee Celebrates 8th NCAA Title

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — She dished out plenty of glares this season and openly questioned her team's motivation to win. Standing behind her eighth national championship trophy on Wednesday, Tennessee coach Pat Summitt had nothing but praise for the Lady Volunteers a day after they beat Stanford 64-48 for the title.

"I've never seen a team more motivated in the locker room," Summitt said. "I saw our team commit to play probably the best defense we've ever played in the Final Four."

Nearly 5,000 fans celebrated the Lady Vols' return to Knoxville in a ceremony at Thompson-Boling Arena, where seven banners hang from the rafters commemorating Tennessee's other titles.

"We're running out of rafter space, but we'll find a place," said Jan Simek, chancellor of the Knoxville campus. "It never gets old celebrating championships."

A local Mercedes-Benz dealership rewarded Summitt's assistant coaches, Holly Warlick, Nikki Caldwell and Dean Lockwood, with loaner SLK 280 roadsters.

When a fourth Mercedes roadster was driven out to the middle of the arena floor, and team trainer Jenny Moshak's name was called, the crowd erupted into cheers and all the players embraced her in a group hug. Moshak grasped her face in shock.

Moshak worked around the clock to rehab star forward Candace Parker after The Associated Press player of the year hurt her shoulder in the regional final.

The fans celebrated not only the championship, but also Wednesday's WNBA draft. All five Lady Vols starters were drafted, led by Parker with the No. 1 pick.

Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle and Nicky Anosike missed the festivities in Knoxville while attending to WNBA draft responsibilities.

Shannon Bobbitt, who with fellow senior Alberta Auguste joined the Lady Vols two years ago after stints in junior college, said she wouldn't have traded her time at Tennessee for anything.

"My two years here were great. They were hard, but they were great," she said, later blowing kisses to the crowd.

Twelve-year-old Lora Stephens said Bobbitt, the shortest Lady Vols player at 5-foot-2, has shown her that not all basketball players have to be tall.

Lora, who has season tickets to Tennessee games with her family members, had a hard time picking one item when asked what her favorite thing about the Lady Vols.

"What's not my favorite thing?" she said.

The Lady Vols struggled many times during the season with an overtime loss to Stanford in December and a blown 19-point lead in a loss to LSU.

Summitt accused her players of being complacent and playing uninspired basketball. The Lady Vols responded by winning the Southeastern Conference championship with a win over LSU.

Tennessee relied on defense throughout the tournament and needed a last-second putback by Hornbuckle to make it past LSU another time in the Final Four for another shot at Stanford and back-to-back titles.

A third straight title may prove a bit more challenging than the previous two with all five starters departing. But Tennessee's got five McDonald's All-Americans to fill their shoes in 6-foot-1 forward Amber Gray of West Chester, Ohio; 6-1 guard Alicia Manning of Woodstock, Ga.; 6-2 guard Shekinna Stricklen of Morrilton, Ark.; 6-3 forward Alyssia Brewer of Sapulpa, Okla.; and 6-2 forward Glory Johnson of Knoxville.

"The cupboard is not bare. Help is on the way," Summitt said.

WNBA Draft Pix

Parker top pick by Sparks in WNBA draft

PALM HARBOR, Fla. - Candace Parker had a whirlwind 24 hours.

Parker was selected No. 1 by the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA draft on Wednesday, a day after capping her college career by leading Tennessee to a second straight NCAA title.

"These last 15 hours or so have been just amazing," Parker said. "To win a national championship and then switch gears and come to the WNBA draft and be surrounded by my peers that I've played with ever since I was in junior high school has been amazing."

The Associated Press player of the year joins Lisa Leslie, turning Los Angeles into one of the top teams in the league. The Sparks were a franchise-worst 10-24 last season with Leslie sitting out after giving birth to a daughter in June.

"Lisa Leslie has been one of my idols ever since I was younger," Parker said. "I've never had an opportunity to play with her ... but I'm really looking forward to it. Obviously, she's a great role model and I'm looking to take in whatever she tells me."

LSU senior Sylvia Fowles was taken second by the Chicago Sky. The 6-foot-6 center led the Lady Tigers to four straight Final Fours and scored 24 points and had 20 rebounds in their heartbreaking 47-46 semifinal loss to Tennessee.

Stanford star Candice Wiggins, whose team finished runner-up, went third to the Minnesota Lynx. Alexis Hornbuckle of Tennessee was chosen by Detroit and Matee Ajavon of Rutgers was selected by Houston, rounding out the top five.

Parker left Tennessee with a year of eligibility remaining. She chose to skip her fifth year, which she gained because of a knee injury as a freshman.

"It's been really hard," she said. "Obviously I've wavered. I think everybody wavers on decisions all the time. Especially when you're in the moment and there's orange surrounding you and people begging you and telling you one more year. But I gave my word, and I just felt it was time to go and we left on top."

Parker, Fowles and Wiggins headlined a talented class that has been hyped since their freshmen year.

"I feel like now it's our class' responsibility to raise the bar and I think this class is capable of doing that," Parker said. "I feel like in the WNBA it's going to be the rivalries.

"It's going to be the Candice Wiggins vs. Candace Parker. It's going to be the Sylvia Fowles vs. Erlana Larkins. I feel like it's going to be great for the game."

Crystal Langhorne of Maryland was taken sixth by Washington and Essence Carson of Rutgers went seventh to New York. Carson will be close to home, having played college ball in New Jersey.

The expansion Atlanta Dream chose Tamera Young of James Madison at No. 8. Amber Holt of Middle Tennessee State went ninth to Connecticut and Laura Harper was selected 10th by Sacramento.

Tasha Humphrey of Georgia went next to Detroit, and the Sun took UConn guard Ketia Swanier with their second pick of the round at No. 12.

North Carolina's LaToya Pringle was chosen by the defending champion Phoenix Mercury and New York picked her Tar Heels teammate Erlana Larkins to close out the first round.

All five Tennessee starters got drafted. Shannon Bobbitt and Nicky Anosike were the first two picks of the second round, with Bobbitt joining Parker in Los Angeles and Anosike heading to Minnesota. Alberta Auguste was drafted in the third round by New York.

"It's amazing that we all went," Parker said. "It's really cool."

WNBA Draft

Round 1, Pick 1 - Candace Parker to the Los Angeles Sparks
Round 1, Pick 4 - Alexis Hornbuckle to the Detroit Shock
Round 2, Pick 1 (15) - Shannon Bobbitt to the Los Angeles Sparks
Round 2, Pick 2 (16) - Nicky Anosike to the Minnesota Lynx
Round 3, Pick 7 (35) - Alberta Auguste to the New York Liberty

Summitt leads Tennessee to consecutive national championships, moves closer to Wooden’s mark

TAMPA, Fla. — Pat Summitt climbed the ladder with a pair of scissors, grabbed what was left of the dangling net with one hand and started cutting with the other.

She needed three tries to slice her way through—hardly looking like a coach who had done the same thing so many times before.

When she finally finished, she waved the net high above her head and blew a kiss to the crowd. The Tennessee faithful responded with one of the loudest ovations of the night.

Summitt and the Lady Vols were champions again.

National champs. Repeat champs. Eight-time champs.

“People say all the time, ‘It is so hard to win a championship,”’ Summitt said. “Last year was hard. This year was hard. I just feel I’ve been so blessed to have an opportunity to coach at a university that really cares about our program, all the programs.”

Shannon Bobbitt and Nicky Anosike set the tone early, Candace Parker took over late and Tennessee thumped Stanford 64-48 in the women’s national championship game Tuesday night.

All of them got a souvenir to take home, a little piece of nylon that will last forever and elicit fond memories of winning it all.

For Summitt, it was another one to add to her already-impressive collection. Now, she’s two championships shy of tying John Wooden’s NCAA record—well within reach for a program that is one of the favorites to win the championship every year.

“I guess I’m along for the ride,” Summitt said. “They took me on a great one this time. And as long as I love the game, I’ll stay in it. Do I have a desire to try to beat Coach Wooden’s record? No. I just want to help the next team, next year, get back to the Final Four. That’s always our goal every year.

“And as long as I can be effective as a teacher and coach, that’s what I want to do. The day I walk in the gym and I don’t have the passion is the day I give it up.”

Summitt had plenty of drive in this one.

She devised a pressing, trapping scheme that Stanford didn’t see in the teams’ first meeting in December and didn’t expect in the rematch.

She had the 5-foot-2 Bobbitt chasing Stanford’s guards all over the court and Anosike wreaking havoc with her long arms and 6-foot-4 frame. Together, they helped force the Cardinal into 25 turnovers—no question the difference in the game.

“A lot of people underestimate our defense,” Parker said. “And when you get on the court with us, it’s a little bit different than what you see on TV or anything like that.”

Parker finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and four steals, proving why she’s a lock to be the top pick in Wednesday’s WNBA draft.

Anosike added 12 points, eight rebounds and six steals. She hit an open jumper shortly after the opening tip and then scored in a variety of ways around the basket. She had putbacks, free throws and even finished a baseline drive with a nifty reverse layup.

“My mind-set going into the game was I wasn’t going home without a championship,” Anosike said. “If we lost, I was going to live here because I wasn’t going back home. No one was going to deny me a national championship, and I did whatever I needed to do to make sure we won.”

Bobbitt did her part, too.

She hit consecutive 3-pointers in the opening minutes that gave Tennessee all the cushion it needed to end Stanford’s 23-game winning streak. Bobbitt made another 3 late in the first half and was instrumental in running Tennessee’s offensive and defensive sets all night.

Parker took over in the second half, mostly after Stanford stopped double- and triple-teaming the AP Player of the Year.

The celebration started with a little more than a minute to play. Summitt subbed out most of her stars, waited for the final buzzer and then frolicked with her players while confetti dropped all around.

“Obviously this is a very special night for our program and for our basketball team,” Summitt said. “I’m just really proud. It’s a happy, but sad time with the seniors leaving. But I will always have tremendous respect for the mark they left on our basketball program.”

None of Tennessee’s starters will be around next year, leaving Summitt with a roster filled with youngsters and maybe her toughest challenge.

Then again, it might provide the Hall of Fame coach with the icy stare another chance to cut down the nets. Maybe this time, she’ll make it look as routine as she does winning championships.

“All of us put our trust in Pat Summit when we came to the University of Tennessee, and she’s been obviously more than a coach to us and she’ll be more than a coach to me for the rest of my life,” Parker said. “You play for her … because she’s been such an inspiration and just for the game of women’s basketball.”

Championship Pix

Summitt and Tennessee Roll to Another Title

TAMPA, Fla. — Thirty-four seasons ago, after Pat Summitt had coached her first game at Tennessee, she phoned home.

“Did you win?” her father, Richard Head, asked.

“No sir, we got beat.”

“By how much?”

“One point.”

There was a long pause, and as Summitt feared that her father would blame her, he said: “Let me just tell you one thing, Trisha. Don’t take donkeys to the Kentucky Derby.”

The message was a valuable one: The best coaches had the best players. Tennessee (36-2) clearly did Tuesday night in winning its second consecutive national championship and eighth over all with a 64-48 victory over Stanford.

It also had the best coach. Summitt unnerved Stanford (35-4) with a ravenous trap, stretching the Cardinal’s triangle offense into geometric dysfunction. The Lady Vols forced 25 turnovers and center Nicky Anosike grabbed 6 steals at the point of Tennessee’s defensive pressure.

From the beginning, the Lady Vols played with a toughness and determination reflective of their coach. Forward Alberta Auguste restricted Stanford’s Candice Wiggins into 14 inconsequential points. Candace Parker, widely regarded as the best women’s player in the country, played with fierce elegance despite the hindrance of a dislocated shoulder, delivering 17 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals.

Point guard Shannon Bobbitt (13 points) drilled three early 3-pointers for the Lady Vols, providing a 30-19 lead that was never seriously threatened. Anosike, a fellow New Yorker and a senior, saved her best game for last with 12 points, 8 rebounds and a steadying hand.

“I always preach defense and boards win championships,” Summitt said. “They bought in.”

The Lady Vols also drew motivation from a perceived slight — the prediction by many pundits that Stanford would win.

“I told them we might go in as underdogs, but we were going to come out as top dogs,” Summitt said.

She has won 983 career games, more than any man or woman coaching college basketball. Her eight titles are as many as Bob Knight, Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski have won combined. Two more will match the 10 won by John Wooden at U.C.L.A.

In two months, Summitt will turn 56. She said retirement would come when she began to dread practice, which she loves. Summitt took an apparent shot at Knight, who departed Texas Tech in February, saying that when she walked away, “I don’t think I’ll do it in the middle of the season.”

Still, the years as a pioneering player and coach and defender of family pets have begun to take an inexorable toll. As she spoke to reporters Monday, Summitt wore ice bags on both knees. Last month, she dislocated a shoulder while forearming a raccoon off her deck in Knoxville, after the critter threatened one of her Labrador retrievers.

True to her stoic nature, she tried for more than two hours to put her shoulder back in place before calling the doctor.

“Never saw the raccoon again,” Summitt said. “He’s probably thinking: ‘That’s the craziest woman I’ve ever met. I’m out of here.’ ”

Sometimes her players must have felt the same way.

In the past, Summitt had to have her rings re-rounded in the off-season after pounding her hands on the court in moments of irritation. Her icy stare is legendary. Her upbraiding of players on the sideline and in the locker room can be blistering. This season, Summitt questioned her team’s commitment to play intensely for a full 40 minutes, becoming livid after the Lady Vols blew a 21-2 lead at home and were routed by Louisiana State 78-62 on Feb. 14. After a team meeting, the reserve forward Alex Fuller dropped her coach a note: Everything will be O.K. This won’t happen again.

It didn’t. The Lady Vols won their final 14 games, defeating L.S.U. twice along the way, including in the national semifinals, and Tennessee again cut down the nets in a championship game.

It was another exultant moment in a career that began for Summitt as an evening diversion in a hayloft. She learned hard work on the family’s dairy farm — “Cows don’t take a day off” — baling hay, plowing tobacco fields, eating a sack lunch on her tractor. When Pat and her brother, Tommy, finished their chores, a few neighborhood kids came over, lights were turned on in the hayloft and the knockdown, drag-out games of two-on-two and one-on-one commenced.

“They would just run over me,” Summitt said. “But that was O.K.”

After eighth grade, her father moved the family to the next county so Pat could continue to play basketball. At home, girls were prohibited from playing in high school, Summitt said, after one female player ran into a wall after making a layup and died.

Richard Head withheld his affection for his daughter, Summitt has said many times, but he never stood in her way as she chose basketball as her career. He died three years ago, but Hazel Head, Pat’s 84-year-old mother, was on hand Tuesday night, rawhide tough herself despite seven operations on her ankle.

“My inspiration,” Summitt said.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Parker leads Tennessee to second straight national championship with 64-48 win over Stanford

TAMPA, Fla. — One by one, Candace Parker hugged her teammates on the sideline as the last seconds ticked away. It was all part of her final farewell to Tennessee.

All that was left was to hoist a championship trophy, which came moments after the Lady Vols’ 64-48 victory over Stanford on Tuesday night.

Parker scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help Tennessee capture its eighth championship. The Lady Vols also became the first repeat champs since Connecticut won three straight from 2002-04.

The Associated Press player of the year will leave the Lady Vols (36-2) with a year of eligibility remaining, but has accomplished one of her goals by winning multiple championships.

Parker also became only the fourth player to win back-to-back Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four honors. She joined Connecticut’s Diana Taurasi (2003-04), Tennessee’s Chamique Holdsclaw (1997-98), and Southern Cal’s Cheryl Miller (1983-84).

Stanford’s loss ended Candice Wiggins’ remarkable run through the NCAA tournament. She scored 14 points and finished with 151 over the six games—the fourth best total in tournament history. Sheryl Swoopes holds the record with 177, when she led Texas Tech to the championship in 1993. Wiggins is the first player to have two 40-point games in the tournament.

Wiggins’ stellar career ended by taking the Cardinal (35-4) further than they’d been since 1992, when the program won it all. Stanford hadn’t reached the Final Four since 1997 or advanced to the championship game since the ‘92 team.

She entered the game averaging 27.4 points in the tournament and opened the game with a 3-pointer, but couldn’t find an open look after that. The All-American finished 6-for-16 from the field. She left to a standing ovation with just over a minute left in her college career.

Parker struggled with her shooting in the semifinals when she went just 6-for-27 from the field, but gutted out the championship game—not letting her injured left shoulder bother her. For the second straight game, the All-American wore a long-sleeve shirt under her uniform to try, as she said, to not focus on the injury.

While still clearly not 100 percent healthy, the expected No. 1 pick in Wednesday’s WNBA draft didn’t shoot nearly as many jumpers as Sunday night, instead taking the ball to the basket on an array of moves. She converted one steal in the second half into a pretty layup that gave the Lady Vols’ a 10-point advantage. She then followed it up with a three-point play on a driving layup. The Cardinal would get no closer than eight the rest of the way.

With the game in hand and a minute left, Parker went to the Tennessee bench for the final time, holding up four fingers on each hand to signify the eight titles the Lady Vols have won.

Unlike earlier games in the tournament when Parker had to carry the Lady Vols, her supporting cast came through. Shannon Bobbitt scored 13 points and Nicky Anosike added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Lady Vols.

Bobbitt scored all her points in the first half as the Lady Vols jumped out to a 37-29 advantage. Trailing by one early, Tennessee used a 13-4 run to take a 17-9 lead midway through the half. Bobbitt hit two 3-pointers and made a nifty layup to cap the spurt. The teams traded baskets before two free throws by Bobbitt gave the Lady Vols a 35-25 lead—their biggest of the half.

She also harassed Stanford into 14 turnovers by the break. The Cardinal looked tight on offense, committing more turnovers in the first half than they did in the semifinal win over UConn. They finished with 25 for the game.

Wiggins and Jayne Appel provided the only offense for Stanford, combining for 17 of their 29 first-half points.

Appel finished with 16 points to lead the Cardinal, whose 23-game winning streak—the longest in the nation— ended. The Pac-10 champs hadn’t lost since dropping consecutive road games to UCLA and USC in the first week of January.

The Lady Vols advanced to the championship game by beating LSU 47-46 on Sunday night on Alexis Hornbuckle’s putback with seven-tenths of a second remaining. The Cardinal shocked UConn 82-73 in the other semifinal. The victory redeemed the Lady Vols’ 73-69 overtime loss to the Cardinal when the teams met Dec. 22 at Stanford.

Tennessee is 8-5 in championship games after barely making it to No. 13. The Lady Vols ended a nine-year drought with their championship last season. They won their other titles in 1987, `89, `91, `96, `97, and `98.

Anosike, Bobbitt carry Tennessee early, help Vols win another women’s national championship

TAMPA, Fla. — Candace Parker got most of Stanford’s attention. Maybe the Cardinal should have played tighter defense on Nicky Anosike and Shannon Bobbitt.

The seniors burned Stanford all over the floor Tuesday night, helping Tennessee build an early lead and cruise to a 64-48 victory in the women’s NCAA championship game.

Anosike finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Bobbitt added 13 points—all in the first half—as the Lady Volunteers won their second consecutive national title.

Both players were named to the All-Tournament team.

Anosike set the tone in this one, hitting a jumper shortly after the opening tip and then scoring in a variety of different ways around the basket. She had putbacks, layups and free throws. She even drove the baseline and hit a nifty reverse layup in the first half that helped Tennessee regain a double-digit lead.

Not bad for a 6-foot-4 center.

Bobbitt did her damage from much farther away.

The 5-foot-2 point guard hit consecutive 3-pointers in the opening minutes that gave Tennessee all the cushion it needed to end Stanford’s 23-game winning streak and give coach Pat Summitt her eighth national title. Bobbitt drained another 3 late in the opening half and was instrumental in running Tennessee’s offense all night.

Parker took over in the second half, quite possibly because Stanford stopped paying her so much attention. The Cardinal double- and triple-teamed the AP Player of the Year all night.

The move backfired early, mostly because of Anosike and Bobbitt.

Maybe Stanford should have looked at last year’s national title game. Anosike had four points and 16 rebounds—including 10 offensive boards that gave the Vols so many extra shots—in a victory against Rutgers. Bobbitt had 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting from behind the arc.

They gave a repeat performance against Stanford—and gave Tennessee a much more enjoyable repeat.

Eight Is Great!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Candace Parker wins Naismith Award

TAMPA, FLORIDA — With her team looking to capture a second straight national championship, Tennessee junior forward Candace Parker was named the winner of the women’s Naismith Award on Monday.

A finalist last year, the 6-4 Parker edged out Louisiana State’s Sylvia Fowles, Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris and Stanford’s Candice Wiggins for the award that recognizes the top college player in the country.

On Tuesday, the Volunteers (35-2) face Stanford in the title game.

Parker, who announced in January that she would skip her senior at Tennessee to play in the WNBA, is the Volunteers’ leading scorer (20.6) and rebounder (8.8).

“Candace has enjoyed a tremendous season and career at Tennessee, and the college game will miss her dearly,” said Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Tipoff Club, which presents the women’s Naismith Award.

Parker returned from a dislocated shoulder to help lead Tennessee to a 53-45 victory over Texas A&M in the Oklahoma City Regional final.

Despite playing with the injury, Parker recorded 13 points and 15 rebounds in Tennessee’s 47-46 win over LSU in the national semifinals on Sunday.

Hornbuckle’s putback with less than second left lifts Tennessee back to title game

TAMPA, Fla. — Alexis Hornbuckle’s only basket of the game was enough to get Tennessee back in the championship game.

Hornbuckle’s putback with seven-tenths of a second left lifted the Lady Vols to a 47-46 victory over LSU in Sunday night’s national semifinal. It was the lowest scoring game in Final Four history.

Candace Parker did all she could with her bum shoulder, scoring 13 points and grabbing 15 rebounds to lead the Lady Vols.

Tennessee (35-2) moved within a win of its eighth national championship. To do it, the Lady Vols will have to beat Stanford, which stunned Connecticut 82-73 in the other semifinal.

The Lady Vols are looking to become the first repeat champions since the Huskies won three straight titles from 2002-04.

Meanwhile, LSU’s Final Four drought continued. The Lady Tigers, who have been a Final Four staple the last five seasons, again failed to make it to the championship game. LSU, only the second team to play in five straight Final Fours matching the feat accomplished by Connecticut from 2000-04, has lost all five appearances.

All-American Sylvia Fowles did all she could to avoid losing her fourth straight Final Four. She scored 24 points and grabbed 20 rebounds to lead LSU (31-6), but it wasn’t enough.

Tennessee clung to a 45-44 lead with 7.1 seconds left when Hornbuckle fouled Erica White on the sideline. The senior calmly stepped up and hit both free throws to give LSU a one-point lead.

After a timeout, Parker drove the length of the court and passed the ball to Nicky Anosike, who missed a layup. Hornbuckle grabbed the rebound and put it back up and in to give Tennessee the one-point lead—and the eventual win.

LSU had one last chance but their inbounds with 0.7 left was intercepted at midcourt, and Tennessee celebrated its hard-fought victory.

Parker’s shoulder clearly wasn’t at 100 percent as she was constantly short on jumpers, including shooting an air ball, but she aggressively went for rebounds with both hands and blocked shots.

She has been rehabbing the shoulder constantly the last few days after dislocating it twice against Texas A&M in the Oklahoma City Regional final. Wearing a white long sleeve shirt underneath her No. 3 jersey for the first time this season, The Associated Press player of the year got off to a slow start offensively missing her first five shots before hitting a turnaround jumper 8 minutes into the first half.

The anticipated matchup between Parker and Fowles—the expected top two picks in the WNBA draft Wednesday—also got off to a slow start as they combined to miss nine of their first 11 shots.

The two guarded each other for parts of the first half. Parker didn’t get going offensively until she had her shot thrown back at her by Fowles when she tried to drive on the 6-foot-6 center. Fowles converted the layup on the other end, but then Parker scored six of the next eight points on an array of moves.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Parker needs to add to legacy

Candace Parker helped UT win it's first national title in 10 years, but is that enough?

There isn't much debate about Candace Parker's talent.

Parker is probably the most talented female to ever play the game of basketball. Pat Summitt has said she's at least the most talented player she's ever coached. That's a list that includes seven retired jerseys and names like Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Holly Warlick.

No matter what happens this weekend, I think we can all rest assured the No. 3 jersey will go on to join that group of retirees.

But talent isn't the only thing that defines a legacy. For the seven-time national champion Lady Vols, it's about titles and those singular moments of over-arching willpower that ultimately bring banners to Thompson-Boling Arena.

Parker has won just one national title. There aren't many places where last year's national title is "just one" a year later, but Tennessee is one of them.

That killer instinct puts Taurasi and other similarly clutch legends a notch above Parker at this point.

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma summed up sensation Diana Taurasi's importance with stunning simplicity during her time as a Huskie.

"We have Diana, they don't."

UConn won three straight titles on the back of Taurasi. Yes, they had other All-American caliber players, but there's no mistaking Taurasi was a complete assassin, all killer.

She willed those teams to victory on many a night, often times over Tennessee. That killer instinct puts Taurasi and other similarly clutch legends a notch above Parker at this point.

Parker has not shown herself to be that type of overwhelmingly dominant force that many expected her to be. She's a great player, but just one of many other great players this year.

Case in point: LSU's Sylvia Fowles was the SEC Player of the Year -- not Parker. As talented as the Lady Vols superstar is, there is no excuse for any other player to have a legitimate argument to win an award like that.

Sometimes, when I watch Parker I notice a bit of a knowing smile as defenders seemingly half her size try to guard her on the perimeter. She's more athletic, more talented and more versatile than anyone else the other team throws at her every time she steps out onto the court.

She knows it. I know it. And that's why I expect so much from her.

Maybe I just want to see her dunk over someone like LeBron, but I can't shake the feeling that there's more to her greatness than what she's shown so far.

Parker reached the career 2,000-point club at UT this year, a mark that only Bridgette Gordon, Catchings and Holdsclaw have reached before. Had Parker opted to return next year, she could have challenged Holdsclaw's Lady Vol scoring record of 3,025 points.

However, I don't blame her for opting to go pro. She has an opportunity to play for the Sparks with Lisa Leslie and former Vol Sidney Spencer. Los Angeles would also bring her closer to her long-time boyfriend, former Duke star and current Sacramento King Shelden Williams.

On top of that, she can focus her energy on the Olympic games this summer. Even Summitt agreed, it was a fitting time for her to end her career at Tennessee.

I prefer to say could be a fitting end to her career, depending on whether she can win a second consecutive national title.

If not, the 2007 title she helped win will remain lonely and serve as an oddly bitter sweet reminder of a greatness not totally realized. Her career would remain fantastic, yet slightly disappointing.

That's why this weekend is so important, not just for the program.

But for Parker's lasting impression on the college basketball world.


Pat Summitt has coached 19 Kodak All-Americans on her way to seven national titles, but only five players have had their jersey's retired. Parker could be next.

The five

No. 32, Daedra Charles, 1988-1991: Became the first SEC player to win the Wade Trophy and led Tennessee to two national titles.

No. 22, Holly Warlick, 1976-1980: The first Tennessee athlete of either gender to have a jersey retired. The three-time Kodak All-American led the UT to the Final Four.

No. 30, Bridgette Gordon, 1984-1989: Led UT to four straight Final Four appearances including two national titles.

No. 23, Chamique Holdsclaw, 1995-1999: Naismith Player of the Century Award winner, and four-time Kodak All-American. Led UT to three straight national titles.

No. 24, Tamika Catchings, 1997-2001: UT's second four-time Kodak All-American. Helped lead Tennessee to the 97-98 national championship.

Lady Vols Tampa Press Conference Verbatim

THE MODERATOR: Joined up here at the podium by Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt as well as student‑athletes Candace Parker, Nicky Anosike and Alexis Hornbuckle. Coach.

COACH SUMMITT: Obviously, really excited about what our basketball team accomplished in a tough regional final to get us to the Final Four. It was a courageous effort by our basketball team, through a lot of adversity. Obviously with Candace dealing with her shoulder, and just really proud of how the team stepped up. And certainly Nicky and Alexis provided tremendous leadership and obviously some big plays for us at both ends of the floor.

So looking forward to getting started in this tournament. LSU, we're very, very familiar with them. They're very familiar with us, have tremendous respect for their basketball team and obviously the personnel and the coaches and I'll just turn it over to the players now.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for the student‑athletes.

Q. Candace, what do you and Sylvia have going, do you take the competition more seriously if it's LSU? Are you and Sylvia friends off the court or is it only on the court and you always look at each other as going after the same thing?

CANDACE PARKER: We've played against Sylvia for a long time going back to obviously high school. And we played on various U.S.A. basketball teams and things like that.

But I think it's really just about LSU and Tennessee. I think we bring a lot to our teams, both of us, and I think we know each other very well being in the same conference and things like that. So we played them two times already this year and it's going to be a third. So I think we're just familiar with one another.

Q. Candace, could you just update us on your physical condition, how effective you expect to be tonight?

CANDACE PARKER: I have all the confidence in the world in the medical staff. Jenny Moshak is the best trainer in the world. We've been doing rehab around the clock. My shoulder feels strong. It's getting better every day. And I'm happy we played the late game on Sunday because it gives us more time to rehab.

Q. Candace, can you talk about what you mean by 24‑hour rehab? What's the process been like for you? How often are you icing it or putting stim on it?

CANDACE PARKER: Jenny Moshak's philosophy is the more the better. She works around our schedule. Obviously we have commitments being at the Final Four with different events we have to go to. But any 15‑minute segment we get, we do stim, ice, shoulder exercises, strengthening, things like that.

Q. Candace, you had mentioned yesterday that you were about 80 percent, your shoulder was about 80 percent. What percentage is it today, do you think? Has it gone up? Is it about the same?

CANDACE PARKER: Obviously I feel confident in my shoulder. I don't know percentage‑wise, but I feel confident that I'm going to go tomorrow and just play as hard as I can. So obviously it's gone up. It's getting better every day, more rest, more stim.

Q. Alexis and Nicky, obviously you're very familiar with LSU being in the same conference. Could you talk about the dynamics of that when you play at this level, playing a team that you're that familiar with or the advantages or things you have to guard against when you're playing with a team you're so familiar with?

ALEXIS HORNBUCKLE: Obviously when you're familiar with the team it gives ‑‑ it's a little bit easier when you go over the scouting report. But at the same time, when it comes down to the game, you have to execute. And it's the team that's going to execute their offense the best and who is going to play the most defense and control the boards.

NICKY ANOSIKE: We don't really plan on changing up the game plan. Obviously we know them and they know us. But we know from being here, three times since I've been here, that defense and rebounding is something that stays constant no matter who you play in the Final Four.


Questions for Coach.

Q. I have to ask you about Angie Bjorklund and her progress?

COACH SUMMITT: I think Angie has had a really strong freshman year. Obviously we've relied on her to stretch the defense and make some shots for us. I thought in our A&M game, that was probably the best defensive segment that she has played for us. And I know that they ran ‑‑ as soon as Angie went in the game, they started running isolations and clearing out.

And I think that probably inspired her more than anything I've said to her all year. At least that's what she shared with me. I think she took that as a challenge.

But obviously we are a better basketball team when Angie's knocking down shots, because of what it does to open up our inside game. And, again, forces us to put a little more pressure on the defense and stretch the defense to open up opportunities for our post game.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about just the strength of the individual players in this Final Four with Wiggins, Moore, Parker and Fowles? In terms of individual stories, it seems like it's one of the best Final Fours ever.

COACH SUMMITT: I would agree with you. As you look at each team, as you look at obviously what Candice Wiggins did in the regional finals and how she played in both of those games and what she brought to the team and I think you have a player like that, other players respond around you.

And I thought her team responded very well to her play and it gave them a lot of confidence. Certainly when you look at Maya Moore and what she's meant to Connecticut and just the explosiveness of her game and obviously the toughness and the ability to stretch the defense and make really a lot of big plays, you know, that certainly has been a tremendous asset for them.

And Sylvia Fowles, seems like she and Candace have been going at it for a long, long time but her presence inside, and obviously all of these teams have great supporting casts. But with Sylvia, just her ability to block shots and also to get position, they do a tremendous job of getting her great looks in the paint and at the rim, which is it's hard to defend just one‑on‑one.

And so I think with that said, you take Candace Parker for Tennessee and you have a player that obviously is playing a big role for us offensively. I think Candace's offensive package has expanded throughout her career at Tennessee. And I think that's been an advantage for us. But certainly we expect her to get paint points for us as well.

Q. Considering an injury like Candace's it can become more chronic the more it happens. And all the basketball she has in front of her. Is there a scenario tomorrow night where you can envision saying to her you're not going out there again or would you be afraid she might go after your shoulder if you try to take her out?

COACH SUMMITT: (Chuckling) she'd probably come after me. I've told her, I've made it very clear, unless the orthopedic doctor and the trainers are comfortable, I don't want her to play. But they have assured me that she is doing great and her shoulder has responded.

I'll be anxious to see today ‑‑ and I'm assuming that she's going to go through a shoot‑around with us. I told Jenny she didn't have to. If she wanted to rehab her during that time, I'm fine with it. I haven't spoken with her because she's been with Candace here in the training room pretty much all morning.

So, no, I don't want to do anything that ‑‑ if there's a question mark there, obviously with the support, the brace she has on, that's going to limit a lot of what she can do with her left shoulder. But with one hand she's better than a lot of players. So we'll let the doctor and the trainers make that decision, and I trust their judgment and their professionalism.

Q. When Maryland and Baylor won in successive years, there was a lot of reason to believe that parity had really come to women's basketball. Now you again, UConn again, LSU has been here five straight years. Stanford's back and two‑time champion. Plus with Moore, Parker, Wiggins, Fowles, probably four of the top seven or eight players all on the four teams are here. What does that say about parity? Has there been a setback for that?

COACH SUMMITT: It says a lot of the powerhouses managed to recruit some of the best players in the game, because that's what this is all relative to is success in recruiting. And certainly I don't expect these programs to go away.

I do think there's more ‑‑ the numbers of recruits are greater now of better high school recruiting opportunities are out there. So I think that has allowed some teams to step up and improve their programs. I think that will continue to happen because of the state of women's basketball and because of our AAU programs and we have a lot of kids that are playing year‑round. Not that I'm crazy about that idea.

But I think that just because of the stage of women's basketball has been on in the last few years, it's inspired a lot of young people to want to be a part of it. And you only have so many spots to fill. But I think what you have here this weekend, you understand that the people that have been in this game for a long time may have missed a few opportunities to get back to a Final Four, but it didn't mean that they didn't have a great program or a Final Four caliber team.

Sometimes you've just got to get some breaks along the way. So we're just excited to be here. I said last night at the salute dinner, I never want to take for granted ‑‑ that's our 18th team to make it to a Final Four. But every year it seems so hard and it's getting harder all the time, because of the parity in the game.

Q. Probably nobody in this sport understands and appreciates the concept of competition better than you do. That being the case, what is acceptable in your opinion in the way LSU will approach Candace tomorrow? Are hard screens acceptable? Are hard fouls acceptable? What goes over the line of sportsmanship at that point?

COACH SUMMITT: Obviously I expect to see hard screens out of LSU because in their motion offense, they are athletic, they're aggressive. But I don't expect to see a hard foul from LSU intentionally. I just don't see as that as who they are. I think they'll come and play a very aggressive, competitive game. But that's the only way that I've seen them play over the years and certainly Van coming in is ‑‑ to me he's going to have his team ready to play.

But I would ‑‑ that thought has never crossed my mind. Maybe I'm naive, but the only thing Van told me when I got here yesterday is that he had never cheered so hard in his life for Texas A&M. So I had to laugh. I said only Van would tell me that. I said, Van I cheered for you.

But we won't be cheering for each other, trust me. It will be intense. It should be a great matchup, and obviously a hard‑fought game on the part of both teams.

Q. Pat, I guess at some point either Thursday or Friday Candace was doing left‑handed layups and you were trying to discourage her from that?

COACH SUMMITT: We go to practice, first time Candace has been back out on the floor, and she comes in shooting left‑handed layups. I said, Candace, stick with the right hand for now.

But that's Candace. I'm sure she just wanted to test it out and see how she felt. And she did go through most of our practice that day.

Q. Thursday or Friday?

COACH SUMMITT: That would have been on Thursday. And then she finished out practice shooting right‑handed, fortunately.

Q. What do you think of the Wade Trophy not going to Candace Parker?

COACH SUMMITT: Obviously you had a lot of great players on that stage. Candice Wiggins has had a great run at Stanford and obviously did a tremendous job in helping get her teammates, her coaches right here to the Final Four.

And, you know, I'm obviously partial to Candace. And I hated it for Candace. I think she missed out on being the player of the year in the SEC, as voted on by the coaches, and also by Associated Press.

And that's part of the game. I think for Candace it's more about the team and trying to win here, and that's our focus as well. And I congratulate, obviously, Candice Wiggins and the Stanford program. Tremendous honor for both.

Q. Van has said from time to time during the season that they'll have thrown in a new play or this or that, some new wrinkle the other team hasn't seen. Aside from that, you guys again know each other so well. Teams have tendencies. Aside from maybe one or two new wrinkles, can there be much that either team doesn't know what to anticipate from the other?

COACH SUMMITT: No, I don't think there will be a lot of surprises. I think that we know them and they know us. One thing Van has brought to this LSU team is just a variety of sets that allows for Chaney, getting Chaney more involved offensively. Looks to me like he's running a couple of the pro sets that he ran for Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper in terms of the baseline action and coming off the screens.

And I think this team plays with a little more freedom, which has given them a chance to be a little bit more creative, if you will. And I think that's really enhanced their play. So less predictable. And I think that's been a good thing for LSU and it's also a challenge for us.

We have to defend the high‑low. We have to defend the dribble drives, and we have to do a better job of really denying and contesting the 3 ball.

Q. First off, really been enjoying the spot with you and Kenny Mayne on the SportsCenter spot, one of the funnier ones I've seen?

COACH SUMMITT: Such a goober. Hard for me to look at it.

Q. Most people look at this as you guys have dominated SEC for all of these years. LSU's been good and gotten here but not quite been able to get over the hump. How would you look at it against the irony of you're the team that they have to beat to finally do that?

COACH SUMMITT: Well, considering we went to seven Final Fours and played in four national championship games before we won one, I know how they feel. It was like: Are we ever going to get there?

But I think if you get there enough times, eventually you're going to be able to get a break or make your own breaks, if you will. And the fact that they've had this consistency, you know, it speaks volumes for who they are, how competitive they are and how driven they are to get back and give themselves an opportunity to perhaps win a championship.

And I think from my experiences, for me, it was ‑‑ I almost felt like will it ever happen. And I can tell you that the year that it happened, it was probably the year that I finally relaxed and thought, well, you know what, one of these days Tennessee's going to win a national championship. And we just happened to do it in '87. And I think you never know.

It may be their turn. It may be someone else's turn. But you just have to keep going there and playing your game and not putting the pressure on yourselves or your players. I think that's key. I think Van keeps them loose. He makes me laugh all the time. I'm sure they laugh, too.

Q. If Candace were to go out in this game because of her injury, do you think your players would respond better this time because they've been through a situation where they were without her?

COACH SUMMITT: I think so. I think they gained a lot of confidence from what they did in the A&M game. And obviously Candace came back in that game.

But I think we ‑‑ in particular, I thought Alexis really stepped up. We struggled there. We struggled to make shots for a while. And, as I said, Alexis couldn't make a layup but she could hit a 40‑footer. Go figure that one out.

But I think that they were really pressing when Alexis missed those layups. I think she was like: Oh, I can't make a shot. And just trying to get them to calm down and relax. You've got to be relaxed on offense. That's not where you tense up. I think when Candace came back in they relaxed even more.

But I think having gone through that, hopefully, if we're faced with that situation, that they will be a little more relaxed offensively and a little more focused on the execution part of it.

Q. How will you and your staff monitor Candace's shoulder throughout the game?

COACH SUMMITT: Jenny Moshak will monitor the shoulder. That's our right‑hand person and obviously she's had a lot of experience in dealing with injuries and unfortunately shoulder injuries have been a part of the game for us that we've had to deal with.

And I think Jenny has to listen to Candace and Candace has to listen to Jenny. And I think their communication is such that we're going to get the right results in the end, whether that's play her or sit her.

I think that between the two of them, they will determine what is best.

Q. Just because you're a better story‑teller than you are a coach, please tell us the raccoon story. And was it like a Wade Trophy winning raccoon or was it a walk‑on raccoon?

COACH SUMMITT: Well, it wasn't a Wade Trophy winner. Actually, I just went out on the back deck. Had my two labs with me, took some trash out. I was going to take the dogs out. And when I turned around to get the two dogs, my oldest lab was almost about ‑‑ I'd say about that far (indicating) from the raccoon, who was sitting ‑‑ the raccoon was sitting up on the deck and she was on the bottom. He was actually up on the top. All I knew ‑‑ I heard raccoons go obviously for the eyes, they're vicious.

I didn't know they carried rabies until someone told me after I hit it. But I just reacted. Fortunately I've never done this with a player; I wouldn't be here. I just reacted the raccoon was looking at Sally and they were there and I just came from the side and I hit it and then I opened my arm up to push it off the top deck, and when I did I dislocated my shoulder.

So when I saw Candace dislocated her shoulder, I knew her pain. Fortunately Dr. Becky Morgan came over to the house and she and Tyler put it back in at about 1:30 in the morning.

Q. How long did you have it out?

COACH SUMMITT: It was out ‑‑ because this is my personality, I thought I could get it back in myself. I went and sat in the recliner and sat there and moved my arm. I probably sat there, I don't know, 30, 45 minutes. I decided, well, go take a hot shower and maybe that will help.

So I took a shower. And that didn't help. So I went in and I decided I'll just lay down and see if I could get it back in by putting a pillow under it. That didn't work. So finally I called Dr. Morgan, I don't know, an hour and a half, hour 45 minutes later. And I wish I would have called her right away. But she came over and she ‑‑ between Tyler and Dr. Morgan, it went back in.

Q. How was the raccoon?

COACH SUMMITT: Never saw the raccoon again. He's probably thinking that's the craziest woman I've ever met. I'm out of here (laughter).

Q. There's six girls that played New York City high school basketball that are at the Final Four. And Nicky Anosike said there's a reason those six girls: Because of the way they played. You've had some experience with them. Could you explain what it is about them?

COACH SUMMITT: One thing is a lot of them just grew up on the play grounds and went to the park and played with the guys and played up and down and played for hours. I know Shannon Bobbitt had to bring me a videotape of when she was playing in New York and playing with all the guys. And it was amazing, just to see the talent level.

And obviously Nicky is ‑‑ that's what they did. I mean, they went to school and they played basketball and they liked to compete and they liked to hang out and play against the best players and a lot of times it would be the guys that would go to the park. We've got some special players out of New York.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

Candace Parker Named State Farm WBCA All-American

Tampa, Fla. - University of Tennessee junior basketball star Candace Parker was tabbed a 2008 State Farm Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-American, announced the WBCA on Saturday. Parker was one of two Southeastern Conference Players on the 10-woman team.

“It is such an honor to be named one of the top 10 players in the country,” said Parker. “There are so many deserving young women in the game today, I am humbled to be among this group and thankful to all of those who helped shape the person and student-athlete that I am today.”

The Naperville, Ill., native leads her team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. She becomes the third Lady Vol in program history to garner Kodak/State Farm All-America accolades at least three times while wearing the orange and white. The others were Chamique Holdsclaw (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999) and Tamika Catchings (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001). The award switched sponsorship in 2008 from Kodak to State Farm.

A 6-4 rangy player, Parker is one of only four Lady Vols all-time to amass 2,000 career points and 900 career rebounds. Earlier this season she broke the school record for most blocked shots in a career and she holds the single-season records for free throws made and attempted, and blocked shots. She was the fastest UT player in school history to reach the 1,000-point plateau, doing so in just 56th career game.

Senior Alexis Hornbuckle earned honorable mention All-America accolades from the WBCA.

Tennessee returns to the Final Four for the 18th time in program history. The No. 1 seed Lady Vols will face second-seeded and conference rival Louisiana State at approximately 9:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 6. The game will be aired live on ESPN.

The 2008 State Farm All-America Team:

Sylvia Fowles
Louisiana State
Sr. C 6-6

Crystal Langhorne
Sr. C 6-2

Erlana Larkins
North Carolina
Sr. F 6-1

Angel McCoughtry
Jr. F 6-1

Renee Montgomery
Jr. G 5-7

Maya Moore
Fr. F 6-0

Courtney Paris
Jr. C 6-4

Candace Parker
Jr. G/F/C 6-4

Kristi Toliver
Jr. G 5-7

*Candice Wiggins
Sr. G 5-11

Tennessee’s Parker selected AP’s college player of the year

TAMPA, Fla. — Candace Parker led Tennessee back to the Final Four and helped the U.S. national team qualify for the Olympics. On Saturday, she put another exclamation point on her All-American season: The Associated Press college basketball player of the year.

“I don’t know of another player—I haven’t coached one—who was 6-foot-5 with the skill set she has,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said.

Parker received 40 votes from the 50-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. Maya Moore was second with five votes. Sylvia Fowles and Candice Wiggins had two each and Crystal Langhorne one.

Parker, a 6-foot-5 junior, averaged 21.6 points and 8.3 rebounds this season. On Tuesday night, she scored eight of her 26 points in the second half after twice dislocating her left shoulder to help Tennessee rally past Texas A&M and into the Final Four. She scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the regional semifinals to send the Lady Vols over Notre Dame.

I feel like just knowing when to take over and not waiting,” Parker said. “I try to play hard on both ends of the court and provide what my team needs.”

Parker was a unanimous All-American, earning first-team honors for the second straight year. She not only helped Tennessee win the national championship last season, but also sparked the U.S. team during Olympic qualifying by averaging a team-high 13.8 points in the FIBA Americas tournament in Chile. Parker will be a major part of the U.S. team at the Beijing Olympics.

Parker will graduate this May and not return for her last year of eligibility. She most likely will be the first pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA draft Wednesday.

Summitt stands out among college coaches

The month of March is always an exciting time in sports. Men's basketball draws more attention during the month of March than any other sport and any other primetime TV show. The stakes are high, brackets are meticulously filled out and no one is ever ready for the surprises. All eyes are on this exciting tournament, and the women's March Madness tournament premiering at the same time always seems to be forgotten, even when history is made. Pat Summitt, the University of Tennessee women's basketball head coach, has won her 100th NCAA tournament game, the first coach to accomplish this feat in men's or women's Division I basketball.

Summitt has the reputation of success. She has led her team to 34 NCAA tournaments in the past 34 years. She has seven national titles and is on her way to lead her Lady Vols to another tournament championship. We have seen successful coaches like Summitt in every sport, for instance, Mike Kryzewski, the Duke men's basketball coach, and Roy Williams, the head coach of men's basketball at North Carolina. But we have seen fewer successful women coaches. How does a coach like Summitt achieve such accomplishments? You can be sure it's more than just talented basketball players.

Summitt has a reputation not only in the world of basketball but the world of sports. Most sports fans out there can attest to knowing who Summitt is, what sport she coaches and the name of her team. Her successes as a coach have placed her on the map as one of the all-time greatest coaches and has helped her attract some of the best talent in the nation. When it comes to recruiting, the Lady Vols do not lack interested girls. Recruits work and practice in order to be a part of this team and be coached by Summitt.

Summitt has become reputable through the way she treats her players. She is the type of coach that players respect. Her players want to succeed for their coach - a type of respect that is hard for coaches to earn. Through her knowledge and skill of the game, Summitt is able to further develop the players. You can tell from watching her games that Summitt demands the best from her team, and when she is not getting the best, her players know she is not happy, and this motivates them to do better. That is one of the reasons why Summitt is so successful: she has the respect of her team and knows how to motivate them to perform at their best level.

Motivated players are key in order to be successful, and Summit is the type of coach that knows how to motivate but also knows how to hold a strict hand. She demands hard work from every player and demands her players to stay on top of not only their basketball but their grades as well. On and off the basketball court, Summitt tends to her players needs. The players know she is there for them to talk to for any reason, whether basketball or something else going on in their lives, she is also the type of coach that claims the title of role model.

There is a thin line in coaching when it comes to gaining respect from all of your players. And Summitt does not play with this line. She knows that in order to earn respect she has to also give respect. You can tell when the Lady Vols are playing that Summitt shows her players as much respect as they show her. A key to success on any team is unity. This includes the coaches being as much a part of the team as the players. ESPN filmed the Lady Vol's practicing one day, and Summitt was just as much a part of the practice as the players. Instead of standing on the sideline, she took part in their drills and gave them one-on-one coaching.

It takes both sides of the game in order to be successful. The Lady Vols are one of those teams that have proven that great talent and a great coaching staff can lead to achieve the greatest accomplishments in sports. Summitt is an example of a coach who has the greatest of all worlds when it comes to sports. She has a team with great talent but has the respect for its coach and trusts that the coach has the best interests of her team. Summitt is the type of coach that all athletes should watch and hope that one day they will be able to play for and one of the best coaches in any sport - men's or women's.