Wednesday, June 25, 2008

White House welcomes Lady Vols

WASHINGTON — The Lady Vols basketball team visited the White House on Tuesday to be feted for their back-to-back national championships, but coach Pat Summitt was looking forward more than backward.

Four of the five starters in the Lady Vols’ march to the title, all WNBA draft picks led by All-American Candace Parker, couldn’t make the ceremony. Their professional teams played games Tuesday night.

But their former teammates, mostly underclassmen who will lead next year’s young squad, got to soak in a day of congratulations from President George Bush and the Tennessee congressional delegation.

“I think they can look around the table and know they have big shoes to fill,” Summitt said. “There’s high expectations at Tennessee, no matter who graduates. With a group of freshmen coming in — six of them, who are going to be very young — I think they understand they’ll have to set the example every day.”

The President honored the Lady Vols at a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, along with 19 other collegiate championship teams, including the Georgia men’s tennis and women’s gymnastics squads.

“It’s hard to become a champ, and that’s why we love to honor people here at the White House when you become one,” Bush said. “One of the things I tell people is, is that if you work hard and become a repeat champion, I look forward to welcoming you back to the White House. However, this time it’s not going to work. My eligibility has run out.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Tennessee congressional delegation celebrated the Lady Vols’ back-to-back championships at a luncheon.

“I don’t want to put any pressure on you, but we just want to make this an annual event,” said Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., who represents Knoxville.

Sophomore Vicki Baugh, who tore her ACL in the NCAA tournament final against Stanford, said the team was excited to visit the White House.

“It’s great to be here,” she said. “All along, we said we wanted to get here, so this is just a great experience.”

This past season’s team went 36-2, capping off their championship season with a 64-48 win over Stanford.

The Lady Vols were led by a talented veteran core that included Parker, who was taken by the Los Angeles Sparks first overall in April’s WNBA draft; fellow first-rounder Alexis Hornbuckle, now with the Detroit Shock; and second-round picks Shannon Bobbitt of the Sparks and Nicky Anosike of the Minnesota Lynx.

“I think that the players we had recruited in that class, in particular with Nicki and Alexis and Candace, they wanted to leave their legacy at UT in a significant way,” Summitt said. “They talked about it (and said), ‘We were too highly touted coming out of high school not to win two championships.’”

Alberta Auguste, also a graduating senior and a key starter during the postseason, said the second championship was extra rewarding given that the Lady Vols played with a target on their collective back all season.

“Every opponent was after us,” said Auguste, who was drafted in the third round by the New York Liberty but released after training camp. “Everybody knew we were the national champions and played harder against us. We knew what was at stake and how hard it would be to get back to the Final Four.”

Next year’s returners will include just one senior (forward/center Alex Fuller), one redshirt sophomore, three true sophomores and a redshirt freshman.

The Lady Vols also will welcome the six freshmen widely hailed as the nation’s top recruiting class.

“I think we might struggle a bit in the beginning, but once we get our chemistry together, I think we’ll be fine,” said Baugh, who should be fully recovered from her injury by fall. “We lost so many seniors, and we’re basically starting as a whole new team, so we’ll really need to get to know each other and know what we can do on the court.”

Bush is the fourth president Summitt has met in her 34-year career that includes an Olympic gold medal and eight national titles at Tennessee.

She met Jimmy Carter in 1980 as coach of the Olympic team, which missed the games in Moscow due to the U.S. boycott. She has also met Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush with Lady Vols trips.

“Any time you have an opportunity to win the national championship and go to the White House and meet the president, that puts the stamp of approval on what we accomplished,” said Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history. “It’s truly a tremendous opportunity for these young women to get to meet the President of the United States.”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lady Vols Add Another In-State Committment

Often times in collegiate recruiting, players earn scholarship offers even though the scouts attending their games or practices have really come to see a teammate or opponent. Such may be the case with the second commitment for the Lady Vols' 2009 signing class.

Pat Summitt and her staff made the short trip to Webb School of Knoxville several times to recruit Glory Johnson, a top-five recruit, last season. In the process they found 6'3" junior forward Faith Dupree.

The trips earned Dupress an invite to the Lady Vols Elite Camp this past weekend where she committed to sign with Tennessee during the early signing period this November.

With Johnson and Dupree, Webb was a state runner-up this past season. Dupress averaged 14.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.2 steals per game for the Spartans.

Dupree is the second in-state commitment as Pat Summitt begins building what she hopes will be a third-consecutive top-ranked recruiting class in NCAA women's college basketball.

Kamiko Williams, a 5'11" guard from Clarksville, had previously committed to the Lady Vols.

Both Dupree and Williams are ranked as four-star prospects by with Dupree #67 nationally and Williams #68.

As is usually the case, Summitt is the hunt for several of the nation's top-rated recruits. Among those showing interest in the Lady Vols are 6'5" post Kelsey Bone [Sugar Land, TX], 5'8" point guard Skylar Diggins [South Bend, IN], 6'2" forward Mariah Chandler [Atlanta], 6'1" wing Shenneika Smith [Brooklyn, NY], 5'11" wing Tierra Rogers [San Francisco], 6'1" guard Taber Spani [Shwnee Mission, KS] and 5'11" guard Bianca Lutley [Penscola, FL]. All are five-star prospects and among the nation's top 25 players. Diggins is fourth nationally and Bone second. Bone had been first in her class since the beginning of her sophomore season before being overtaken by 6'7" post Brittney Griner of Houston. Griner has already committed to Baylor.

* Former Lady Vol Candace Parker was named as the winner of the Honda-Broderick Cup on Monday as the nation's top female college athlete. Parker flew to New York early on Monday to receive the award.

Just hours earlier, Parker recorded her first professional dunk with a one-handed break-away slam in the Los Angeles Sparks' 77-63 victory over the Indiana Fever. Parker joins teammate Lisa Leslie as the only WNBA players to dunk during a game.

Also nominated for the Honda-Broderick Cup were Virginia Tech's Angela Tincher (softball), Duke's Amanda Blumenherst (golf), North Carolina's Rachel Dawson (field hockey) and Arizona State's Jacquelyn Johnson (track).

* The National Champion Lady Vols will be honored at a White House ceremony on Tuesday.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Candace Parker Named 2008 Honda-Broderick Cup Winner

Parker Becomes Ninth U.S. Women's Olympic Basketball Team Member To Win The Cup

On June 23, 2008, at a press conference at the Columbia University Low Memorial Library in New York, N.Y., Honda, Inc., announced 2008 U.S. Olympic Team member Candace Parker as its 2008 cup winner, the ninth USA Basketball Olympian to earn the coveted trophy.

“I am honored to be chosen as the Honda-Broderick Cup winner this year from such an outstanding group of female student-athletes,” Parker said. “I have been blessed to be recognized as an individual but know that I couldn’t have gotten where I am today without the help of my family, friends, teammates and coaches. My experience at the University of Tennessee prepared me for life as a professional basketball player and as a strong, independent woman. Coach Summitt always says if you surround yourself with great people and players, you are destined for great things. Winning this award and two national championships at Tennessee are, to me, great things. I want to thank Honda for its continued support of the award and women’s athletics throughout the years.”

Parker, who opted out of her final year of eligibility, graduated in May from the University of Tennessee with a degree in sport management. On April 9, she was the No. 1 overall pick in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. She finished her career at Rocky Top with a plethora of school records, including most dunks, free throws made and attempted in a game; most dunks, blocks, free throws made and attempted in a single season; and as the career leader in dunks, blocks, free throws made and attempted. She became just the fourth 2,000-point scorer and was the eighth Lady Vol to amass 900 rebounds in program history. In 2008, her accolades included ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American of the Year and first-team Academic All-America honors, unanimous first-team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC), SEC All-Tournament Team and SEC Tournament Most Valuable Player, the Wooden Award, the Naismith Award, the U.S. Basketball Writers’ Association National Player of the Year, the Associated Press Player of the Year and unanimous first-team All-America honors. Parker also received National Player of the Year, State Farm All-America, WBCA National Player of the Month in January, and Oklahoma City Regional and NCAA Final Four All-Tournament and Most Outstanding Player honors.

The Naperville, Ill., native averaged 21.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.4 blocks and 2.3 steals in 38 games this season while leading her team to a 36-2 record and the program’s eighth NCAA Championship. The 36-win total marks the second-most in school history, behind only the 1997-98 squad that went 39-0. This year’s team set new UT records for three-pointers made and attempted and went an astonishing 18-2 against top-25 opposition.

The Collegiate Women's Sports Awards program is in its 32nd year and recognizes the top collegiate woman athlete in each of 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports. In addition, the program honors the top women collegiate athletes representing Division II and Division III schools and the recipient of the Honda Inspiration Award. The Award winners in the 12 sports were automatically nominated for The Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year and from those 12 rose Parker as the victor of the prestigious Honda-Broderick Cup.

The honor is based on the results of national balloting among 1,000 NCAA member schools as part of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards program for each sport. American Honda Motor Co., Inc., sponsor of the program, celebrates each nominee by donating $5,000 to each Honda Sports Award recipient school and $1,000 to each nominee school.

In addition to Parker, who was named to her first Olympic team and will represent the U.S. in Beijing later this summer, Honda-Broderick Cup Olympic basketball players include Kamie Ethridge (1988 gold medalist), Lusia Harris (1976 silver medalist), Chamique Holdsclaw (2000 gold medalist), Nancy Lieberman (1976 silver medalist), Rebecca Lobo (1996 gold medalist), Ann Meyers-Drysdale (1976 silver medalist), Cheryl Miller (1984 gold medalist) and Dawn Staley (1996, 2000 and 2004 gold medalist).