Thursday, September 25, 2008

Summitt has shoulder surgery for raccoon attack

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt had offseason shoulder surgery, not for a sports injury but because of a tussle with a raccoon.

The winningest basketball coach in NCAA history has had problems with her right shoulder since dislocating it while chasing away a raccoon poised to attack her Labrador. The attack came near her home on March 5, just days before the Southeastern Conference tournament.

A month later, Summitt guided the Vols to their eighth NCAA title.

Summitt had arthroscopic surgery Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn., to repair recurring instability problems.

The coach will begin rehab in about a week. The Lady Vols begin practice on Oct. 17.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spani decides to play basketball at Tennessee


For a while now, Taber Spani has been leaning toward playing college basketball at Tennessee.

By the time her official visit to the school was over, she was convinced of it. And on Monday morning, Spani, a 6-foot-1 senior guard from Metro Academy, called legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and made it official.

“Tennessee has been on my heart,” said Spani, whose oral commitment to the defending national champions ended a recruiting journey that has lasted for more than a year. “Coming off the visit, I just felt like it was the perfect time to announce it.” ranks Spani, who lives in Lee’s Summit and averaged 29.6 points, 11 rebounds, 3.4 assists, three blocks and 2.4 steals a game last season, as the No. 3 guard and No. 13 overall player in the class of 2009. Last year, she led Metro Academy — a Christian home-schooled team composed of players from the Kansas City area — to a second-place finish in the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championships.

For her efforts, Spani won the DiRenna Award, which honors the top boys and girls basketball players in the metro area, and received the interest of several big-time programs, including Connecticut, which she dropped from consideration in June.

Her final decision came down to Tennessee and Kansas State, where her sister Shalin is currently a sophomore guard and her father, Gary — a former linebacker for the Chiefs — is an alumnus.

“I was really looking at Kansas State, especially with the family ties I have there,” Spani said. “But as the summer went on it became clear that Tennessee was special, and the visit just confirmed that. It definitely wasn’t an overnight decision.”

Spani followed a recent in-home visit by Summitt by touring the campus over the weekend and came away impressed by the fans, the atmosphere and her future teammates.

“It’s about the amazing challenge of going to what’s arguably the best school in the country for women’s basketball,” said Spani, who can’t sign a letter of intent until November. “I wanted to play for the best, play with the best and play against the best.”

Spani knows she has room to improve, and she is confident Summitt can help her reach her potential.

“I love how driven she is for excellence, and it shows with how much success she’s had,” Spani said of Summitt. “As amazing and successful as she is on the court, she is off the court, as well.

“She is so honest and straightforward and she sincerely cares about her players. I know when I go there, she’ll challenge me and make me better, and that’s what I’m looking for.”

However, that doesn’t mean Spani will stop cheering for Kansas State or her sister — she says their relationship transcends basketball.

“With my sister there — and I love her so much — even though I’m going to be at Tennessee and loving it, a part of me will always root for K-State,” Spani said.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Patience, Patience, Patience

Anosike advising patience for Lady Vols

Tennessee's size and athleticism was obvious on the Thompson-Boling Arena court Saturday.

Nicky Anosike noticed a few other attributes as well. The former UT women's basketball center, a starter on the past two national championship teams, is in town before going overseas to play in Israel. She attended the open workout.

"They have some things you can't teach,'' said Anosike, who just finished her WNBA rookie season in Minnesota. "They know where the open player is and they find her.

"They share the ball well. Sometimes when you have top recruiting classes coming in, they don't share."

Anosike could sum up her advice to the team in one word: patience.

"They're going to go through struggles being a young team," Anosike said. "You have to be patient. There's a lot to remember. There's a lot (coach) Pat (Summitt) expects.

"They already look good. They're going to continue to get better."

Calling All Quick Guards: With the team now convening full team workouts twice a week, the male practice players are on the court. At first glance, the latest group has size with two players standing 6-foot-5 and 6-4 1/2 respectively.

Assistant coach Dean Lockwood, who's assembling the players, wants more quickness.

"I need a quick, slashing wing (player),'' Lockwood said.

Lockwood said that he has 11 players in the fold but is looking for three or four more.

Injury Update: Point guard Briana Bass, who underwent knee surgery in February, appears to be going strong. Her quickness was evident during the scrimmage portion of Saturday's workout. Classmate Amber Gray, who has had a lingering thigh problem, participated in the practice.

High Praise: Summitt already is raising the bar for freshman guard Shekinna Stricklen.

"She's special; she brings it at both ends of the floor,'' Summitt said. "She could be a very, very special guard for us."

Schedule Updates: The game time for the season opener against San Francisco on Nov. 15 at the arena has been moved up to 1 p.m. As for other times changes: at George Washington Dec. 2 to 7:30 p.m., at Rutgers Jan. 3 to 2 p.m. and Feb. 26 at LSU to 9 p.m. EDT.

The game time for Dec. 14 at Texas has been set for 2 p.m.

Fox Sports Net will televise the following games: San Francisco, Nov. 17 vs. Virginia, Nov. 23 vs. Louisiana Tech, Dec. 11 vs. Middle Tennessee State, Feb. 5 vs. Georgia, Feb. 12 vs. Alabama, Feb. 19 at Kentucky and at LSU.

More On Spani: Before arriving in Knoxville, Lady Vols recruit Taber Spani said that she would be cheering for UT at Saturday's football game versus Florida.

Still, she has great respect for Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

"Tim Tebow has been a role model for me,'' she said. "I love how he's used his platform to influence people with his Christian faith."

Laxton Update: Former Lady Vol Brynae Laxton, who is finishing her residency at the University of Cincinnati, will return to Knoxville next spring, said Laxton's aunt, Bea Barnett.

Laxton will be working as a ear/throat/nose specialist at The Tower at Parkwest with Dr. David G. Sexton. Laxton and Sexton both are from Oneida.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lady Vols basketball practice open to fans on Sept. 20

The University of Tennessee Lady Vol basketball team will hold an open practice on Saturday, Sept. 20, from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena. Fans and media members are encouraged to come get their first look at the 2008-09 edition of Head Coach Pat Summitt's team as they prepare to defend their back-to-back national titles.

Coach Summitt will be available for comment to members of the media following practice, but players will not because of hosting recruits.

The Lady Vols will host Carson-Newman and Love & Basketball on Nov. 6 and 9, respectively, before officially opening the 2008-09 season on Nov. 15 against San Francisco. UT will honor the 2008 National Championship team with the raising of the eighth title banner against the Dons.