Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lady Vols prepare for exhibition game tomorrow

Forty-five minutes before practice began, Vicki Baugh was draining 15-foot jumpers from the baseline. A renewed hope for her return is growing, but she still hasn't been cleared to play.

Tennessee's post players will be the key to a successful season because they all are the only real question marks from last season's disappointing end. Counting Baugh, the Lady Vols have just five true post players on their roster.
  • Taber Spani could be used as a four, but counting on a freshman, even a McDonald's High School All-American, for anything is naive.
  • Baugh's status for this season is still completely up to Jenny Moshak, long-time Lady Vol head trainer whom Pat Summitt trusts deeply.
  • Alyssia Brewer's consistency, or lack thereof, has been noted by other reporters and Summitt.
  • Kelley Cain has been recovering from major knee surgery for about a year now and is the center, literally, of Tennessee's game plan.
  • Glory Johnson, who has made great strides in the offseason, still has to prove it on the court.
  • Faith Dupree, who practiced today after being held out yesterday for back spasms, looks promising but is still a freshman.
On a brighter note, Tennessee has more quality guard depth this year than any recent year that comes to memory. Angie Bjorklund, Shekinna Stricklen, Sydney Smallbone, Alicia Manning and Spani have deadly accurate jump shots and could all easily average 15 points-per-game.

Briana Bass and Kamiko Williams, who will likely see the majority of their minutes at point guard and shooting guard respectively, have great scoring abilities as well. Ultimately, it will be up to the post players to keep opponents from keying on Tennessee's guards on the perimeter.

Heather Mason, legendary strength and conditioning coach, talked everyone through the pregame warm-ups at first, and the upperclassmen had to move the newcomers into line, literally. One drill which features lots of "foot fire" requires the players to line up behind each other in a grid on the court.

Shooting drills featured an impressive display of shooting accuracy from the guards on one end of the court and left something to be desired from the posts' offensive moves and consistency.

Scrimmages against practice players showed that this Lady Vol team has good early chemistry that could become something special. Offensive shells, while not executed to perfection, were effective against the stiff competition.

Brewer showed her potential by scoring two consecutive times, once in the paint and the other draining a short jumper with a hand in her face.

I left practice feeling like this team has the potential to be special, but we'll soon see just how special. No. 7/4 (AP/Coaches) Baylor, which has freshman YouTube-dunking sensation Brittney Griner, comes to Knoxville on November 15th to start the season.

This new Tennessee Lady Volunteer team, No. 8/9 (AP/Coaches) in the preseason polls, looks to improve upon last year's sub-par season; 2009 was the first year since 1997 that Tennessee failed to claim either the regular season SEC crown or the SEC tournament title, and it was the first year in Lady Vol history that Tennessee did not win a first-round NCAA Tournament game. The chance to start anew comes tomorrow in Knoxville against Carson-Newman (exhibition match) at 7:30 PM ET.

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