After returning from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Convention in New Orleans on Tuesday, Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick took some time to visit with local media members on Wednesday.
Warlick, who was named the 2013 Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year on Monday night in New Orleans, talked about the legacy that Dixon left during her brief time as a head coach and her hope to do justice to the late Army coach, whose last game before her death in April 2006 was against Tennessee in the NCAA First Round.
“I knew Maggie personally and knew what she stood for – hard work and a tremendous love for her players,” Warlick said. “I said at the awards banquet that if I could lead by that example to our players, that would be awesome.
“It was a very humbling award for me. It’s about your players and who you surround yourself with, and I have a great staff. It’s kind of hard for me to get an individual award when I know how much everybody goes and puts into it.
“Maggie was an outstanding coach and better yet an outstanding person. I hope I can live up to those expectations.”
WNBA Draft Approaches For Taber Spani and Kamiko Williams
The WNBA Draft will take place at 8 p.m. on April 15 in Bristol, Conn., at the ESPN Studios. ESPN2 will provide coverage of the first round and will hand off to ESPNU for the second and third rounds, as the draft is televised live during prime time for the first time in the 17th-year history of the league.
Tennessee seniors Taber Spani and Kamiko Williams will wait for their names to be called. A total of 34 Lady Vols have been taken in the WNBA Draft through the years, including 15 in the first round, and Warlick believes these two have earned a chance to be chosen on Monday.
“I think they’ll both be drafted. I think, number one, Kamiko’s stock went up because of how hard she played this year. We saw that in her; it just took a while to get it out of her.
“She’s athletic, she can shoot the three, she’s a great defender, and I think the WNBA is in need of some really strong defenders. I think she’s got a chance.
“I think Taber (will) with her long-range threes and she’s shown the ability to penetrate as well. I think both of those young ladies are going to get looks. They have to go and make the team, but I think they’ll get the opportunity to do that.”
Not Being At The Final Four Is Incentive Enough
UConn tied Tennessee’s total of eight NCAA titles Tuesday night when it defeated Louisville for the 2013 crown. Warlick was asked whether that would serve as a motivating factor for her team as it enters the 2013-14 campaign.
“I think just not being at the Final Four is an incentive in itself. We’ll use that as our motivation.”
A Music City Final Four Beckons
Nashville will serve as the host of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four at Bridgestone Arena on April 6 & 8. With Isabelle Harrison hailing from Music City and Bashaara Graves a product of Clarksville in the mid-state, Warlick said making it to the Final Four in their own backyard will be a big motivator for next year’s team.
“It’s huge. It’s huge for us. It’s been a goal for us (getting to the Final Four). It was a goal for us this year, and we came up short. We’d love to be in a Final Four in our home state; that’s going to be our goal.”
Excited About The Off-Season
Even with the season just completed, Warlick and her staff are anxious to get back on the court and begin preparing for next season. She is excited about the prospects of having all of her players around over the summer.
“I can’t wait. We get our freshmen in this summer. All of our kids are staying this summer. It’s an exciting time to look to the future and rebuild this team. I wish we were starting tomorrow with practice and starting a new season.
“I think we are going to use the time to work on some things, defensively, some ball-handling, fundamental skills we need to work on before we get into team stuff. I am already excited about the new year and excited about our kids coming in.”
Heralded Signing Class
Tennessee has one of the top signing classes in the country coming in for the 2013-14 season. At 6-foot-6, Mercedes Russell was the Gatorade National Player of the Year and the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game. She’ll be joined by strong, athletic guards in 5-11 Jordan Reynolds and 6-0 Jannah Tucker.
Like Russell, Reynolds posted a points-rebounds double-double in the McDonald’s game in Chicago. Tucker, meanwhile, missed her final prep campaign with a knee injury but was one of the most-heralded players in this year’s high school senior class. Warlick welcomes the trio with open arms.
“All three of them are going to be huge for us. Mercedes Russell is going to give us a tremendous presence inside along with what we have. Jordan Reynolds is going to give us some needed help at the point position. I look forward to her there.
Nobody really knows about Jannah Tucker right now. She got hurt playing with USA Basketball. She’s been on the radar forever and was one of the top eight players in the country as a junior. She didn’t make any of the all-star teams because she sat out the year to rehab her knee.
All three of those will have a major impact for us. They’ll give us depth, they’ll give us some energy, and they are extremely talented young ladies.”
Taking It Slow With Andraya Carter
Freshman Andraya Carter continues to rehab her right shoulder after undergoing surgery on Dec. 13. She has gradually worked her way back into drills and avoids obvious situations where contact could occur.
“She’s been practicing with us. Certain things on her shoulder are every other day, but we’re taking it slow because we don’t have to rush. She looks good, and she’s getting in better shape. We need her. We need her leadership, and we need her to be part of this program on the floor.”
Champions For A Cause
Warlick and LSU coach and former UT player and staff member Nikki Caldwell will be riding their motorcycles again this summer for their Champions for a Cause organization. They raise money and bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer through various events each year.
“We are going to Panama City for their big bike week the first week in May (May 1-6) and trying to raise some money. There’s probably a little bit more awareness (generated) when we ride on motorcycles, so we’re going to continue to do that. We’ll meet up with Nikki (Caldwell) as she comes from Baton Rouge.”