Five Lady Vol recruits to be on campus

Tennessee will have five high school visitors on campus Friday – three on officials and two taking unofficials – as the countdown to the early signing period in November picks up steam in mid-October. Four of the visitors have already committed to the Lady Vols, but the fifth won't get any pressure from best friend Cierra Burdick.

Cierra Burdick, a 6'2 forward from Matthews, N.C., and Ariel Massengale, a 5'6 point guard from Bolingbrook, Ill., are high school seniors in the class of 2011 and have already committed to Tennessee – Burdick made her decision a year ago after an unofficial visit to Knoxville, and Massengale selected the Lady Vols in late August shortly after getting an official offer.

Both players are making their official visits this weekend – in this case the school foots the travel, lodging and meal costs – and they can go to Coach Pat Summitt's house for a home-cooked meal with the team and staff.

"That is wonderful," said Burdick's mother, Lisa Burdick, who is making the trip this weekend with her daughter, of the family-type atmosphere on the visit.

One of Burdick and Massengale's best friends, Elizabeth Williams, a 6'3 center from Virginia Beach, Va., also is taking her official visit to Tennessee and has not yet made a commitment. Williams, who made an unofficial trip to Knoxville in August, is expected to visit Duke next and is also considering Virginia, Penn State and North Carolina.

"I am definitely excited about this weekend," Burdick said in a phone interview this week before she left for Tennessee. "Obviously ‘Rel' and ‘E' are two of my best friends so being with them is going to be fun but then also having the experience of being at Tennessee and having experiences with our future teammates and coaches that will be fun and interesting as well."

The trio of standout players were teammates in France last July when the USA U17 team went 8-0 and beat the host team for the FIBA U17 World Championship. Burdick described the three plus 2011 prospect Betnijah Laney, who is not considering Tennessee, as "inseparable while we were overseas."

Despite that closeness, Burdick said she would not put any pressure on Williams to join her and Massengale in orange.

"I absolutely hate talking about recruiting with ‘E' because I feel like we have enough basketball in our lives and me talking recruiting with ‘E' isn't going to persuade her to come to a certain school," Burdick said. "It's something we just don't talk about. We may say a few words here and there, but it's definitely not an everyday thing. We just don't like to talk about it."

Burdick did laugh when she talked about Massengale's approach.

"But Rel is pretty persuasive," Burdick said. "I think she is trying to throw some hints at ‘E.' We have different approaches."

Burdick was elated when Massengale chose Tennessee. She called Burdick about four hours before the announcement was made public.

"I was too pumped," Burdick said. "I was on the way home in my car and I was screaming the whole way home. I am super pumped. I am real good friends with her and to know I've got somebody (like her) coming in with me in my class it's just a great feeling."

Tennessee can sign four players in the class of 2011, so two spots remain among three post targets – Williams; Kiah Stokes, a 6'3 center from Marion, Iowa, who visited Tennessee last month; and Isabelle Harrison, a 6'3 center from Nashville whose sister, DeeDee Harrison, is a redshirt freshman volleyball player at Tennessee.

Harrison is expected to make an official visit to Knoxville next weekend – she is at Kentucky this weekend – along with Diamond DeShields, a 6'2 guard/forward from Norcross, Ga., who would be on an unofficial visit.

Two other players also will be in Knoxville this weekend on unofficial visits. Andraya Carter, a 5'8 point guard from Flowery Branch, Ga., who is in the class of 2012, and Kaela Davis, a 6'2 guard/forward from Norcross, Ga., who in the class of 2013, will make the trip together from Georgia with Davis' father, Antonio Davis, a former NBA player and now the coach of Georgia Ice, a national champion AAU team.

Both Carter and Davis, who will play together this season at Buford High School, have already committed to Tennessee.

"Draya is like my little sister," Burdick said. "She looks up to me, and is always asking (questions about basketball). The thing I admire about Draya is she always wants to get better and she is not afraid to come up and say, ‘How am I doing? What do I need to do?' I am going to tell her because I am going to be straight-up with her, because I want her to get better.

"I admire how hard she works. Kaela, as well, she works hard, and she's got that killer instinct that some players lack and that is really going to help her in the future."

With text messaging and social media and various AAU and USA basketball teams, recruits in different classes get to know each other very well. Burdick has made it a point to reach out to players that Tennessee is targeting, including Breanna Stewart, a lanky and long-limbed 6'3 forward/center from North Syracuse, N.Y.

"I definitely communicate and I am friends with people in the younger classes," Burdick said. "Tennessee is recruiting Breanna Stewart. We call her 6'10. I am real good friends with her from USA Basketball. Any of the players that Tennessee is going to be recruiting in the younger classes I definitely have no problem communicating and being friends with them."

TALKIN' ABOUT PRACTICE: The Lady Vols held another upbeat session Thursday and will retake the court again Friday and Saturday at Pratt Pavilion, so the visiting recruits will get to watch the coaching staff and current team at work.

This Friday has been the traditional start of basketball practice on Oct. 15, but the Lady Vols have been on the court in full-scale sessions since Oct. 3 under a new NCAA rule.

The extra time has been beneficial for the freshmen, who continue to look impressive in preseason. Lauren Avant again delivered the ball well to Kelley Cain in transition and in half-court offenses, and during a scrimmage against the male practice team, she swiped the ball at mid-court and drove for a layup to give her team a last-second victory.

Redshirt junior forward Vicki Baugh, who is coming back from ACL surgery, has been very impressive, especially with her leaping ability and mobility. A recent strength test with Heather Mason revealed Baugh's vertical jump had increased to 28 inches – matching that of junior forward Glory Johnson – with both players exceeding the previous high for a Lady Vol set by Candace Parker at 27.5 inches.

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