Lady Vols being tested at practice

The Lady Vols returned to practice Friday with a determined coaching staff that didn't let off the throttle for more than two-and-half hours in Pratt Pavilion. Lauren Avant was back on the court after missing nearly three weeks with an ankle sprain while Vicki Baugh was off the floor but this time only because a final exam conflicted with the session.

Exams started Thursday for Tennessee, and Pat Summitt was in full classroom mode Friday, along with her staff. The team will travel Saturday to Norfolk, Va., and hold a light court session later that afternoon at Old Dominion with tipoff set for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Constant Center.

"This is not the first and it won't be the last," Summitt said of the very noticeable intensity of Friday's practice. "This team has got a long way to go in understanding how hard you have to play this game. That has become crystal clear.

"They give in to fatigue. We watched the tape of our last game, and I could not watch anymore. We've got to go back to work."

The players might have almost had a reason for fatigue Friday as practice began with a layup drill in which players had to not miss for two minutes at full speed in the full court. If a single player missed, the clock restarted. All went fairly well right-handed, but when the drill switched sides and all layups were left-handed, a few players missed late – once with 6.8 seconds left in the drill – and the clock re-set. It took several restarts to finish the drill.

Three players, Alicia Manning, Glory Johnson and Meighan Simmons, did not act at all winded and kept a rapid pace throughout the lengthy and up-tempo drill. Freshman Lauren Avant also hung in there for the drill – it was her first practice in nearly three weeks – and when she was offered a chance to take a breather afterwards, she declined. Avant has been fully released to return to practice.

"It was great to see her back," Summitt said. "She's another guard that can help us out particularly when we have people that can't quite push through (fatigue) at certain times."

Avant, however, will not be available for Sunday's game because of violation of Summitt's missed class policy. Summitt's rule is no missed class without prior permission from the basketball office regardless of university or professor policies, and she has not wavered from it for decades.

"She's not going to travel," Summitt said. "I don't know what you don't know about that at this point in your life when you come here."

Despite the layoff, Avant looked solid on the court, especially on defense, and had a nice baseline drive and bucket on offense. It is quite clear that she can help the team this season.

Summitt watched the film of Tennessee's 99-55 win over Lamar and while the offense was rather electric she wasn't satisfied at all with the defense, especially in transition.

"Everybody ran back to the paint," Summitt said. "There must be a pot of gold somewhere in that area. That is the only thing I can figure. It looked like a high school team.

"I take full responsibility, and I can guarantee you we're going to be on top of all the details. And we will find a group at some point in time."

Summitt can be a taskmaster – and she actually went fairly easy on the team when the current juniors were freshmen – but she apparently has realized she will have to be the one to push the buttons and start the engines for the foreseeable future.

"Brace yourself. It's happening," Summitt said. "I definitely have to do it."

She added, "For me it is mind-boggling that you would come to Tennessee, tell us that you want to win a championship and not be invested every day, every possession. Surprised, disappointed, disappointed in our lack of leadership."

Vicki Baugh missed the session to take a final exam, which end next Thursday campus-wide. She did make it to Pratt in time to join the team in its weight-lifting workout.

"We missed Vicki being here, but I wanted to see what everybody else would do," Summitt said. "You have to dial everybody up. I am tired of dialing everybody up. It's time for them to dial themselves up and say, ‘Hey, Coach, we're ready.'

"It's going to happen or else. We'll cut the numbers way down (in the rotation)."

Summitt was peeved Friday with sophomore guard Kamiko Williams and indicated it was unlikely that she would start Sunday.

"She's one of the best athletes we have but the mental capacity (to not hit a steep decline when fatigued) has not set in," Summitt said. "We need her."

Summitt singled out Manning for the way she responded Friday. She was gassed in the layup drill – as was the entire team – but Manning didn't show it until it ended.

"A-Town right now is one of our toughest competitors," Summitt said. "She never shows any fatigue. That's because of her mindset. She has the mentality of fighting through things. She is not going to give in. She'll fight you to the very end of any game or any play or any situation.

"That's who she is. We need more people like her. Day in and day out and every possession of every game."

Summitt indicated she would stick with Simmons at point guard, though Shekinna Stricklen can't be removed from the rotation there just yet.

"Meighan is not one who is going to give in to fatigue very much," Summitt said. "If she does you can see it, and I can do something about it. Kamiko is my biggest concern because she's the other guard that can be such a difference maker, and she gives in to fatigue a whole lot sooner than any other guard. If we can get her to a different level now we are at a different level, and we've got the depth at the point position that we need."

It wasn't a quiet Friday to say the least. Bruce Pearl and his Vols team were on the other side of Pratt Pavilion, and he could often be heard over the din on the women's side. When that session ended, walk-on Tyler Summitt came over to watch the women's practice. Tyler Summitt, who was a practice player for the Lady Vols last season and remains close to the team, spent some time talking to Williams between sets.

Kelley Cain was able to practice and went the distance. Her presence in the post, along with Baugh, can change Tennessee on both ends, but both deal with stiffness and soreness that can affect their mobility.

"I thought she was moving a little better today," Summitt said.

Tennessee has gotten quite a bit of production out of its guards in the absence of a deep post game – Johnson is the only healthy true post at this time but Alyssia Brewer could be back next week after having Achilles tendon surgery last September.

"We need Lyssi Brewer," Summitt said. "She's got to get healthy."

The guard play, while outstanding at times, has "just got to be more consistent across the board," Summitt said. "That's the frustration for our coaching staff. It's almost like when somebody says, ‘OK, are you ready for game time, my thought is, ‘We'll wait and see.' Waiting and seeing shouldn't even be in the language. It should be, ‘We're ready.' '

"I think a lot of that has been because of the type of personality we've had on this team. We have to define a personality that is a competitive nature and people that are invested all the time."

VIDEO COVERAGE: Video clips of Friday's practice.


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