Vicki Baugh, a 6'4 forward, had three surgeries that kept her out of competitive basketball for 21 months, but she has looked incrementally more mobile as her left leg gets used to court time again.
Kelley Cain, a 6'6 center, has chronic stiffness and soreness on her right side – cold weather aggravates it even more, and Knoxville is frigid – and her hip can sometimes need rest. Cain, who also had major surgery on her right knee, was able to practice Monday, one day after logging 13 minutes in the 74-44 win over Old Dominion, so that was a good sign.
Alyssia Brewer, a 6'3 forward/center, was on the court for the first time this season. She had surgery to fix a tear in her left Achilles tendon that was sliced open when a candle base shattered last August in her apartment. She missed all of the preseason conditioning but did make it through rehab a month ahead of schedule.
The trio considerably improve Tennessee's post game, and Glory Johnson, a 6'3 forward who has held down the paint in their absences and described herself as "lonesome post," has said she would welcome the help.
When Pat Summitt was asked about having her full team for the first time, she bent down and knocked on the wooden court at Pratt.
"It got bigger, but it's got to get healthy," Summitt said.
Brewer participated in some full court work but will need time to get into basketball shape. She wasn't allowed to do any conditioning for weeks and then worked her way into swimming and stationary bicycling before being allowed to do basketball activities in rehab.
"When Lyssi gets in great shape she can have a great impact on this team," Summitt said. "Just seeing her out there was good. She's just got to keep working and doing what she's got to do to get at a different level.
"When she gets in running shape up and down, gets her cardio back, it'll help us."
Relatively speaking, it's early in the season. The conference schedule doesn't start until January and postseason is three months away. There is time to incorporate the returning players into the team.
"Oh, yes, plenty of time," Summitt said.
Exams also end Thursday, and the players will be on break from school for several weeks so the focus will be basketball and not homework, papers, study hall and classes.
Freshman point guard Lauren Avant was on the court for the second time after severely spraining her ankle Nov. 14.
"She looked good today," Summitt said. "That's the best I've seen her look."
Junior point guard Briana Bass helped Avant between repetitions with one particular offensive set and patted the freshman on the back to encourage her. Summitt said she expects Avant to work her way into the rotation.
Monday's session came later than usual because of players having final exams scheduled in the morning and afternoon. The team will be off Tuesday and then return to the court Wednesday.
"It is a time that can be very stressful for the student-athletes," Summitt said.
The basketball court won't be any less stressful as Tennessee next faces Texas and Baylor on the road and then Stanford at home. Summitt has said the games would be a measuring stick for her team, but getting an accurate gauge is not a given because of the uncertainty of the health of her post players.
"That's all right. Because it's not postseason," Summitt said.
Baugh had an effective session Monday and as her hip and iliotibial band improve, she will get more court time at practice and in games.
Baugh struggled against Old Dominion with three turnovers, but at least one looked like a sweet move inside that was called a travel.
"A couple of them were questionable but you don't want to give the people who blow the whistle an opportunity," said Summitt, who indicated Baugh's pivot foot may have slipped. "But she's going to get better. She's going to get better. She's really anxious. She wants to be out there. She wants to be good. She wants to help us win. She's going to be fine. It's just going to take her awhile."
Summitt said Baugh needs to get into a rhythm on the low block to establish some early scoring.
"I think she needs to get more on the block and play within herself there," Summitt said. "She's been out. She wants to blend in and really make a difference right away. Sometimes when you do that (the drives and countermoves) it's a little more complicated. You just need to simplify. I think she'll settle down. Right now she's a little hyped up. I know she wasn't happy with her game overall, so we'll go from there."
Summitt said that Baugh's athleticism and ability to score in different ways in the paint would be beneficial. She also noted that Baugh is trying to focus on her balance – the knee injuries both came from landing on one foot on a drive to the basket.
"It's how she's played the game," Summitt said. "I think because she has been off the court so long she's working her way back, and I think she is totally aware of trying to land on both feet and be an efficient player. She's getting closer to that. It's all about developing better habits."
Summitt also is scheduling more individual film sessions with players as their academic commitments wind down, and that review is always beneficial. It also allows Summitt to get specific feedback from a player as they both watch a play unfold on the court in terms of decision-making and options.
"I met with some players individually and we'll continue to do so," Summitt said.
OLD DOMINION REVIEW: Tennessee handled Old Dominion rather handily, 74-44, after breaking open the game in the first half with its defensive pressure. Pat Summitt watched the game tape afterwards and offered some remarks Monday.
"I thought we made some progress," Summitt said. "It gave us a lot of great (film clips) of what we need to be working on, especially our defense and our post play. They were very athletic, and I think that was good for us. Overall, second half much better than the first half. Great crowd, really good environment for our team.
"We take that and now we get ready for Texas and Baylor, two teams that are going to be really tough, especially on the road. We've got to get better between now and when we go on the road to play teams that are going to really challenge us.
"We've always played a tough schedule, and I think we've benefited most of the time. It's all a wait and see to determine as to how this team is going to respond. I wouldn't say the Old Dominion game was a game that was All-World for us by any means. We gave in a lot, we turned the ball over too much. I think defense and board play they haven't invested at the level they have to for us to be a championship-caliber team.
"But I think they're learning."
TEXAS SCOUT: Coach Gail Goestenkors' Longhorns are next on the schedule – 1 p.m. Eastern, Fox Sports Net – and Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss, who left Texas' staff last spring to return to Tennessee, will handle that scouting report.
"If I was a betting woman, I would bet she is going to have that scout," Pat Summitt said with a smile. "It gives her a lot of knowledge. There is a lot of awareness of personnel and what sets they run. I don't know how much Gail's changed, but Mickie is very, very familiar with that team."
SEC HONORS: Meighan Simmons was selected as the SEC's Freshman of the Week when conference accolades were announced Monday.
Simmons led Tennessee to two wins last week – 99-55 victory over Lamar and 74-44 over Old Dominion. The Lamar game was her first start at point guard, and Simmons scored a career-high 28 points, including a Tennessee single-game record eight three-pointers, with a career-best five assists versus Lamar. She had 14 points and a team-high four assists in the ODU game.
Her two-game stats: 42 points, nine assists, four rebounds, four steals and a block while shooting 48.4 percent from the floor and 45 percent from behind the arc.
Simmons, who is from Cibolo, Texas, tied Candace Parker's rookie record for consecutive double-digit scoring games to start a career at nine and can break it and tie Glory Johnson's 10 this Sunday at Texas. Chamique Holdsclaw holds the record at 14 games.
Parker, who called Pat Summitt to rave about Simmons after seeing her play in the summer of 2009, said Monday on her Twitter account that she would be in "attendance to see it" in Austin.
"Meighan Simmons is really a special player and probably a better player than I even knew when I watched her," Summitt said. "I knew she was going to be good, but she has had some great games right off. And I think she's motivated some other players and that's important.
"I think Kamiko (Williams) is a better player because Meighan is on the floor. They've really had a pretty good connection. But also I don't want people standing around and watching Meighan play. I want everybody to participate."
ON POINT: Former Vol basketball player Bobby Maze was in Pratt Pavilion on Monday evening and ended up running the point spot for the male practice team against the Lady Vols.
Needless to say, that scout team got even quicker with the court savvy Maze setting up players, and several Lady Vols embraced the challenge. Maze also proved to be an excellent fill-in player – he pushed tempo, forcing the Lady Vols to get back in transition, and was an outstanding on-ball defender.
Maze falls under the same NCAA rule as former Lady Vols returning to campus and playing against the team, and was allowed to take the court for the workout. The Lady Vols checked with compliance before he practiced. While former Lady Vols have returned to practice this was the first time a former Vol asked to participate. Maze sat patiently against a wall while waiting for clearance.
Pat Summitt did have to make one change. Her usual policy is that a player with tattoos can't let them show, but with Maze that would have required a boxful of gauze as he has tattoos on his arms, legs, back and neck.
"I threw that out the window," Summitt said with a hearty laugh. "We made an exception. There's no doubt about it."
VIDEO COVERAGE: Video clips from Monday's practice, including the return of Alyssia Brewer and former Vol player Bobby Maze (red shorts) working out with the team.