Women's Pilot league enters second year

Nine current or incoming Lady Vols are committed to playing this summer in the Women's Pilot Rocky Top League, which is entering its second season and will be played beginning in late June at Christian Academy of Knoxville.

Habibi Andre, the coordinator of the league, said the second season had generated considerable interest from players and would consist of six teams of 11 members each. Play will begin June 27 at Christian Academy of Knoxville.

CAK is air-conditioned – a benefit for players and attendees – and is part of Andre's rotation to benefit local schools. Admission is free with concession sales donated to the host school. Last year's league games were played at Catholic High School with Webb School of Knoxville slated as the 2012 site.

The later date was dictated by the NCAA in terms of when Division I players would be cleared to compete. Andre opted to compress the schedule into two weeks to accommodate those players – most will be in first term summer school at the time – and allow fans to enjoy the Women's Pilot Rocky Top League in a time period during which Tennessee Lady Vol players would be available.

Andre said the appeal of the league is predicated on the participation of the Lady Vols, and she thanked Head Coach Pat Summitt for allowing her players to be a part of the league.

"To me that's critical," Andre said. "She has been extremely supportive. That's who people want to see."

The relaxed format – Tennessee coaches are not allowed to be present by NCAA rules – allows fans to sit and chat with the players, take photos and get autographs. The Lady Vols who played last summer were accommodating and friendly with fans.

"They are so open to giving autographs," Andre said.

The current players committed to playing are rising seniors Glory Johnson, Alicia Manning, Alyssia Brewer and Shekinna Stricklen; rising juniors Taber Spani and Kamiko Williams; rising sophomore Meighan Simmons; and incoming Lady Vols Isabelle Harrison and Cierra Burdick. Several players could be absent depending on USA basketball commitments, but if not otherwise engaged they will participate.

Others committed to the league are former Lady Vols Brittany Jackson, Courtney McDaniel and Dominique Redding. Also, former Lady Vol Faith Dupree, who was at Tennessee for one year before transferring to Tennessee-Chattanooga, will be in the league. Webb School of Knoxville standout Marjorie Butler, who wowed crowds last summer and has committed to Georgia, will also play.

The league will hold a draft for the Lady Vol players and then round out the rosters with the other participants.

Andre said she opted to squeeze the schedule into two weeks to make sure the Lady Vol players would be available. Had the league gone three weeks as a year ago it would have dipped into second summer school session when a number of Tennessee players head home.

The scheduled dates are: Monday, June 27, Tuesday, June 28 and Thursday, June 30, followed by Tuesday, July 5, Wednesday, July 6, and Thursday, July 7.

Andre has lined up six corporate sponsors for the league, including adidas, which will once again provide uniforms and T-shirts. The other five sponsors are Pilot, Duncan Automotive, the News Sentinel, DeRoyal and Pinnacle.

Andre, who has shepherded the league from infancy to fruition, said she had no hesitations about a second summer.

"No doubt, no questions, very pleased," Andre said. "I am very proud of it. It's been great."

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