Lady Vols get lots of preseason reps

With juniors Kamiko Williams and Taber Spani out of practice because of surgery and freshman Ariel Massengale sidelined under the program's concussion protocol after a collision with a teammate the Lady Vols had just eight players available Tuesday.

The good news is that the available players got a lot of repetitions, including freshmen Cierra Burdick and Isabelle Harrison. Another positive was that redshirt senior Vicki Baugh has now completed six up-tempo and full court practices without any knee issues.

The best news for the players, though, is that Wednesday is a scheduled off day. They had a full weekend with six recruits in town, a sluggish practice Monday and then a bounce-back one on Tuesday that pleased the coaches.

"It's a veteran team so that is what you would hope that our leaders would come out and get everybody ready to practice," Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss said after Tuesday's session at the arena. "Yesterday was one of those days. It's like their feet were in quicksand."

The Lady Vols are still in preseason conditioning, too, so October is a challenging month. The first exhibition game is Nov. 1.

Freshman point guard Ariel Massengale, who collided with Burdick during drills involving hand-offs and screening action towards the end of Monday's session, is officially listed as day to day. She left the court after the collision, didn't return to Monday's session and wasn't on hand Tuesday.

The concussion protocol means a player won't return to practice until she passes certain physical and cognitive tests. The player also has to be evaluated and released by a physician. The recovery time depends on severity and concussion history, and players can be out for a couple of days to a couple of weeks.

Senior forward Alicia Manning is nicked up but still on the court and has looked solid in practice. She sprained her left thumb and is wearing a soft cast but has not seemed to be slowed down by it at all.

Junior guard Kamiko Williams had ACL surgery last July and has made outstanding progress. She was able to run up the arena steps Tuesday as part of her rehab and completed the circuit by sprinting up to the concourse, taking the elevator down to court level and repeating the process. However, she remains quite a ways from basketball workouts, though her overall progress in rehab is a good sign for Williams' long-term knee health.

"Kamiko has worked really hard with her rehab," DeMoss said.

Junior guard/forward Taber Spani had surgery last week on her left elbow to remove scar tissue, and has been getting sideline rehab and riding a stationary bicycle. The left-hander has been cleared to work on her right hand and has been shooting free throws and paint shots with her off hand.

"I love it," DeMoss said during an interview after practice while watching Spani drop one-handed floaters through the net with her right hand.

Spani, who went through a lengthy foot recovery last summer – during which time she also managed to get in excellent shape despite the down time – also can be counted on to report back in condition when she is cleared for full practice.

"She will do what she is supposed to be doing," DeMoss said.

The Tennessee coaches are glad it's mid-October with plenty of time for Massengale and Spani to recover and be ready for the start of the season. The first official game is Nov. 13 against Pepperdine in Knoxville followed by Miami on Nov. 15, also at home.

Tennessee started preseason practice this month with nine players with Spani expected back soon, likely within two weeks. With Massengale now out that left just eight players for Tuesday's practice, and the male practice squad members stepped in to help fill out sides for some drills.

"If we're going to suffer injuries, now is the time to have it," DeMoss said. "But, again, our roster is not real deep."

Tennessee will be back on the practice court Thursday with sessions also scheduled for Friday and Saturday. Sunday will be the second off day of the week.

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