Lady Vols host Union this evening

When Izzy Harrison watched ABC's 20/20 feature on Pat Summitt, one thing the coach said really stuck with her, and the already motivated freshman now has even more reason to work hard this season.

"I am appreciative of where I am at," Isabelle Harrison said. "Not many people get to wear Tennessee across their chest. And especially watching 20/20 just having her say what keeps her going is us and how many players came before us and why she keeps coming back is because of the players.

"It's not the money. It's none of that. It's us coming out here working every day. I can show her I want to do this for her and show that we can win for her."

Harrison, a 6'3 forward from Nashville, Tenn., has been the surprise player in the class of 2011. The other two, Ariel Massengale and Cierra Burdick, had lengthy resumes with stints with USA basketball and All-American honors. Harrison slipped in under the radar and has been a delight for the coaching staff because of attitude and work ethic.

"She's got a good skill set," Pat Summitt said. "Her post game is solid."

"She is high energy, too," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "She brings athletic ability that is pretty solid in the post."

As always, Harrison ended practice Monday by finding Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood for some extra drill work in the paint.

Harrison said part of her motivation is her reaction to Summitt revealing a diagnosis of early onset dementia and pushing through it to continue coaching. The way Harrison sees it, if her coach can do that, how hard is to go hard as a player.

"Why not?" Harrison asked.

Harrison also is ready for the second exhibition game, which tips off tonight at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena against Union University, a powerhouse in NAIA with five national titles and a runner-up finish in 2011. A webcast will be available on the Tennessee Lady Vols website.

When Harrison checked in at the scorer's table for the first time last week against Carson-Newman, a lot was going through her mind.

"It's happening," Harrison said. "It's my first college game. I'm nervous for a good reason because I'm excited to be here. So when I get in the game again I know this is where I want to be, and she respects me enough to put me on the floor and she knows what I can do."

Harrison also will have her sister in the stands this time. DeeDee Harrison, a standout Lady Vol volleyball player was on the road last week.

"When she was up here and I was still at Hillsboro (High School), she came up to my games and watched them," Izzy said. "It gives me comfort to have a family member there. That will help."

Harrison was anxious during the game last week. She thinks that is out of her system now.

"I got real tired just because I was really anxious to play, but I got all my nerves out the first game," Harrison said. "I know what to expect so when I go out there the next time I'll gather myself, collect myself and think through what I've got to do."

Harrison had a solid debut against Carson-Newman with five points, eight rebounds, five blocks, an assist and a steal in 19 minutes of play, and the coaches expect she will build on that Tuesday evening.

"I think she's already more settled and should be calmer," Summitt said.

Harrison has already made strides in strength and conditioning since arriving on campus last June. Local fans who saw her play in the Women's Pilot Rocky Top League and then saw her in November likely noticed changes in her physique already.

"Heather Mason," Harrison said by way of explanation. "Weights go up, and you've just got to get more reps, and you've always got something left in you.

"So I try my best, especially since I didn't lift weights in high school. We didn't do it so I am taking advantage of it now."

Harrison also has changed her gait from an odd one of stepping high on the balls of her feet with extremely short strides to a normal running motion.

"I was running like a deer," Harrison said. "I was fast down the court, but Heather taught me about speed mechanics and pushing off the floor. It was in Pratt one day and I had an early morning workout before class, and she was teaching me. It's working."

Harrison has been a quick study all the way around since she arrived at Tennessee with Lockwood praising her ability to take instruction in a drill and apply it to live action. She also watches the other post players, Vicki Baugh, Glory Johnson and Alicia Manning.

"I keep a close eye on Vicki and all the posts because they are all very different," Harrison said. "I keep an eye on Glory because I feel like we are built alike. Her elevation is ridiculous. I am hoping to get up to that.

"And I look up to Vicki because of her strength, and I want to acquire that, too, and her post moves and how she gathers herself when she catches the ball. I need to work on that, too.

"And A-Town, she thinks through her stuff, too, and she can play either or (inside and out), so I want to do both, too, one day. So I am looking up to all three of them. It helps a lot."

Harrison especially looks to Baugh on and off the court, so much so that her teammates call her "Mini Me Izzy."

"The Mini Me comes from Vicki," Harrison said. "We do things together. We are a lot alike, and I didn't expect it. Outside Vicki looks like a mean person, but she really is super sweet. And she's funny. If you are funny you can be my best friend all day."

Mason helped forge the bond by assigning Harrison extra sit-ups if Baugh faltered on any conditioning drill over the summer.

"Heather was giving me the sit-ups," Harrison said. "Vicki was like, ‘I can't do that to Izzy.' That is how Heather does it."

Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss welcomes the interaction between the first-year player and the fifth-year redshirt senior.

"She does whatever Vicki tells her to do," DeMoss said. "Whatever Vicki does, she does."

If Harrison misses a shot, Baugh is in her ear saying, " ‘Don't get discouraged if you miss the shot. Do you see me get discouraged? You hold your head up and you knock the next shot down,' " DeMoss said.

Between that kind of communication and freshman Ariel Massengale chirping a little bit at an upperclassman to run a drill in game speed last week, the coaches are smiling.

"We can focus on the strategy when you have players taking care of players," DeMoss said.

Part of that strategy has been to let the posts do what the coaches call "dribble bust," or take the defensive rebound and push the fast break.

"I am not surprised because our posts can dribble," Harrison said. "With our power and our athleticism we can get down the court just as well as our guards. I am glad she is letting us do that. It gets us up and down the floor."

The coaches are trying to find the balance between letting the posts attack and making good decisions. The staff agrees that the team has been too passive at times the past three seasons, so they don't want to squash any aggressiveness, especially early in the process.

"There were a couple of times Vicki could have kicked to shooters," DeMoss said. "She draws a lot of attention in that paint. You don't want to take her aggressiveness away because that is something this team has lacked.

"We've got to have that balance that allows her to do that but the next step to build on that (is to distribute the ball to get it back later in the possession or hit the open shooter)."

There was one possession against Carson-Newman when Baugh went into the paint with defenders waiting. Had she kicked to the wing, the shooter would have either had a wide-open shot or, if the defense shifted to the shooter, Baugh could have gotten the ball back with a nice look at the rim. Baugh is getting back in game mode after a lengthy layoff because of injuries so the coaches are being patient.

With Baugh at 6'4 and Harrison and Johnson both at 6'3, that presents a matchup issue for opponents in the open court.

"They can't get matched up," DeMoss said. "It could be an advantage for us because when a post is bringing it up, transition defenders get confused. Usually a guard picks the ball up because a guard brings the ball up. But now am I picking up the ball or am I getting back? Who's picking up the post?

"It could cause a lot of confusion for your opponents if we can go down and make something productive happen. We did about 50 percent of the time. Vicki had a couple of turnovers in that situation and a couple of times she went all the way to the hole.

"If we can get more production out of it than we do turnovers, then we'll be fine with it. But if we keep doing it, and we're not making good decisions then we're going to have to get the ball out of their hands."

Baugh played that style in high school and looks to push the ball down the court when she gets the rebound. Unlike a traditional post, she is not looking to immediately make an outlet pass. Her willingness to run also gets her teammates hustling down the floor with her, and the coaches especially like that offshoot of Baugh pushing tempo.

"We have to be smart in doing this," DeMoss said. "She instinctively likes to get it off the glass and go with it. There may be times where we have to pull the reins in if guards pick her.

"We don't want to take her aggressiveness away, but she's got to be smart being aggressive."

Union should provide a stiffer test for Tennessee in the second exhibition game because the Lady Bulldogs have big stage experience from their national success. They hung tough with Tennessee a year ago for a half before the Lady Vols pulled away to win 86-53.

"This will be a better opportunity for us," Summitt said.

Union has already played two official games this season and has started 2-0. The Lady Bulldogs should have some supporters in the stands. The school put together a package trip for boosters and fans that included the game and two nights at The Inn at Christmas Place in nearby Pigeon Forge.

Harrison is looking forward to her second college game and expects to have a lot less on her mind when she checks in tonight. She distilled it to three words.

"Get it done," Harrison said.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt is expected to start: Ariel Massengale 5'6 freshman guard, No. 5; Meighan Simmons, 5'9 sophomore guard, No. 10; Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 senior guard/forward, No. 40; Glory Johnson, 6'3 senior forward, No. 25; and Vicki Baugh, redshirt senior forward/center, No. 21.

The coaches are eager to get an early look at a healthier Massengale. She had just been activated last week before the exhibition game after missing three weeks because of a concussion and came off the bench.

"She's good to go," Summitt said.

The coaches intend to bring senior forward Alicia Manning off the bench because she provides an immediate boost with her dedication to defense and rebounding.

"Pat and I were just talking about that," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "She gives us a punch, energy."

"She plays within herself," Summitt said. "She just has a really good feel for the game, and paint points are right up her alley."

Union Coach Mark Campbell is expected to start: LaTesa McLaughlin 5'5 sophomore guard, hails from Millington, Tenn.; Paige Parker 5'11 sophomore guard, hails from Hanceville, Ala.; Lavanda Ross 5'8 senior guard, hails from Jackson, Tenn.; Shelby Ashcraft, 6'0 sophomore forward, hails from Cabot, Ark; and Adenike Dawodu 6'3 freshman center, hails from Lagos, Nigeria.

Campbell earned his 400th win in the season opener with a 79-62 victory over Hannibal-LaGrange (Mo). He has just 48 losses for a .893 winning percentage.

Union is the favorite to win the TranSouth Conference, and Ross, an NAIA All-American, was selected as the conference's preseason player of the year.

Union competes now in the NAIA but has started the process to convert to NCAA Division II and join the Gulf South Conference.

SIGNING TIME: The high school class of 2012 can sign letters of intent beginning Wednesday during the early signing period. All three of Tennessee's commits, Andraya Carter, Bashaara Graves and Jasmine Jones, intend to sign this week.

Graves, a 6'2 forward, will sign on Wednesday afternoon in a Clarksville (Tenn.) High School ceremony with her teammates. The starting lineup is all signing LOIs to Division I schools.

Jones, a 6'1 forward, will sign Thursday morning at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala.

Carter, a 5'8 guard, will sign Saturday, which is also her birthday, in a ceremony at Buford (Ga.) High School.

Tennessee also is pursuing a juco post with the primary target at this time being Wilka Montout, a 6'5 center from French Guiana, South America, who plays at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami, Okla., for Coach Jim Rowland. Junior college players can sign with Division I schools next spring.

VIDEO COVERAGE

Izzy Harrison

Monday practice clips


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