The book on Pat Summitt

Pat Summitt had to keep a tissue handy, but she obviously wasn't watching game tape of the 90-37 wipeout of Old Dominion. The head coach was reading the tribute letters from former Lady Vols that had been bound into a book.

Former Lady Vol Chamique Holdsclaw spearheaded the project by contacting former players and asking them to jot down their thoughts about Pat Summitt. The idea came to Holdsclaw following the announcement last summer that her college coach had early onset dementia.

She said in a video (see below) on the Lady Vols' YouTube channel that she didn't know what to say to Summitt so she started writing about it in her journal. That prompted Holdsclaw to contact other players and managers who had spent time on Rocky Top.

The result was a bound book with photos of the players telling Summitt what she had meant to them over the years. Holdsclaw presented the book to Summitt on Wednesday at the team's pre-game meal before the Old Dominion tipoff.

At least 20 former Lady Vols made the meal, including Michelle Marciniak, Sidney Spencer and Carla McGhee, who couldn't stay for the game because she is an assistant at AuburnTennessee's next opponent – and NCAA rules don't allow for in-person scouting sessions.

When Summitt arrived for the standard gathering with her current team, she saw a crowded dining area.

"I thought, ‘Well, something is going on,' " Summitt said with a grin.

Summitt was able to scan the book during the presentation and then read it closely once she got home Wednesday night. She had to pause Thursday before talking about it, and her eyes got teary.

"It's phenomenal," Summitt said. "It was very touching. It was just phenomenal. The book is unbelievable. It is special that they put all this together. I had no idea.

"It really touched my heart."

Holdsclaw, who won three national titles at Tennessee, has also endured her share of personal trials with the unexpected death of the grandmother who raised her and a battle with severe depression that she lately publicly talked about and said nearly drove her to suicide.

"Chamique put this whole thing together," Summitt said. "We have a great relationship. She's reached out to me in a lot of different ways. She's been the one that rallied all the troops and had everybody there.

"Right now she is in a great place. I am just so proud of her. She is very confident. She is happy."

The same can be said of Summitt.

LADY VOLS VIDEO

PRACTICE REPORT: The Lady Vols were back on the practice court Thursday – with school out the coaches are taking advantage of each available day – and will work again Friday before leaving Saturday for Auburn.

"We did a ton of defense still," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "We broke down our press, and we kind of cleaned up some of our offensive sets and attacking on the offensive end."

Warlick also was inclined to leave Alicia Manning in the starting lineup – it was Pat Summitt's idea to put her there against Old Dominion – and when asked about it, the associate head coach formed a question of her own.

Why would we take her out?" Warlick said. "A-Town is playing really well right now."

In addition to the usual box score stats, the Lady Vols chart deflections, and Manning and freshman Cierra Burdick had at least six each, according to Warlick.

The coaches have talked since September about playing Tennessee basketball.

"Rebounding and defense," Warlick said with a nod when asked if that is what Manning brings to the court.

Manning's emergence is well timed, too. Junior guard/forward Taber Spani was held out of practice Thursday to rest her sore left knee.

Spani is officially listed as day to day and is under evaluation. She sustained a bone bruise/sprained knee on Nov. 20 – the third game of the season – when a Virginia player celebrating an and-one play backed into Spani, clipped her knee and sent her to the floor in a hard fall, which is one of the most bizarre ways to ever get injured.

Prior to that game, Spani had unveiled her ability to score off the bounce against Miami, along with hitting four treys. She also played solid defense on the perimeter en route to scoring 20 points with five boards and three assists in 39 minutes of court time against the Hurricanes.

It is the third injury to befall Spani – she recovered from a serious foot injury that hobbled her during her freshman year and played through an elbow injury that popped loose her bursa sac as a sophomore.

Manning doesn't have the offensive punch of Spani, but she scored 18 points in the last two games while grabbing 19 boards with seven steals, seven assists and zero turnovers.

For the season, Manning has 19 assists to just nine turnovers and leads the team in steals at 20 despite being seventh in minutes played at 17.8 per game. She also is fourth in rebounding at 5.0 per game.

"She brings energy to this team," senior Shekinna Stricklen said. "She lights everybody up. When she is out on the floor and you see how hard she goes, it's going to make you go hard."


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