Lady Vols being pushed in preseason

The Lady Vols were on the practice court Wednesday and met with the media to discuss preparations for the season. Go inside with Inside Tennessee for the latest on the team, including video coverage.

Head coach Holly Warlick has a young team – five are beginning their first year at Tennessee – and the weeks of preseason conditioning plus longer practices beginning last week have been a challenge.

"We've been going pretty hard," Warlick said Wednesday. "(Yesterday) we got up for a 6 a.m. workout and then had a three-hour practice. I think our time we've spent putting in the hours caught up to us yesterday.

"Overall, I've been pretty pleased with our efforts. Been able to pick up on what we're trying to teach. Overall, I'm very pleased."

The team was back on the court Wednesday for another long practice – Thursday will be a lighter day – and worked on a mixture of defensive and transition drills.

For now, Warlick is using fewer male practice players, especially in the full court drills, so that the players can go against each other and get extra conditioning. By playing five on five – with just one sub with a roster of 11 – there are very few rest breaks because one group is not waiting to rotate back onto the court. In some half-court drills – and especially with the post players needing to battle size and strength in the paint – the Lady Vols went against the males.

The tempo was fast paced Wednesday, and the players, the newcomers in particular, are being pushed.

"I think they're understanding how physical the game is and how quick it is, keeping up with the tempo," Warlick said. "I think that's probably the hardest thing for them is the up and down and the change.

"Everything is physical, hitting and boxing out, those types of things. I think they're adjusting to that. I think overall, their athletic ability really stands out, and I like what I see from the freshmen."

Some observations from Inside Tennessee:

The Jasmines are going to help the team.

Jasmine Phillips is a sophomore juco guard who can keep a player in front of her on defense. She also made a drive to the basket Wednesday from the wing in which she made a sharp cut, curled around the defender and stuck the short jumper. It was an athletic play from beginning to end.

Jasmine Jones is a freshman forward who is versatile enough to play inside and out. She grabbed a defensive board and immediately headed down court. She went coast to coast – she is 6'2 but has perimeter ball-handling skills – and finished the play at the opposite rim.

Freshman post Bashaara Graves doesn't shy away from contact. She is a physical player who will battle on the boards. She also blocked an interior shot by a guard – who appeared to have a clear lane to the basket – in what looked like a volleyball spike. Fellow freshman post Nia Moore also is holding her own. She will have to get stronger – Graves arrived on campus with upper body strength – but she hustles at practice. She also has a consistent stroke at the free throw line.

Freshman guard Andraya Carter is active on defense, anticipates passes and deflects balls. She will upgrade the defense when she is on the court.

All five of the newcomers will need to talk more on the court. But it is hard for first-year players because, one, they get fatigued – it's hard to chat when catching your breath – and, two, they don't always know what to say. They are learning the defensive concepts and terminology and it takes time.

Sophomore point guard Ariel Massengale is shooting the three ball in preseason – and sticking it. She passed up that shot too often last season. She has to hit some this season for the Lady Vols to draw out the defense. She also is noticeably more vocal.

Junior guard Meighan Simmons made some pinpoint passes in practice to the open player. She knows that defenses will key on her this season, so she has had to diversify her game and develop different weapons with the ball in her hands. If Simmons, Massengale and Taber Spani can occupy their defenders to the arc, it will open up the inside for the post players and create driving lanes.

Assistant coach Kyra Elzy is very vocal at practice. She is demanding of the players, and they respond well to her. She seems to have a natural ability to know when to praise and when to push.

The first exhibition game is Nov. 1 against Carson-Newman at 7 p.m. Eastern at Thompson-Boling Arena. The regular season starts with two games on the road – at Chattanooga on Nov. 9 and at Georgia Tech on Nov. 11.

"We're just focusing on these 11 players and trying to get the best that we can out of each and every one of us and becoming the best team that we can be," Spani said. "We'll let the results take care of themselves."


Practice clips

Isabelle Harrison

Taber Spani

Meighan Simmons

Holly Warlick

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