Lady Vols get defensive

The basketball team met with the media Wednesday at Pratt Pavilion before practice. Go inside with Inside Tennessee for the latest on the Lady Vols.

Holly Warlick was on the practice court Wednesday afternoon with the Lady Vols. On Thursday afternoon she will be on a dais in Hoover, Ala., for SEC Media Day, her first stint at the daylong event as head coach of Tennessee.

Warlick has experience with the media surge – SEC Network, Fox Sports and ESPN also are present, along with beat writers and television reporters who cover the 14 league schools – as she accompanied Pat Summitt to Hoover a year ago as associate head coach.

The media's predicted order of finish was released this week with Tennessee slotted at fourth place. Kentucky was picked to win the SEC, followed by Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Missouri and Alabama.

"When you lose five starters, you're not going to be picked number one. Or number two or number three," Warlick said. "This just tells us how hard we need to work and where we need to go. We're hunting now; we're not the hunted. We understand where we are and we're going to continue to get better."

Missouri and Texas A&M will participate in their first basketball SEC Media Day as the schools joined the league, effective in 2012. Texas A&M may be a newcomer, but coach Gary Blair is well known around the SEC because he was the longtime coach at Arkansas.

With the Aggies' entrance into the SEC, the league now has two teams that have won national titles – Tennessee with eight and Texas A&M, which won the championship in 2011.

Wednesday's session at Pratt Pavilion had a heavy dose of defensive drills. The newcomers, forwards Bashaara Graves, Jasmine Jones and Nia Moore and guards Andraya Carter and Jasmine Phillips are making the adjustment to up-tempo and lengthier practices. They also are learning a college system on both ends of the court, a task more loaded with responsibility for first-year guards because they handle the ball so much.

"I think Bashaara Graves has been the most steady, as far as the freshmen are concerned," Warlick said. "Jasmine Jones is playing with unbelievable intensity and athleticism. Andraya Carter is having to learn a lot from the point position. I think she's catching on and is going to get there.

"I think Nia is a bit behind just because she wasn't here this summer. I think we have to be patient with her and Jasmine Phillips, as well. This is a new program for them and a new system. I think they're going to help us, but they're not where they need to be, but we're going to get them there."

Phillips has been held out of a practice this week for what was termed a "nonathletic left quad" injury, and she is officially listed as day to day.

The coaches and players were very chatty Wednesday on the court – assistant coach Jolette Law handled some defensive drills and flashed some nifty footwork while demonstrating to a player how to maintain position – and it seemed to be an upbeat and productive midweek session.

Jones and Graves again were impressive and should be able to provide immediate help for the team. There is depth at the guard spot – Ariel Massengale has found her voice as a sophomore and is using it on the court – but Carter showed why she will push anyone for playing time. She practices at full speed in every drill and had a teammate spinning on defense with a fake and then dart to the basket.

With five newcomers, the Lady Vol staff welcomes the exhibition games. The first one is next week on Thursday, Nov. 1, against Carson-Newman at 7 p.m. Eastern at the Thompson-Boling Arena. The second one is Sunday, Nov. 4, against Coker at 2 p.m. Eastern at the arena.

"I think we do need exhibition games," Warlick said. "We need to understand what we do in a game, how we sit, how we do a jump ball … all those things. We need to get good film footage on them.

"At the scrimmage last Saturday, we played everybody just so we can get some film on them, to be able to work and watch them and make it a teaching moment. I think these exhibition games will be a great teaching moment for them."


Wednesday practice clips

Coach Holly Warlick

Cierra Burdick

Bashaara Graves

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