Jordan Reynolds delivers early

While Jordan Reynolds is just a freshman, she is expected to be a solid contributor for Tennessee this season and is already making connections on the court. Go inside to read about the newcomer and get ready for Sunday's game.

Jordan Reynolds smiles as she sits down in the lobby of Pratt Pavilion – dressed for practice and punctual for her media interview. The freshman from Portland, Ore., has logged minutes in all four games this season and is sure to see action Sunday when No. 3/4 Tennessee (4-0) takes on Oakland (0-4) at 2:05 p.m. Eastern at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The game will be streamed over the Internet by Tennessee and can be watched by CLICKING HERE AT TIP TIME.

It will be the first-ever meeting between Oakland, which is located in Rochester, Mich., and Tennessee. Assistant coach Dean Lockwood, who is from Michigan, used his contacts there to fill the slot on the home schedule when the Lady Vols needed to add a contest without a return game. The Golden Grizzlies play in the Horizon League and have opened the season with games against Indiana and Miami and now Tennessee.

On paper, the Lady Vols should be able to spread minutes throughout the 10-player roster before departing next week for the Bahamas and matchups with Virginia and either Kansas State or SMU. If the starters take care of the opening – and coach Holly Warlick is likely to leave the veteran lineup in place – the staff should be able to get valuable minutes for the bench.

Reynolds has taken advantage of her time on the court by showing the ability to run, hit corner threes, find fellow freshman Mercedes Russell inside and take care of the ball.

Against Georgia Tech a week ago, Reynolds' two assists came when she got the ball to Russell – once in the half-court, when the two did an excellent job of pass and reposition, and then in transition.

Reynolds, who is from Portland, Ore., and Russell, who is from Springfield, Ore., played together in summer league basketball, and the familiarity shows and is also still developing.

"It's a little bit of both," Reynolds said. "We did play together before we came, and we did have a little bit of a connection, but it's been growing because we've been playing a lot more together every day with practice. So it is a little bit of both."

Russell is certainly easy to find inside at 6-6.

"Exactly," Reynolds said. "Plus, she runs the floor, so that's an even bigger bonus. When we are running fast breaks, I can find her. She is always up there ready to ready to rebound, ready to get the pass. It's awesome."

Put Reynolds in the growing camp of those who believe the freshman post is actually closer to 6-7.

"I think she's bigger than 6-6," Reynolds said.

A third Oregon player will be on the roster next season in Jaime Nared, an athletic wing from Portland and close friend of Reynolds.

"I was so excited," Reynolds said of her reaction to Nared's commitment to Tennessee. "I called her the second I found out and I cried. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I just can't believe that she's coming.'

"It will be great to have another face that is familiar from home but also to have another great player coming in, someone that you have played with and already know their game."

Prior to the arrival of Russell and Reynolds, only one player from the state of Oregon had been in orange in Laurie Milligan, who played from 1994-98. In one year, there will be a trio of Oregonians on the roster.

"We've always, always loved Tennessee growing up," Reynolds said. "I remember we used to watch the games together. I thought it was a great coincidence that we all got to come to the same school."

Reynolds, Russell and Nared were in middle school when the Lady Vols caught their attention across the coast during the national title years of 2007 and 2008. Credit goes to Pat Summitt's national schedule and television.

They were always on TV. They were always winning," Reynolds said. "You always looked up to them. Role models like Candace Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle. 2007. 2008. Back to back."

That speaks to the power of Final Fours and championships to reach the next generation of women's basketball stars. The Lady Vols haven't been back to the game's biggest stage since 2008, but they have come tantalizingly close with three consecutive Elite Eight berths.

Reynolds has the athleticism and talent to be a critical contributor to getting the Lady Vols to Nashville, the site of the 2014 Women's Final Four. She has embraced the challenge.

"I saw that it was a small roster," Reynolds said. "Everyone needs to do something. Everyone needs to contribute. I knew that I had a responsibility whenever I am in – distribute the ball when I need to distribute the ball, shoot the ball when I need to shoot the ball. Play my role and do whatever I can for my team."

With Russell and posts Isabelle Harrison, Bashaara Graves and Nia Moore commanding attention inside with their size and skill, a guard can often find herself alone in the corner for an open three. Reynolds has shown the ability to knock those down. She is pleasantly surprised as interior scoring and slashing were staples of her game in high school.

"I don't know where that came from, so I am just glad that it is going in," Reynolds said. "I don't know how that's working, but it is. You have to be able to knock down shots, especially if it's a big game.

"So that's my main focus right now, being able to hit shots when I need to or any open shot."

Reynolds has adjusted to the offense, primarily because the emphasis has been transition – and defense.

"I thought it was going to be so many plays, so many things to remember," she said. "But now that we're running them all the time, you get them down and you remember them. With our team we love to run, so we can run down and score."

Conversely, defense has been a challenge, which is common for freshmen. Warlick has learned from the past when the staff decided to emphasize offense with the batch of newcomers for the 2008-09 season, and the defense suffered throughout their careers. They didn't develop good habits on that side of the ball. The last two classes have been drilled early and often on defense.

"It has been really tough," Reynolds said. "We have been going over it almost every day in practice. It is an everyday thing that we are focusing on. The coaches are doing very well with making sure that we are in the right position, lowest stance all the time, especially one-on-one defense, keeping someone in front of you.

"And nowadays they're calling the hand checks, so you have to learn how to not be so physical. You have to really move your feet. It was a big adjustment. We are really getting used to it now. It was tough at the beginning, but we are getting used to it."

Fortunately for Reynolds, she is being asked to contribute without the pressure of taking a major role from the outset. She can ease into the college game and has point guard mentors in redshirt freshman Andraya Carter, a throwback Lady Vol on defense; and junior Ariel Massengale, who is finally healthy and showing the promise stacked on her when Summitt declared Massengale the starter while she was still in high school.

"Just being poised on the court, taking control of your team and directing everyone," Reynolds said of what she has learned from the pair. "I thought that was very key, because they both do an awesome job of that.

"And then bringing us all together when we need it, like during huddles or timeouts, just keeping everyone focused. That's what I've been learning a lot about – leadership."

Reynolds is serious on the court and something of a free spirit off of it. She sends random and funny texts to her teammates and has been known to commandeer phones and change status updates, even with Warlick's mobile device.

"I have always had a close relationship with Holly and all my past coaches," Reynolds said. "We've always had a good relationship, so I didn't think that it would be anything too bad to do. She laughed."

Would she even do so with Summitt's phone?

"No, no, no," Reynolds said, her eyes opening wide at the question.

Reynolds also has shown no signs of homesickness – she expressed genuine sympathy when told that Massengale had one of the worst cases ever in Lady Vol history – and she credited the distance from Oregon to Tennessee as one of the reasons that she and Russell have acclimated well.

"Because we were so far away you kind of had to be open, you had to develop friends fast because otherwise you'd be homesick, and you would always be miserable," Reynolds said.

"I just thought if I came in, had an open mind and be willing to spread my joy, it would be easier."


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