The irrepressible Jordan Reynolds

After Jordan Reynolds, completed her interview with InsideTennessee, she stood behind a row of reporters and made faces at Meighan Simmons. She had just mentioned that she hadn't played a prank on a teammate in a while. Mission accomplished. Go inside for an interview with the freshman.

No. 8/8 Tennessee (20-4, 9-2) takes on No. 18/18 Kentucky (18-6, 6-5) on Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern (TV: ESPN) at Thompson-Boling Arena. It is the Lady Vols' "Think Pink, Bleed Orange" game and part of ESPN's Play 4 Kay initiative.

Pink and white T-shirts will be draped on the seats of the lower bowl and the game also spotlights Holly Warlick's Champions for a Cause.

"It's affected family, friends and former Lady Vols," Warlick said. "It makes a huge statement when we can get on this stage with a large amount of people. We want to make sure we can do it right.

"Our goal is to find a cure and raise awareness. That's what we want to use that platform for."

Freshman Jordan Reynolds, who lost an aunt to breast cancer two years ago, is ready to play in her first college game as part of the pink awareness campaign.

"I always remember growing up watching the pink game and just wanting to be a part of it," Reynolds said. Now, that it's here, it is really exciting. I can't wait."

Reynolds' enthusiasm is an ever-present part of her personality. When she finished a sit-down interview with InsideTennessee, Meighan Simmons was just starting her stand-up session with TV and other media in the lobby of Pratt Pavilion.

Before heading to the court, Reynolds walked behind the half-circle of press and smiled and pointed at Simmons. The senior ignored it for a few seconds, but the freshman had no intention of letting up, prompting Simmons to say, "Jordan, stop," without losing her train of thought. (Watch the first minute here.)

Granted, it was a payback of sorts, because Simmons tried to distract Reynolds during her interview, but she was talking to one reporter with a tape recorder. Simmons had TV cameras rolling.

"Jordan has her moments, but she brings that extra energy," Simmons said after her group session with the media ended. "Even in practice sometimes, she can be a little goofy. Off the court, Mercedes is just as goofy. People don't see that. Those two are absolutely hilarious."

Reynolds and Mercedes Russell are both freshmen from the state of Oregon. Both have played in all 24 games this season and become immediate contributors in their first year.

Russell is averaging 7.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game and leads the team with 32 blocks. Reynolds has 41 assists to 21 turnovers, an outstanding stat line for a first-year point guard.

Did Reynolds expect to contribute right away this season?

"I actually didn't," she said. "All of these girls have been playing so well. I didn't think my time would come this quickly. Now that it has, it just shows that I've been working so hard for it."

That work began last summer when Reynolds reported to campus in July and got in the gym with assistant coach Jolette Law, an outstanding point guard at Iowa from 1987 to 1990 who also played for the Harlem Globetrotters. Ariel Massengale, a two-year starter, was the heir apparent at point guard, with redshirt freshman Andraya Carter slotted as the backup. That didn't deter the freshman.

"I had a lot of preparation in the summer with Draya," Reynolds said. "We did a lot of point guard work with coach Law. We did so much ball handling, so much passing, dribble weave and everything.

"It's really come a long way, because we've always been working on it and I think it's showing."

That work came to fruition last month when Massengale was struck in the head during the Jan. 23 game against Florida. She hasn't played since, though she did return to practice Thursday for some shooting and running.

Carter moved into the starting lineup – she now has 58 assists to just 29 turnovers and a team-leading 40 steals – with backup from Reynolds. At times, the two play on the floor together, an immediate boost in speed on the perimeter, especially if Simmons is on the court, too.

It helps also that Reynolds has adjusted to the pace of practice in college.

"It was very difficult. I am not going to lie," Reynolds said. "It is very hard to keep up with the fast pace at all times. But now, it's easier and I am getting adjusted very well."

Reynolds does one thing in particular particularly well – she will push tempo. When she gets the in-bounds or outlet pass, she takes off up court as if shot out of a cannon.

"I actually do enjoy it and Holly does preach it a lot in practice," Reynolds said. "She wants us to get it and go. She wants to play a fast pace. Whenever we get the outlet as point guards, we always have to run the floor and sprint."

Reynolds also has contributing by hitting some threes, none more timely than the one she swished against Ole Miss in early January to give the Lady Vols a lead going into halftime. She pounded her chest as she headed down court, a rare show of emotion that fans are likely to see more often now.

"I am just now getting comfortable," Reynolds said. "I told my teammates when I get comfortable, and I really get in the zone, I will get hyped, I will be myself and now that it's here, I am showing it."

Reynolds showed it again against Vanderbilt last Monday with a post-worthy block on a Commodore who appeared to have a clean look at the rim. She let out a primal scream following the statement swat.

"I was just very excited, very hyped," Reynolds said. "We had played a good team game, so I was just so excited that everyone was getting minutes, everyone was doing something good.

"Bashaara (Graves), Mercedes and all the posts were like, ‘You know, I taught you that.' They've always had their block parties so I wanted to join."

Reynolds' ability to drain some long-range shots has been a surprise, as she wasn't a three-ball shooter in high school. Her treys have a rainbow arc on them.

"I pray it in each time," Reynolds said.

That helps, but Reynolds is also getting in the gym.

"I've been working on that," she said. "I think it's important. If you have a good arc, someone told me it was a higher percentage that it would go on in."

It is easy to see why Reynolds' teammates are amused by her antics. She is fun to interview, an exchange full of smiles and laughter by the freshman. She enjoys keeping the team loose.

"I am always giving someone a hard time even if they don't deserve it," Reynolds said. "It is just really funny. There needs to be light moments during our day. We need to have some type of enjoyment, so I find enjoyment in anything."

Sometimes, the so-called team clown can serve that purpose well off the court but lose focus on it. That is not the case with Reynolds. Her play doesn't suffer from any lack of seriousness.

While she sits courtside at the scorer's table waiting to enter the game – and that is usually pretty early in the first half – she is basketball-centered.

"My first thought is don't mess up," Reynolds said. "The second thought is just to play my game, come in and try to do everything I can to help my team succeed."

Reynolds also knows she has time to get better this season – particularly postseason, which starts next month with the SEC tourney in Duluth, Ga.

"I know one thing I need to do is go work on my free throws," Reynolds said. "It is very crucial for our team. I know we have a low percentage as a team. I know I need to go in the gym and shoot some more shots, shoot some more free throws.

"And especially ball handing because that will be very key in postseason. Nobody is going to let you dictate what is going to happen on the floor. There is going to be a lot of pressure. I know ball handling and just seeing the floor more will be very key."

Outside of Simmons (81 percent), Massengale (83.8 percent) and Nia Moore (80 percent), the Lady Vols are inconsistent at the stripe with a 69.8 percent mark as a team.

"We have been talking about it," Reynolds said. "It is something we need to improve on, especially for this postseason. That is what we are going to be working on a lot in practice from now on. We just need to focus on it."

Reynolds has proven she can focus, but the freshman will always have a touch of free spirit, starting with her shorts. She wears them high, an old-school look.

"I've always liked high-rolled shorts," Reynolds said. "Me and my teammates back in high school and AAU season, we just always rolled our shorts up. I think it is a West Coast thing, because nobody out here does it."

That trend doesn't extend to Russell. When the freshman walked out for warmups last Monday and saw that Reynolds had even rolled her shooting pants into a high-water look, Russell tried to get her to unroll them.

"She doesn't like it," Reynolds said. "It is just something I've been so used to the past years. It's comfortable."

Even Reynolds' mother has mentioned her daughter's sartorial choice.

"She's been telling me, along with a lot of other people, ‘You need to roll down your pants. It just doesn't look right,' " I was like, ‘I don't care.' It is just a habit."

Reynolds is looking forward to being clad in pink on Sunday. And don't expect those shorts to be long.

"I loved doing it in high school," Reynolds said. "We had the pink socks, the pink headband, the pink shorts – rolled up, of course – pink jerseys, pink shoes."

Simmons let loose with a big sigh when asked about Reynolds' shorts.

"That's just Jordan," Simmons said. "That is the kind of person she is. That is who she is and how she plays."

SNOW HOLIDAY: Tennessee closed for snow reasons Thursday, a rare occurrence on the campus. The Lady Vols had practice – they had been off Tuesday and Wednesday – but the day off from classes.

"I am glad we got out of school," said Jordan Reynolds, who stayed indoors and watched movies. "Me and Mercedes stayed in our dorm. We didn't have any gloves. We didn't have any big jackets. We didn't want to go out there and get pneumonia."

That didn't deter Meighan Simmons, who is from Cibolo, Texas, and doesn't see much snow.

"I didn't have gloves," Simmons said. "I still went to the top of Ayres Hall and was sliding down the hill. It was really cold that day, but I knew I wanted to get out and play in the snow. It was fun. It was really, really fun."

SERENE SENIOR: Meighan Simmons, who started the season playing uptight, has reached a place of serenity, a good place for a shooter. She is smiling and relaxed on the court, and it shows in her marksmanship of late. She has scored 20 or more points in five of her last seven games.

"I think it's because it's her senior year, and she really does want to go out with a bang," Jordan Reynolds said. "I think it's important for her to play a big role as a senior since she is the only one, and she's a starter. It's important for her to play well on both ends and be consistent, because this is her last year."

Simmons did a little soul-searching, too, after the ragged start on offense, especially from long range.

"In order to get where I need to be, there are some things that I had to change about myself," Simmons said. "I am in a very good place right now. I am playing a lot more confident. Mentally, I am very confident.

"I am thinking more of the game, reading the defense and getting my teammates involved."

Simmons has been through momentous change in the Lady Vol program with the announcement of Pat Summitt's illness of early onset dementia, the retirement of her head coach and the promotion of Holly Warlick to the helm.

"You are going to hit adversity. It could come any time. I think it makes us stronger," Simmons said. "Anything that challenges me on a daily basis, I try to use that to better myself as a person and better myself as a basketball player.

"That is another reason why I have become so calm because everything is starting to click. We are all together. It's an amazing feeling."


Inside Tennessee Top Stories