Jaime Nared, a freshman wing from Portland, Ore., made an official visit to Tennessee in the fall of 2013. She saw a football game not a basketball contest in Knoxville. Her first chance to see Thompson-Boling Arena full of fans came last Sunday.
“I had never been to a game here,” Nared said. “I have seen it on TV, but you don’t really know until you have been here. I just had to get the nerves out. Finally being here and playing in the gym, it’s finally out, so I think next game it will be better.”
Nared played in the McDonald’s All-American game last spring, and the crowd of 6,000 or so was impressive.
“I thought that was a lot of people and then you come here,” she said. “It was crazy. I love it. I love the atmosphere here. It’s loud. The lights. It’s bright. I love it.”
Nared logged 21 minutes and tallied eight points, five boards – four on the offensive end – three assists, a block and a steal. She also executed a sweet finger roll in the lane and nailed two of four three-point attempts.
She is easy to spot on the court. Nared and fellow Oregonian Jordan Reynolds, who is starting at point guard in the absence of Ariel Massengale and Andraya Carter while they serve one-game suspensions for team rules violations last spring – missed class for Massengale, missed curfew for Carter – are the ones who eschew lengthy basketball shorts.
“I think we just like them short,” Nared said. “We’ve done it for a long time. Everyone wears their shorts long. We just like short shorts.”
It is not an Oregon fashion trend; fellow Oregonian Mercedes Russell wears hers at standard basketball length.
“We need to get her on it,” Nared said. “She’s going to start doing it.”
Nared has a quiet confidence and offers direct and to-the-point answers to basketball questions. When asked what her thoughts were during Sunday’s 90-57 win over Carson-Newman, Nared said, “Nia had a great game – get her the ball.”
Nia Moore poured in 29 points on 12-16 shooting in 35 minutes of play and will need to be ready again Friday. As far as Nared’s assessment of her own play, she said, “Let the game come to me. Don’t go out and try to do too much.”
The minutes count as of Friday – tipoff is 7 p.m. Eastern at the arena – and Nared already has learned that opponents raise their game when they see orange.
“You have to respect any team and not take it lightly against any team,” Nared said. “Every team wants to beat us. We are going to act like it’s the best team in the country for every game. We are going to come with a killer mentality.
“Win. That is all that is on my mind. I want to win games.”
Nared and her fellow newcomers struggled at times on defense in the exhibition game – especially getting back after made Tennessee baskets. The trio also were out of position at times in half-court defensive lineups. Her answer was more expansive in terms of how to adjust to college-level defense.
“It is a lot of information,” Nared said. “As freshmen, you take it in and apply it. The coaches have done a great job of teaching us at a fast pace, because we are playing at an early time.
“I think all of the information that we’re getting as freshmen, that is the biggest thing. College is such a big step from high school, especially the defensive end. There is a lot of information that you don’t know yet. There is so much more that you learning being in college.”
Nared, like most freshmen, has to adjust to coming off the bench after being a starter for years in high school and summer basketball. She sounded as if she already had a game plan.
“You are watching the game and you are seeing what you need to add to the game when you come in,” Nared said. “Prepare and pay attention. It is something you adjust to, but that is the thing – you find a role for this team. You learn it’s not about you at all.
“Learn your role and do that to the best of your ability when you step on the court. It’s about the team. Step up and fulfill your role.”
Holly Warlick had said she intended to get the freshmen ready and play them as soon as possible since all three are needed this season.
“Every time you step on the court in practice you are playing against some of the best players in the country,” Nared said. “You have to bring it every time you come to practice. That is what we have on our mind: You had better bring it every time you step on this court.”
Still, freshmen need guidance – and not just from the staff. Support from teammates is critical for newcomers, and Nared said she is getting what she needs.
“Honestly, I am not just saying this, everybody has been great as far as welcoming us to this team,” Nared said. “Cierra Burdick has helped us a lot as far as talking to us. If we have questions, we can go to her. We know they are going to be honest with us and they are going help us. Everyone has been great. I couldn’t ask for better teammates really.”
It also helps Nared that Reynolds is a Lady Vol. The two are close on and off the court.
“I have played with Jordan since third and fourth grade,” Nared said. “She has been great as far as everything. Anytime I have questions I can go to her, as well. We have chemistry on the court. We know how each other plays. We hang out outside the basketball court.”
Nared said, while still in high school, that she didn’t expect to get homesick, and so far that has been the case.
“I don’t have a problem with the distance. I miss them, but I’ll see them,” Nared said of her parents.
Nared is the second class of recruits to say yes to Warlick and her staff of Dean Lockwood, Kyra Elzy and Jolette Law. She came to Tennessee knowing that Pat Summitt was no longer on the sideline and the shift in roster seems to have brought some stability to a program rocked by Summitt’s retirement due to early onset dementia after the 2011-12 season.
“I think during the whole recruiting time, I got to know the coaches,” Nared said. “I have all the trust in the world in Holly. I think she is a great coach, as well as coach Dean and coach Kyra and coach Law. Recruiting is all about where you see that you fit, and I felt that here.”
Nared got to know Warlick during the recruiting process, but contact was limited. So what has Nared learned about her head coach now that she is in Knoxville?
“She is funny,” Nared said. “She is really funny. She is goofy. She is hilarious. She will yell, but it’s all out of love. She is a great person. She is a great person to be around, and it makes you respect her as a coach because she has a relationship with you outside of basketball, as well. She is not serious all the time. She makes it fun, which is good. I like that a lot.”
Nared also enjoys the energy of Lockwood, who considers any day in the gym to be a good one.
“He makes it fun,” she said. “He is always so enthusiastic. He is a great teacher. He is just a great coach. He knows a lot about the game. It’s been fun learning from him.”
Fun is not the word that comes to mind when Nared is asked about summer conditioning sessions at Gate 10, the steep ramp at Neyland Stadium that had been scheduled for demolition during renovations but somehow escaped the wrecking ball.
“Oh, gosh, I don’t why they didn’t because Gate 10 is something else,” Nared said. “That is all I can say. You are going out there in 95 degree weather and running. And not light running. It is a lot of work, but it helps us during the season.
“You can see it as, ‘Oh, it’s terrible,’ when you’re doing it, but in the long run you see how it benefits you. It definitely is mental. You get to thinking about all of the things that are hurting. It’s 6 in the morning. It’s hot. But you want to get through it.”
So did Nared make it?
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “I don’t quit. I am not a quitter. It has never been in my blood to quit.”