InsideTennessee is asking each of the Lady Vol basketball coaches five questions in preseason. New assistant coach Sharrona Reaves handles the first one-on-one session.
Sharrona Reaves joined the Tennessee basketball staff last April, when Head Coach Holly Warlick hired Reaves as the new recruiting coordinator. Reaves, who is originally from Murfreesboro, Tennessee – and thus steeped in Lady Vol lore – arrived in Knoxville after three seasons at West Virginia as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator.
The Lady Vols didn’t sign a high school recruit in the early signing period in 2015, but already have two players committed from the Class of 2016 in guard Anastasia Hayes and post Kasiyahna Kushkituah. Tennessee also is a finalist for several other top players in the class and will host one last visitor, wing Rennia Davis, in two weeks. Reaves was brought in specifically to reverse the woes of a year ago, and the Lady Vols have cast a wide recruiting net for the classes of 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The Lady Vols host Carson-Newman at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7 for an exhibition game and then officially tip off the 2016-17 season at James Madison at 7 p.m. on Nov. 11.
InsideTennessee: You knew about Tennessee and the legacy of Pat Summitt long before you arrived in Knoxville. What have you learned about this Lady Vols team since you arrived and practice started?
Reaves: I see their commitment to teamwork. I see their commitment to working together and communicating. I see their commitment to wanting to be successful and to hold each other accountable. That is what I have noticed so far. And it’s been in a positive way. They are demanding and have expectations of each other, but it has been very positive.
IT: What have you learned about yourself since you joined the staff?
Reaves: I learned that this is everything that I thought it would be and absolutely everything that I wanted from a career standpoint. To be able to work with this caliber of player has been everything that I thought. It’s been a little bit stressful, especially the recruiting piece, but you know that’s going to come with it. It has been everything that I have wanted in my profession to have the opportunity that we have in front of us.
IT: As far as your role this season at practice and on the bench, is it defined, is it evolving, is it both?
Reaves: I am working primarily with the wings, the twos and threes, which Holly assigned to me right away. I am more – by the love of the game for me – I am more of an offensive-minded person. That is developing, and I am communicating my thoughts and ideas. It has been very receptive, because I think Dean (Lockwood) is more of an offensive-minded person as well.
Some of it is still developing and being defined (as the season progresses). As far as skill development and working with the wings, I think I have definitive expectations from Holly and the things that she wants me to work with them on and the things she wants us to get better on.
IT: With a roster of nine players, what should Lady Vol fans expect to see on offense this season?
Reaves: I think they can expect to see us spread the floor and be a little bit more aggressive, looking to attack more. From what I have watched of last year to what we are emphasizing this year, utilizing the ball screen a little bit more, spreading the floor, attacking off the dribble and looking to penetrate. Set Kortney (Dunbar) up or set Diamond (DeShields) up out of the wing. Use our quickness to get to rim and force the defense to have to choose and then pitch out to a shooter. That is one of the biggest things this year. And then utilizing Mercedes (Russell) – spreading the floor and trying to create more one-on-one opportunities for Mercedes on the inside.
We are getting a lot of shots up for when teams play us zone, we have the confidence to pull the trigger and knock down shots, so that teams can’t zone us as much this year.
IT: What player or players have stood out to you so far in preseason? Who is somebody that you are thinking, ‘She could really help us this year.’
Reaves: That is a great question. And, obviously, I instantly want to say Diamond and Mercedes. But two who have stood out to me that I think can help us and have to step up and want to own some of the points we put on the board this year are Jaime (Nared) and Jordan (Reynolds).
Jaime, I like her toughness. I like her grittiness. Holly calls her a utility player, and Jaime has a lot to give. She can give us points. And the same with Jordan. I think Jordan is extremely quick and explosive, and she’s got to find a way to implement that in every possession to keep the defense on their toes and to have to really guard her in transition. She has to pull up mid-range and shoot that shot. That is something that will help define us.
IT (bonus question): What is something Lady Vol fans don’t know about you?
Reaves: Oh, gosh. I love to dance. The girls are cracking up when we’re playing music before practice, and I am always out there dancing. And if I am not dancing, the girls are like, ‘Coach Reaves, you’re not dancing.’ They teach me things I don’t know. Plus, I have teenagers. I love to dance. It just makes me happy.