InsideTennessee is asking each of the Lady Vol basketball coaches five questions in preseason. Assistant coach Dean Lockwood handles the second one-on-one session.
Dean Lockwood joined the Lady Vols staff for the 2004-05 season and became just the ninth assistant to serve under Pat Summitt. He is entering his 13th year on the Lady Vol staff with the past four seasons spent as an assistant to Holly Warlick, who took the reins in 2012 after Summitt retired.
Lockwood primarily works with the post players at Tennessee and is known for meticulous detail in his scouting reports and film sessions. He also is known for his loyalty to the Lady Vols and especially Summitt and her legacy.
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: Tennessee has three true posts this season in redshirt junior Mercedes Russell, graduate transfer Schaquilla Nunn and freshman Kamera Harris. Where are those three players right now in terms of being ready to contribute this season?
Dean Lockwood: We want Mercedes to pick up from last spring (in the NCAA tourney). Her efficiency last year was very good. Her progress has been steady. What we need her to do now is be more assertive and to take on more at both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively.
We want her to get more shots, to be more productive in terms of points and offensive rebounds. She can deliver, and she can score when she is being guarded one-on-one. When she is double-teamed, she is very unselfish, and she has a very high basketball IQ and feel for the game, so she can pick up open players. We just want her to demand the ball.
She’s had a good summer overall, put in some good work. I think she’s in better condition than she was a year ago coming off (surgery on both feet), so we’re excited.
Schaquilla – everybody calls her Qui – she has been moving well. (Nunn missed last season with a broken foot and was limited over the summer.) She comes in with experience. Even though she is new to Tennessee and new to our stuff right now, she is an experienced player. She grasps things very quickly, and she has good on-court energy and great effort. She plays hard, and she competes. She can help us a good bit, and she is certainly competing for a starting position. I fully believe she is going to play productive minutes for us.
One of the things she has done really well (in preseason practice) is rebounding the ball. You know what a value that is in our marketplace at Tennessee. She is continuing to learn concepts and our terminology, and she is only going to get better.
Kamera (a true freshman playing the toughest position to adjust to in college at post) is doing everything that everyone else is doing. Kamera is the only one on our team who hasn’t gone through a college season, and we’re not slowing down in practice. She has to catch up to us, and she has hung in there. She’s learning. She will be the first one to say, ‘I don’t know that. I need to go over that,’ which is good. I like that quality that she is not going to tuck herself in a corner and say, ‘Well, I don’t know this.’ She is going to try and learn it.
We’ve told her, ‘While you’re learning, if you will go be a great rebounder and get every rebound you can get, set great screens and be a solid defender, that is helping us.’ Be your best in those areas, and the other stuff will come. You will learn our terminology and defensive rotations; that stuff will come in time. We are going to need her to support our frontline. She is going to have to give us some minutes and hold the fort, especially when we play teams with physical players.
She is being held to the same standards, but Mercedes and Qui are ahead of her. But we are telling her, ‘You are a part of this group, and you can help them be more productive by giving them some support.’ And she knows that. Every day for her is a challenge, and she has done a good job.
IT: You also have combo players who can set up inside and out in Jaime Nared, Diamond DeShields and Kortney Dunbar. What are the plans for those three this season?
Lockwood: All three of them are different and have unique qualities as players. Jaime and Diamond are a little similar in the sense of their mobility and versatility – and they are a little bit more perimeter players by nature than they are frontline players.
But here’s the thing. The four position in today’s game is the most versatile position and can be the most valuable position. If you’ve got a four player who can shoot the ball, your offense opens up considerably – your effectiveness, your potency goes up tremendously if you’ve got a four who can make baskets, make plays and handle the basketball.
Kortney Dunbar is the best shooter on this team and that you’re going to see in a lot of places. There are not too many people who can shoot the ball better than Kortney can. We are excited that she gives us that dimension. She is continuing to work on her defense, and she’s further along – and she should be; she’s a junior – than she’s ever been. She had a good summer overall and has taken good care of herself. She gives us versatility, and she can stretch the four.
Diamond is dynamic and multidimensional with her ability to put the ball on the floor and create things. She, like Jaime, is a very good passer. She is an unselfish player. She can make plays off the bounce. Her quickness allows her to go by bigger players, and she’s deceptively strong so she can overpower someone her size. It is such a tough matchup.
Jaime is very smart, and she’s tough. She’s got a ruggedness to her. For her to play against a bigger body does not phase her, and she is able to hold her own. Pound for pound, she is a very strong kid. Jaime had as good of a summer as any player on our team. Her diligence to work, her self-discipline to work has been excellent. You really want a sense of justice to reign for someone who puts in work. And Jaime has put in work.
At any point in time, we could play with one post, and we could go small. Kortney Dunbar could be playing in the middle of the zone. You could play those three and two guards. We like the versatility that those three give us. And Jaime and Diamond, at their size, they rebound the ball very well. Both are excellent rebounders.
IT: What are realistic expectations for where to rank the Lady Vols in the preseason. Is top 20 a fair placement for Tennessee with the understanding that it’s a whole new ballgame in postseason?
Lockwood: The preseason publications, one of them we’re 13, and one of them we’re 16, I think. That’s about what we thought based on how we started the year last season. People are going to say, ‘Show me.’ People are going to question: ‘Where are they going to get their points from. And can they score against a zone?’ We don’t focus on the (ranking), we’ll look and say that’s interesting. But so much of this is about process. It’s about what you do every day. A basketball season, in particular, is such a long period of time. From when practice starts, it’s five months until March.
We’re not caught up in it. It’s where we are right now. We need to make believers out of the doubters. We want to get to a special place. We want to do something that no Tennessee team has done under Holly Warlick as a head coach. It’s about the process. It’s about working hard every day, getting better every day and coming together as a team every day. If we do those things, the outcomes will take care of themselves.
If I were picking right now and I was an outsider, that is where I would pick Tennessee – between 12 and 20. I think it’s very fair based on performance of last year.
IT: With a roster of nine players, you can get a lot of reps in practice. Holly has mentioned using a stopwatch to keep practices to two hours. How do you balance the fact that you’ve got to get ready for the season, but you also don’t want to take any hits to your roster?
Lockwood: That is a balance. We think about it. We discuss it. We occasionally worry about it, but we’ve got to practice. We’ve got to get better. That being said, we have been more mindful of our time. We are doing about 30 minutes of position and skill work, and then we are practicing for about an hour and a half. It’s still training camp time.
During the season, we have talked about having a one-hour practice day and then a shooting day and concepts day and then a tough day. We are going to be more prudent and wise, especially as the season goes on. We will adapt what we are doing. We will push it a little bit in preseason and see what these players are made of. With a team of nine, there are ample reps.
IT: This will be the first season without Pat Summitt. When you went to a game, there was a chance she would come in.
Lockwood: We would all look over there. I would catch players looking over there. We all looked over there.
IT: We are still going to look over there, but she is not walking in. Have you thought about that and the realization that Summitt is truly gone? It still feels surreal. Will that be going through your mind?
Lockwood: I will be honest. I have thought about it on occasion, and it has been at odd times. I thought about it recently when I went to Michigan on fall break to see my mother and brother. I went for a walk, and it just came into my mind. Pat is not here anymore. It hits you at different times. You get consumed with your responsibilities and the daily grind and the tasks ahead. But every so often, you can’t help but think about it.
When our players are at the bench, and they’re getting their final rest, and I’m stepping out of the floor just before the national anthem or just after the anthem when they’re doing the announcements, I probably will look over there … .
I know I will. And I will think about it. Surreal was a good word. Holly and I, one time this fall during recruiting, I was driving and I said, ‘Holly, there’s a part of me that thinks Pat is still here.’ She said, ‘Dean, I know, it’s surreal to me, and there is a part of me that hasn’t fully accepted it yet.’
That is how you feel. Factually, I know she died June 28. But there is a part of you that hasn’t fully wrapped your mind around it yet that she is gone, and you are not seeing her alive on this Earth anymore.
Pat would want us to move forward, and we’re doing that. But it speaks to her impact. She has impacted all of us so deeply. It’s hard not to think of her. It’s hard not to think of her as alive and vibrant.