InsideTennessee is asking each of the Lady Vol basketball coaches five questions in preseason. Assistant coach Jolette Law handles the third one-on-one session.
Law is entering her fifth season with Tennessee and came aboard when Holly Warlick took the reins of the program in 2012. A former point guard at Iowa, she primarily works with the Lady Vol guards. Law also played for the iconic Harlem Globetrotters from 1991-94 - one of just eight females to do so – and can still drain shots from all over the court. She also is a defensive-minded coach.
InsideTennessee: Tennessee has been known for its aggressive, trapping defenses, but with just nine players available – and the accordant concerns about foul trouble – what defensive looks will the Lady Vols have in their toolkit this season?
Jolette Law: We are definitely going to have to mix it up a little bit more, not totally change how we play, but we are going to be very strategic about what we do, a lot more zone, some half-court three-quarter court presses, trying to trap in the half court. In the past, we have been more full court. We will do some full court presses, but it will be a little bit more in the half court and utilize our quickness a little bit more.
IT: Tennessee has a new assistant coach in Sharrona Reaves. You remember what it was like to come on board. How is Reaves adjusting?
Law: The first couple of months on the job are learning the lay of the land here at Tennessee and how Holly wants things done. She is learning different terminology. She is adjusting well, and our camaraderie is good. We are all trying to recruit, and all of us are helping to teach her along the way. It’s been going well.
IT: A follow-up question, Coach Reaves said Lady Vol fans might now know that she can dance. I am asking you for the scouting report. Is that an accurate assessment?
Law: (laughter) I have not been in a situation for me to make that assessment because we’ve been out recruiting, so I haven’t seen her in that light. But I will let you know. One thing I know about Coach Reaves, if she says she can do something, you might need to believe her.
IT: You are now a veteran on this staff. How has your role evolved?
Law: Holly said she wanted more. She said she knows that I know a lot, and she wants to rely on me a lot more. She has been asking me to be four or five steps ahead in every aspect with recruiting and taking care of things and keeping things off her plate, being more vocal. I feel like I know the Tennessee way and the way Holly wants things done. I’ve got her back. I’ve always had her back but just doing a little bit more. She wants more from me, and I’m going to give her everything I’ve got.”
IT: A lot of preseason focus has been on Diamond DeShields and Mercedes Russell – and rightly so – but the success of the season hinges on point guard play, and that starts with Jordan Reynolds. How critical is Jordan?
Law: She is vital to our success. We knew when we recruited her what her capabilities are. She is going to have to be more of a floor general and a scoring threat. Her leadership is going to be vital, and we are going to rely on her to do a lot more – the scoring piece, the leadership piece and on the defensive end. Jordan is going to have to step up and carry a big load, and I think she’s ready for it. This year, she is going to have to take on a scoring role.
IT: Tennessee has come so close to a Final Four. Jordan Reynolds missing the Elite Eight game last March because of a concussion suffered in the Sweet 16 matchup robbed the Lady Vols of their starting point guard. How tantalizing close have y’all come, and how much does this team want to kick down that door?
Law: What we’re seeing in practice with this group is that they’re hungry. They definitely have picked up where they left off the last game, and they carried it over through the summer and carried it over into preseason. We see it every day in practice. If we can remain healthy and stay together and continue to work each and every day, I think we have the firepower to make it to a Final Four.
I believe in this team. We are pretty much a veteran group. We are wounded – we’ve got a couple of injuries – but we’ve got Mercedes Russell, Diamond DeShields, and we’ve got four starters returning. Alexa Middleton is going to have to step up and give us more at the point guard position and the two guard. Meme Jackson, she is not a freshman anymore. If we rely on everybody to do their part, bring what they can bring, I think we can get to a Final Four.