The Lady Vols' exhibition season tips off in a week so the team tuned up Sunday with a scrimmage inside sweltering Stokely Athletics Center. Unseasonably warm temperatures in Knoxville had the inside of Stokely, a bandbox of a facility, feeling like a sweatbox. Coach Pat Summitt used various combinations of veterans and newcomers – she's not ready to announce a starting lineup for this Sunday's exhibition game against Carson-Newman – and for the most part was pleased with the performance.

Senior Shyra Ely was glad for the opportunity to go against teammates. There were some pitched battles inside for position and rebounds.

"It's always good to go against each other," Ely said. "I think we push each other a little bit more. We're going to compete all the time. It's good for us to get after each other."

The full-speed scrimmages allow the coaches to see if the players can transfer drill work to the game court. "Things are coming along," Ely said. "We have setbacks here and there. We're doing a lot of teaching, seeing as how we have seven freshmen. I think once they just learn and know it and buy into it, we'll be fine."

Summitt was ready to see her players in game situations. The scrimmages featured timeouts, substitutions, shot clock and referees. The scrimmages followed practice – a lot of drill work on interior defense, shooting, full-court pressure and the transition game - so the players can also be evaluated by how well they play through fatigue. Different combinations of players were used in five-minute games against the male practice players. That was followed by a 15-minute intra-squad scrimmage.

"I think it was good for us to put them in game situations because we've been teaching and practicing, and we haven't been as competitive," Summitt said. "All five-minute segments were very competitive, and when you do that you learn a lot. We still have combinations when we have people that are not as comfortable offensively and defensively."

Summitt cited the efforts of freshman center Nicky Anosike, who was a standout defensively and made some nifty interior passes.

"Nicky was the best helper on defense today," Summitt said. "I really respect how hard she works every day. That will just allow her to see the court a lot. She stands to really help this basketball team this year if she continues with the work ethic, communication, attitude. She's passionate."

Summitt also noted the play of Tye'sha Fluker and Brittany Jackson. "I think Tye and Brittany probably stood out as much as any of the returning players today. I thought (Brittany) was vocal, I thought she had better intensity on defense, went to the boards better and knocked down some shots. This was her best day."

With freshman guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood sidelined with patellar tendonitis in her left knee, fellow freshman Alexis Hornbuckle is practicing at the point guard position to back up senior Loree Moore.

"Alexis is getting better with every rep, every practice," Summitt said. "She's a special player. I like Alexis' game a lot. I think we just have to get her more and more reps on both ends so that she's just comfortable."

As far as a starting lineup, Summitt said she hasn't decided, and the first five could vary all season.

"I think you have to reward players," Summitt said. "A lot of coaches say you've got to get a starting five and stick with them. I think you've got to give players who are not starting the opportunity to know if they do the best job and they're better then someone else (then they can start). Plus I don't think starters should ever get complacent."

PARKER PROGRESS: Candace Parker has added weight lifting to her rehabilitation regimen. The freshman forward worked out in the weight room Sunday for the first time since surgery in September to repair cartilage in her left knee. She was a very vocal cheerleader on the bench during Sunday's scrimmage, shouting encouragement and acknowledging good plays. She also continued to shoot on a side basket and consistently hit three-pointers without leaving her feet, as she is not cleared to jump yet. Parker's next doctor's appointment is in about two weeks so more about her medical progress will be known then. It is still too soon to speculate about a return date to the court, but Sunday's weight-lifting session was a step forward. "It's big," Summitt said.

EASPORTS TOUR: Two former Lady Vols, Tasha Butts and Courtney McDaniel, are on the roster of EASports, an adidas team of former collegiate players that travels to various sites for exhibition games during the first two weeks of November. Butts is a graduate assistant this season for Tennessee. McDaniel left the Lady Vols last March for medical reasons. The roster also includes the following former collegiate players: Maria Conlon and Morgan Valley (UConn); Tonya Washington and Brandi McCain (Florida); India Lewis (Arkansas); Denique Graves (Howard); Andrea Garner (Penn State); Mary Cofield (Iowa State); Katie Bulger (West Virginia); and Evelina Nhassago (Old Dominion).

The schedule includes stops at Mississippi (Nov. 6); Auburn (Nov. 7); Mississippi State (Nov. 8); Alabama (Nov. 9); Georgia (Nov. 10); and Vanderbilt (Nov. 11). The full schedule can be found at:

Inside Tennessee Top Stories