The Tennessee Lady Vols are three days away from opening the 2004-05 basketball season. Albeit, it's an exhibition game; but the fans are ready. So is one of the assistant coaches. <p> Dean Lockwood, who has coached men's basketball for two decades, is opening his first season with a women's team when the University of Tennessee hosts Carson-Newman on Sunday for a 4 p.m. tip-off at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"I told Pat (Summitt) the other day, I'm enjoying this more than I thought I would," Lockwood said Wednesday after a three-hour practice. "You know what? The personality of these kids and the receptiveness of them, and the energy that we create every day in practice - we'll bring in kids in groups of two or three, and they're learning the offense, and we go over things and we're doing teaching tapes, and it's just been fun. I'm having a blast right now."

Lockwood performed selfless service earlier in practice sessions when he took on the role of pushing around the post players. Junior center Tye'sha Fluker and freshmen Sybil Dosty and Nicky Anosike took turns battering Lockwood, who held a foam pad and tried to dislodge the centers from the paint.

"Once we get that pad out, it's open season," Lockwood said, laughing at the realization that players love smashing into a coach – figuratively or literally - for a change.

In early October, Lockwood and fellow assistant coach Nikki Caldwell were asked to assess Anosike, a center from Staten Island, N.Y., who has wowed all the coaches with her conditioning, speed and ‘physicality,' as Lockwood puts it.

"Nicky brings to our basketball team an intense type of play," Caldwell said. "She's physically athletically gifted. She's someone who is self-determined, self-motivated so she is going to push herself. In doing so she is going to obviously help push our team. I think Nicky is a competitor on the basketball court. … I see her as a sponge, too, in making that transition from high school to college, wanting to get better. She's very humble in the fact that she knows there's a lot that she still needs to learn, and she wants to learn. That's the thing that's great about having Nicky in that she's so open and honest about where she is as a player."

Added Lockwood in the preseason, "It's important right now for a player like Nicky to start with what she knows and where her comfort level is and by all means, that's going to be closer to the basket. Like any good player, you play to your strengths. They maximize their strengths, minimize their weaknesses, and they don't worry about things they can't do. With Nicky if she can score in the paint for us, transition scoring, offensive rebounds and getting fouled, I think those four areas for Nicky will be a strength."

On Wednesday, Lockwood was asked about Anosike's progress.

"There has been significant improvement," he said. "And now we're looking to take that next jump up. Nicky specifically has improved. I think all our posts have improved."

Senior Shyra Ely was singled out by Lockwood, both for her senior leadership and play and the subsequent effect on the newcomers.

"Shyra Ely, you have to start with her," Lockwood said. "Her play and her leadership have been consistent in the last 10-12-15 practices. Our upperclassmen are starting to emerge and step up, which then helps our freshmen. The bar gets set high."

Lockwood is excited about Sunday, when the fruition of the coaches' efforts over three weeks of practice is put on display for Tennessee fans.

"We're making headway," he said. "Like a lot of teams in this phase of practice and especially with the newcomers, we've had some days where we've wavered a little bit. There are some things now that we're starting to do that are starting to emerge, that good teams have to do. First and foremost for me is - because I'm so into this phase of the game and notice it - is the physicality with which we play defense and with which we rebound. That's really been a noticeable improvement within the last week."


"I think the game is really such a simple game and if you try to overcomplicate things, especially fundamentally, you can make it hard for players, you can make it hard to teach. Emphasize the simplicity. I try to reflect that in the energy I coach with. I - by nature - tend to be like that." –Lockwood, on his philosophy as a coach.

"Wasn't she beating him up? At this point Holly, her BlueCrossBlueShield (health insurance) wouldn't cover that; so she's very wise to stay out of that action." –Lockwood, during the preseason, on fellow assistant coach Holly Warlick not taking the foam pad to fend off the post players in the paint, especially when Anosike has the ball.

"Are you saying she would have put me in the front row of seats?" –Warlick.

"She won't miss too much because she's a student of the game. She picks things up quickly. There're a lot of things we can do to keep her abreast of what's going on on the court ... just like we did with Loree Moore. Loree (who was hurt last season) became coach Moore, and Candace will have to become coach Parker." -Caldwell on the status of freshman forward Candace Parker, who is still recovering from preseason surgery to repair cartilage in her left knee. Parker is off crutches and lifting weights. Her eyes rarely stray from the court, and she can be seen consulting with the coaches for specific instructions about variations of the offense and defense.

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