Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood set to return to practice

Tennessee Lady Vols guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood is expected to return to practice Dec. 9 and could be back in uniform for the Rutgers game Dec. 29. <p> Wiley-Gatewood, who has been sidelined since mid-October with patellar tendonitis, will spend the next 10 days working on conditioning and shooting drills and then will join her teammates on the practice floor.

If her knee holds up for two weeks, she will suit up for the first time as a Lady Vol.

For the first time Monday, Wiley-Gatewood moved from the sideline of "Rehab Row" to a basket on the floor for individual half-court sprinting and shooting drills.

"If I can do at least two weeks of practices then I get to play in my first game," Wiley-Gatewood said. "I might be back for the Rutgers game. First, I've got to get back in shape."

The freshman guard from Pomona, Calif., committed to Tennessee before her freshman year at Lynwood High School. Needless to say she is thrilled about the possibility of finally getting to play for the Lady Vols.

"I'm really excited," said Wiley-Gatewood, who was frustrated by the delay but credited her teammates with helping her feel like she was still a part of the game plan.

"My teammates keep me going," Wiley-Gatewood said. "Just knowing that I'm here (at Tennessee) keeps me excited."

Wiley-Gatewood must first make it through two weeks of practice to determine if her knee can withstand the rigors of college basketball.

"We are going to attempt full practice," said Jenny Moshak, assistant athletic director for sports medicine. "We're going to try her on the court, and if she does well, happy days."

To remain on the court Wiley-Gatewood will have to remain relatively pain-free. If the knee swells or causes considerable discomfort, she will have to consider surgery and a redshirt season.

The tendon in her patella had sustained some small tears, and a course of rehab and complete rest was ordered before the season even started to give her a chance to heal. She has been fitted with a brace intended to stabilize and support the kneecap.

Wiley-Gatewood wore the knee brace Monday and gave it a thumb's up in terms of securing her knee. She sprinted from sideline to sideline, received passes on the perimeter and stroked her mid-range jumpers.

"I think with her rehab she's stronger," coach Pat Summitt said. "She told me today she felt pretty good."

The return of Wiley-Gatewood would immediately help Tennessee in terms of depth, as she is a true point guard and a solid shooter. She also is very court savvy and quick to pick up on offensive schemes.

Wiley-Gatewood was the Parade 2004 National Player of the Year and two-time Parade All-American in 2003 and 2004. The McDonald's and WBCA All-American won the 3-point shooting contest at the McDonald's game. She won two state titles in California and finished high school with a 119-7 record. She averaged 22.3 points and 8.9 rebounds a game over her prep career. Over 126 high school games, Wiley-Gatewood had 672 steals and 1,293 assists.

Her teammate on "Rehab Row," Candace Parker, remains sidelined with no change yet in her playing status. Parker, a freshman forward from Naperville, Ill., had surgery in September to repair cartilage in her left knee.

She continues to lift weights and shoot baskets, but a return date to the court remains indefinite. Moshak said Parker still has some minor swelling.

"I'm very pleased with where she is," said Moshak, who lauded Parker for her rehab work. "Our goal is that when she gets cleared to play she steps on the court and looks like she hasn't missed a beat. That's what she and I are striving for right now."

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