Wiley-Gatewood, who has been out since mid-October with a severe case of patellar tendonitis, returned to limited practice last Saturday. Thursday's session will help get her up to speed before her first full-scale practice Friday.
Parker, who had knee surgery in September, remains sidelined but will walk through the morning session with Wiley-Gatewood. Parker hasn't been cleared to return to practice and will be reexamined by the end of the month.
"The coaches are taking them through everything, and then we'll have Friday and Saturday to go with Sa'de up and down," coach Pat Summitt said.
Wiley-Gatewood will dress out in uniform for the DePaul game on Sunday, but Summitt said it's "highly unlikely that she would play."
The development of Wiley-Gatewood has become paramount this month because senior point guard Loree Moore will be lost for up to a month as she is scheduled to have her tonsils removed Friday.
Freshman Alexis Hornbuckle will start the first game of her career Sunday and has received a ringing endorsement from her coach.
"I have a lot of confidence in her. She's so coach-able," Summitt said Wednesday after practice. "I feel good about my communication with her. She looks you in the eye. That's a great thing."
Hornbuckle has been on the receiving end of the infamous Summitt stare and hasn't flinched.
"She has had to step in and take on a lot of our leadership role and learn an enormous amount in a very short amount of time," Summitt said. "It can be overwhelming for a freshman, and I think that Alexis has a look and feel for the game."
Hornbuckle will be joined in the starting lineup by a relatively experienced cast in guard Shanna Zolman, forwards Shyra Ely and Sidney Spencer and center Tye'sha Fluker. Zolman will back up Hornbuckle at the point, and senior Brittany Jackson, who has had an excellent series of practices, will be one of the first substitutes off the bench. Summitt hopes to use Jackson primarily at the off guard spot, but she also can play the point.
"I'd probably rather go with Zolman there - she's had more reps - and play Brittany on the wing," Summitt said. "But she could if she needed to. She's been there before."
Jackson earned praise Wednesday from Summitt for her movement on offense and getting herself open. She also played steady defense, and Summitt noted that after practice ended.
"Brittany's moving really well," Summitt said. "I think her energy is a lot higher right now. Her confidence seems to be up. She looks really strong."
Two freshmen – centers Nicky Anosike and Sybil Dosty – have heard an earful from Summitt this week. Fluker, a junior starting for the first time, had some strong practices, but the newcomers have to get ready. So far, they have performed admirably but inconsistently.
"They want to get better," Summitt said. "No one likes to hear about all the things they did wrong. As long as you can tell them what they're doing right and correct the mistakes they've just got a chance to get better. They did a lot of good things."
Despite the erratic exam schedules and players coming and going to meet academic obligations, Summitt felt the break benefited her team in terms of practice time and repetition. She has two more sessions scheduled for Friday and Saturday to get them ready for DePaul and a tough December lineup that includes Louisiana Tech in Ruston, La., on Dec. 15, and TCU in Knoxville on Dec. 19.
"We have been able to get in practice mode, and while obviously they are in exams, we have had some quality practice time as well," Summitt said. "Our focus has been on transition defense, half-court defensive execution, half-court offensive execution and our transition defense. Those four areas have been a priority."
The ultimate exam comes Sunday when Tennessee takes on DePaul.
"I know we are still searching, and we do not have the answers right now," Summitt said. "We do think we have players who can provide those answers; it's just a matter of taking ownership."
MORE ON MOORE: Senior point guard Loree Moore practiced Wednesday, two days before she is scheduled to have her tonsils removed at St. Mary's Medical Center. Moore, who could miss up to a month depending on recovery time, has endured sinus and throat problems all season. After running sprints Wednesday, she hyperventilated and needed medical assistance on the sidelines.
Her reaction underscored the need to perform the tonsillectomy. Jenny Moshak, assistant athletics director for sports medicine, said that Moore has breathing difficulties brought on by her chronic condition. Summitt rushed to Moore's side when she realized her senior guard was in distress.
"That just reinforced it," Moshak said of the surgery.
"Once Jenny explained everything to me there was only one choice in my opinion. Do it now," coach Pat Summitt said Wednesday after practice. "It's not about the team at this point; it's about her personal health. Once they took her and ran the tests, and Jenny shared the information, we've got to get this kid healthy."
WISH LIST: Tennessee's basketball coaches have been burning up the roadways and airways checking on the class of 2006. Post players seem to be garnering the most interest from the staff.
The players apparently highest on the Lady Vols' list are, in alphabetical order: Jayne Appel, 6'4 center, Concord, Calif., Carondelet High School. She has an 84-inch wingspan and is also a standout swimmer and water polo player. Her father played collegiate basketball. Stanford also is extremely interested and is thought to have the inside track; Tina Charles, 6'3 center, Jamaica, N.Y., Christ the King High School, the alma mater of former Lady Vol Chamique Holdsclaw; Christy Marshall, 6-foot forward, Savannah, Ga., Beach High School, an honorable mention Street & Smith All-American in 2003 and 2004; and Kristen Phillips, 6'5 center, Greensboro, N.C., High Point Central High School, being watched by top programs in the country including Duke, Georgia, North Carolina, UConn, Texas, Stanford and others.
Caitlyn "Cait" McMahan, who committed to Tennessee last summer, is the guard on the list. The native of Maryville, Tenn., is a highly decorated player at Heritage High School. As a sophomore she was a finalist for AAA Miss Tennessee in basketball, an honor that was won by current Lady Vol forward Alex Fuller of Shelbyville, who is a medical redshirt this year after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery.