All three are interested in gauging their progress, one for the first time, the other over the course of the young season, and the third for what it means for her future.
Fluker, who has struggled out of the gate so far this season and lost her starting position for one game, began to put things together last Wednesday in a 70-59 win against Louisiana Tech. Fluker had seven points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes of play.
"Instead of going into the game feeling like I have to perform, to do good, change my mind to the little things," said Fluker, who has discussed her mindset with coach Pat Summitt, assistant coach Dean Lockwood and senior Loree Moore. "I went into the (Louisiana Tech) game thinking rebounding."
Fluker agreed with her coaches' assessment that adjusting to the role of being a starter has been tougher than she expected.
"Definitely," Fluker said. "It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, just going into the game with the mindset that I have to perform well, like I have to do good for my team because I want to do it instead of just thinking basketball and having fun while I'm out there."
Wiley-Gatewood will be looking for a little fun for the first time this season. She has been out since mid-October while resting and rehabbing a painful case of patellar tendonitis. Summitt said she intended to play Wiley-Gatewood today if she received final clearance from Jenny Moshak, who has granted the OK.
"Now it's up to how much Pat wants to use her," said Moshak, the assistant athletic director for sports medicine. "Her knee is passing at this point. We may have to Band-aid it through. I can't guarantee she's going to be able to play everyday from here on out. We're going to take it day by day. If she's to a certain point of pain, then we'll play her. If she exceeds that or swelling or anything else then I'm going to pull her out."
Moshak will be watching Wiley-Gatewood closely. Summitt will be watching sophomore Sidney Spencer closely. Spencer, a starter, is under orders to shoot more. Spencer and junior Shanna Zolman need to score a combined 25 points, Summitt said. Against LaTech, Zolman scored 15 and Spencer chipped in with nine.
"She needs to be more aggressive. Period," Summitt said of Spencer. "I told her when we get some people healthy you're not going to move forward. You're either going to stand still or somebody's going to go ahead of you. She needs to take note of that right now."
It is the rare player that is called out for not shooting enough.
"It is, but Sid's unusual," Zolman said. "She's awesome. I love her. When she knocks down the shots that she does, they're key. All of them are so needed whenever she shoots it. It's important that she gets on track. She's not one to really force."
"There's only one of me," said the quirky Spencer, who added she intended to shoot today if she was open. "Just trying to play per our system, in our philosophy. It's not like I go out there and it's, ‘Oh I'm not going to shoot.' I just try to work through the offense. If they come, they come."
Zolman agreed that she and Spencer needed to be more productive, and Wednesday's game in Ruston was a step forward.
"She knows she needs to shoot," Zolman said. "She knows that Pat's going to be on her if she doesn't. I think she'll be fine. I try to help her with that, just talking to her, encouraging her and letting her know we need her to score.
"Up to the point of last game obviously we weren't scoring a whole lot. We were part of the problem. We weren't very productive. You can play defense until you're blue in the face, but whoever scores the most points wins. You can hold them to 10 points, but if you only score nine, you still lose. We've got to score. That's part of Sid and myself, that's our job."
Unranked TCU hasn't played since Dec. 11 when it was defeated 85-72 by Utah. The Lady Frogs, who were ranked in the top 25 for two weeks this season, do have two impressive wins against Georgia and Michigan State. The bright spot of the Utah loss was that TCU forward Sandora Irvin became the school's career scoring lead with 1,451 (previous record was 1,448, Janice Dziuk, 1990). She also holds the school records for rebounds (1,112) and blocks (359). She is averaging 21.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game.
Irvin (6'3, senior, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) is expected to be joined in the starting lineup by three other forwards, Vanessa Clementino (6'2, junior, Brazil), Niki Newton (6'0, senior, Crowley, Texas) and Ashley Davis (6'0, sophomore, San Antonio, Texas) and guard Natasha Lacy (5'10, sophomore, El Paso, Texas).
"As a coaching staff we are looking to see if we have an answer for a player like Sandora," Summitt said. "We are in a situation where we will have to defend by committee. Obviously we don't have an Ashley Robinson, who did a great job defending her last year at their place, so that will be a challenge."
Tennessee does have 15 fouls to give in the post, because of its three centers in Fluker and freshmen Nicky Anosike and Sybil Dosty. Summitt has a plan to rotate the centers roughly every four minutes, depending on their play and the dynamics of the game. Against, LaTech, Summitt opted for the defense of Anosike before seeking the offense of Dosty. On an ideal court, Anosike absorbs the ability to score like Dosty does, and Dosty is able to play defense like Anosike does.
"Let's hope by March that's where we are," Summitt said. "They're learning. They're getting better. You just can't fast-forward freshmen at this stage. It just takes time."
In the meantime, Tennessee has to be ready for TCU. That's where Summitt's four-minute plan comes in.
"We just want quality possessions and quality play," Summitt said Thursday after practice. "With Fluker her game has been such that she can give you quality minutes for short periods of time. You give her extended minutes, and she breaks down. That has been true probably for Fluker and Dosty, and I think they have to learn to play more minutes.
"But right now the fact that we have three post players we can rotate, we're rotating. We're going to be watching you, and when your play starts to drop, your teammate's coming in. We want to be more efficient from that position.
"I just think they understand we have two strong opponents coming in, and we have to get better. Our post game is not ready to defend what we're about to face. And I told them you've got to get ready. You have to be better by (today) to have a chance to be successful. We've got to affect how Irwin plays. She's the real deal."
TECHNICAL FOUL: Pat Summitt was called for a technical foul in the game against Louisiana Tech, and the whistle came as a surprise.
"He was standing next to me, and I discussed the disappointment," Summitt said. "The last two calls that we dealt with, I saw them on tape. I saw the same thing on tape that I thought I saw on the sideline. There was body-checking going on all the way down the floor and inconsistency. I wasn't happy. As a coach you're just looking for consistency."
The last technical foul that Summitt – who has had 10 in her career, according to media relations – could remember was in 1998 against Purdue.
"I don't think I've had one since then have I?" Summitt asked.
Maybe she froze out the one she got in Arizona in December 2000. The Lady Vols were playing Arizona State in Bank One Ballpark under the stars on a very chilly evening in Phoenix when space heaters were placed near the benches to keep the players warm. According to media reports, Summitt told the official: "Best call you made all night." He took exception to her assessment.
INJURY UPDATE: Sybil Dosty was soaking her foot after practice Friday, but it was just sore, according to Moshak. "She's good to go," Summitt said.
Freshman forward Candace Parker, who had left knee surgery in September, will see Dr. William Youmans, the team orthopedist, on Dec. 21. If she were to receive clearance to play, Parker could retake the practice court in January. (The team breaks for Christmas after the Stanford game).
In the meantime, she continues to rehab. On Friday, Parker and fellow freshman Alex Fuller (left knee, redshirt) took turns jumping off a basket support, and then onto a mini-trampoline. Once balanced, they then hopped to a mat on the floor. They did the exercise both by landing on two feet and then only on their left leg. Both did very well.
"Obviously if she goes back and gets a good report (from Youmans), we are hopeful that in the next month, sometime in January, we will have a chance to look at her in a practice situation and see if the knee responds," Summitt said.
Parker has been allowed to shoot free throws and stationary jump shots at practice. Her parents, Larry and Sara Parker, were at practice Saturday.