Another freshman, forward Candace Parker, did some offensive practice drills Wednesday, but is very limited on defensive work, especially lateral movement. She spent most of practice in rehab and getting ice.
Parker still has a "litte swelling," in her surgically repaired knee, Summitt said, and a decision on her playing status for the season is expected later this week.
No. 6 Tennessee will take on South Carolina on Thursday at Thompson-Boling Arena (7 p.m. CSS, Lady Vol Radio Network).
Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood practiced Monday and was able to rest Tuesday since the team had a day off. She has battled a severe case of patellar tendonitis this season and has had to take periodic rests since she started playing in mid-December. She banged up her knee Monday when her exuberant teammates were attempting to help her across the finish line during a sprint and gave her a little push. Her momentum carried her into the padded basket support, where she struck her knee.
"It's something I can play on and sometimes can't play on so they give me breaks," Wiley-Gatewood said. "We're just trying to get through this season, and that's about it."
Wiley-Gatewood has had some scintillating moments on offense as a freshman - draining some key long-range shots and setting up her teammates in the post and on the fast break. Against Vanderbilt on Sunday, she left a defender literally on the floor after a spin move at the free throw line.
But like most freshmen, the learning curve on defense is steep.
"It's the hardest thing to learn here," Wiley-Gatewood said. "Pat's got her own philosophy. It's good. Her teams are known for defense, and obviously this year the team is not known for defense. We need to pick it up. We weren't taught this in high school. Pat is trying to teach the freshmen how to play defense, and a lot of us don't know how to play that very well, the way she wants us to play it. I think we'll get through it."
The play of her precocious freshmen guards, Wiley-Gatewood and Alexis Hornbuckle, brings both smiles and grimaces to the face of Summitt. Wiley-Gatewood needs to ratchet up her defense, and Hornbuckle needs to take better care of the basketball.
"The future is very bright. You look at the guard play, and it makes you smile," Summitt said. "But I'm living more in the moment. I'm not living for next year. As I told Sa'de, the reason I'm on you is for your defense is because you can be a difference-maker in March. Instinctively she is so good. She makes everybody on the floor better. She steps on the floor and makes everybody offensively better. Where (Loree) Moore is going to step on the floor and make everybody better defensively right away."
Summitt does like the play of Hornbuckle at small forward, or the three spot, and she will start there again against South Carolina giving Tennessee three guards on the perimeter with Hornbuckle, Loree Moore and Shanna Zolman.
"Alexis flat out gets on the board from the three. I really liked her at the three," Summitt said. "She's one of the best rebounding guards we've had in awhile."
But too many turnovers - she had four against Vanderbilt on Sunday - will land Hornbuckle on the bench.
"The only place I know to send her to think about it is the bench," Summitt said. "I've been on her. We've talked about her being casual. She knows her turnovers drive me crazy, but she still does it. I just hope that this is not permanent. I hope eventually she is as excited about taking care of the ball as I am about her taking care of the ball. It is (part of process). You're on a roller coaster. I'm cheering at one end, screaming at the other. I'll be glad when her turnovers are as painful for her as they are for me. Then she'll stop making them. They're painful. Then I go home and watch them over and over."
The guards both know they have to improve their overall game, but praise from Summitt will bring a smile to Wiley-Gatewood's face.
"It makes me feel that she needs me just as well as I need her," Wiley-Gatewood said. "It makes me feel real good. It keeps me going. She could just sit me down. It makes me work harder. I told her at practice, ‘Coach I got you. I'm going to work hard on defense so I can be in a game at the end of the game.' "
As far as her offense, Wiley-Gatewood said she has always been able to see the court and just reacts to what is in front of her.
"I don't know how I see that stuff. It's just naturally the way I play," she said.
She looks forward to the day her knees don't hurt, but in the meantime she's willing to play as much as she can.
"Playing through the pain, doing what I can do to help the team," Wiley-Gatewood said. "I could be selfish and sit out, but I think the team needs me. ... I think I can get through it and help this team win a national championship."
Wiley-Gatewood leans on Hornbuckle, her college roommate, and Moore, the senior guard who watches over both of them.
"We talk a lot," Wiley-Gatewood said of Hornbuckle. "We are like best friends, tell each other everything. She's like my mother telling me to get up (for a morning class). I'm like her mother, too. I'm glad she's my roommate."
As far as injuries, Moore has been through a lot off the court - knee surgery last year, a tonsillectomy last December and most recently a broken nose. She uses that experience to help Wiley-Gatewood.
"I'm just trying to make sure I'm positive with her and just movitaving her, and that it's OK, and she can get strong," Moore said. "This time right here (learning the system) will help her a lot as far as coming back next season. Her biggest fight is being able to push herself through pain (during rehab). ... Those are the times where you really have to buy into it, and you really have to just get through it. You want to always work hard every single day. You always have support. She'll have a lot of people behind her. It seems like this whole team has some type of knee problem, but we all get through it. We've all been through it so we all can help her and give her different types of advice of how to get through it."