Candace Parker will redshirt this season

Tennessee Lady Vol freshman forward Candace Parker will take a medical redshirt this season to recover completely from knee surgery, Tennessee announced Thursday. <p> Parker, the national player of the year coming out of high school, had been trying to come back this season, but persistent swelling in her knee has forced her to the sidelines. She will continue to participate in limited practice sessions, as her knee allows. <p>

The announcement came after the Lady Vols 74-44 win over South Carolina at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Coach Pat Summitt was joined by Candace Parker at the press conference, in which Parker seemed disappointed at not being able to play but relieved to know she would come back healthy next season.

The decision was made after Summitt consulted with Parker, her parents, Jenny Moshak, who has overseen Parker's rehab, and Dr. William Youmans, who performed the knee surgeries.

"Everyday of my life I get asked a question about umpteen dozen times about Candace and her future," Summitt said. " .... We have decided she will redshirt this year. We want a healthy Candace Parker. We wanted her on the floor this year, but I think the most important thing is that she needs to be ready and be 100 percent."

Parker had two surgeries on her left knee. The first one was Aug. 26, 2004, and involved removing loose cartilage fragments. The second was Sept. 8, 2004, to repair the lateral meniscus and the lateral articular cartilage. Parker also had surgery in July 2003 - before her senior year at Naperville (Ill.) High School - to repair her anterior cruciate ligament.

Parker returned from the ACL surgery to lead her high school team to a second straight state title. During her senior year her per game averages were 24.3 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocked shots and 3.3 steals. She was everyone's All-American and won the PowerAde Jam Fest at the McDonald's High School All-American Game while competing against men. Parker was lauded as the most-decorated female high school player ever.

After the surgery in September, Parker, who is listed at 6'3 but appears taller, began rehab with the goal of playing this season.

Tennessee had been cautiously optimistic but knew there was no guarantee that she could play. She was cleared to practice Dec. 26 but was shut down eight days later after experiencing swelling. She made another attempt to come back last week by working her way into practice drills. There were no noticeable problems on offense - she shot well, jumped without pain and was able to play well above the rim. But on defensive drills it was apparent her knee wasn't ready for rapid lateral movements with sharp cuts.

"I'm comfortable with it," Parker said of the decision to redshirt. "I'm really looking forward to feeling healthy so that's the most important thing. It wasn't feeling 100 percent, and coach said she didn't want me out on the floor unless I was 100 percent. This is my second major knee injury in two years. My knee is good. It doesn't hurt walking around. I'm really fortunate that I was at the University of Tennessee, and they recognized it early when I got here and could correct the problem. So I was fortunate."

Parker made Moshak's All-Rehab Team for her dedication to rehab, which she undertook seven days a week. Parker never wavered from her goal to play this season, until Thursday when the final decision came.

"I definitely felt in my heart that I would," Parker said. "I think that I'm a good healer. Jenny Moshak was great. We worked as hard as we could. I have no doubts in my mind that we gave it our all. I don't have any regrets."

Summitt, who years ago had to come back from her own knee surgery, said Parker's rehab habits were "one of the best ever." One side benefit was the development of Parker's quadriceps muscle in the left leg, which helps strengthen and stabilize the knee.

"Her attitude, her work ethic," Summitt said, listing the attributes that helped Parker. "She's got a great quad right now just because she's been in the weight room. It's not fun. I can tell you. I've been there. I've done that. Just her maturity and general work ethic and attitude - if you just know what you have to do and you go about it with the right attitude and you put in the work, then you get positive results. But the one thing we couldn't do was speed up the healing process. There was nothing Candace could do about that or anyone else.

"But in terms of her dedication to rehab, it's just been tremendous. She's to be commended for that. That's why I think she's got a great future ahead of her. She knows what she has to do, and she takes care of business."

Parker said she's "confident" that her knee problems are a thing of the past.

"You can do all you can in the weight room and then you have to just play," Parker said.

Although sidelined Parker has picked up on a lot of Tennessee's offensive and defensive sets. That will help her next year, and while on the bench this year Parker said she will "stay positive with my teammates."

"I definitely have learned a lot myself," Parker said. "I'm still probably going to try to practice a little bit, try to get some reps in, so just help the team out there as best I can."

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