The preseason workouts are over. The official start of Lady Vol basketball practice is this evening at 7 p.m., and the coaching staff is about to ratchet up the intensity. The veterans should know this – the two seniors and two juniors – but the other seven players might not realize what a simple flip of the calendar will do to the mindset of coach Pat Summitt, and her assistants, Holly Warlick, Nikki Caldwell and Dean Lockwood.

The players have been through preseason conditioning and up to four hours a week on the court as a team. The sessions started in August when the players started the fall semester and continued through September and early October. Summitt gave the players this week off from the court. Until today.

"The level of intensity has been pretty good, but it's not been what it's going to be," Lockwood said. "I think the older ones do, the veterans do (know what's coming). Is October 14 different? Oh yeah, it's going to have a whole different feel to it."

The staff and the players welcomed the extra time on the court as a team. A previous NCAA rule had limited the number of players who could take the floor at the same time in preseason workouts. With all 11 players available – and two redshirt freshmen and a true freshman, along with four sophomores – Pat Summitt and her staff spent the time teaching. Players ran a lot of offensive drills and sets, often against the managers – the male practice players can't start until Oct. 14, and for Tennessee it will be next week because the school is on fall break – or five on nobody. The point was to learn and get everyone comfortable playing together.

Apparently it worked.

"We came out and could get our offense going," junior forward Sidney Spencer said. "Now we can focus on defense."

Lockwood said the attention definitely turns to defense with the official start of practice.

"We've have workouts in the sense we've gone through some offensive stuff, we've done position work, we've gotten some sets in," Lockwood said. "We call those workouts. They haven't really been practices. They've been workouts in the sense we've gone 5 on 0 a lot. There's been no contact, no defense. Now it becomes more like practice. You've now got a regularly structured plan of warmup time, drill work, team stuff, some scrimmaging, you've got the breakdown stuff. The level of intensity is about to be ratcheted up. When I look back on our August and September time and early October, Pat has been like a teacher. She's been putting a foundation in place."

Spencer was busy in August and September putting her own foundation in place. Her season ended last year in February with a torn ACL in her knee. She spent the spring and summer in rehab and began the fall session still in rehab and weight training. The plan was to further strengthen her quad muscle, which helps to stabilize the knee. In early September, Spencer was on the court for shooting drills but wasn't running. By early October she was running up and down the court and looks to have not missed a bounce despite the time away from basketball.

"I'm cleared," Spencer said. "Coach wanted my leg to get stronger. I just did this leg workout all of September. When the team was practicing and when they were in weights and conditioning, I was in the weight room. The only thing I could do was lower body. It (the quad) grew pretty quickly. It does make a difference when your leg is stronger. It takes a lot of pressure off the joints in your knee."

Spencer has noticed another difference this preseason. The players are flowing better together offensively because of the full-team workouts on the court.

Last season the team struggled mightily offensively in its early games, especially at the Jimmy V Classic in Raleigh against N.C. State. The offensive woes carried over into other games, and a significant chunk of practice time was dedicated to trying to fix them.

"We were a bit out of sync," Spencer said of last season, but she doesn't expect the same slow start out of the gate this season. "I think the games that are first in line, we'll be a lot more fun to watch, especially because we're going to be in sync with each other, and the chemistry is going to be there."

"BOUNTY" MOSS: True freshmen Lindsey Moss, a 6'1 guard from Alpharetta, Ga., is in a class by herself. There are no other freshmen – except for the redshirts Candace Parker and Alex Fuller – and a bulk of her workout time is spent listening and learning and executing on the court.

"Lindsey has picked up things so quickly," Spencer said. "Her nickname is Bounty, like the paper towel. The quicker-picker-upper."

Moss spent the entire summer on campus attending classes and playing basketball. Parker also remained in Knoxville all summer so the two became close friends and often shot hoops together.

"She's fun to play with," Moss said.

Moss is adjusting to Summitt's intensity – "I haven't got the stare yet," she said – and noted that her head coach may be "a screamer, but she doesn't have to say a whole lot" to get her point across.

Her teammates are "all helping me," Moss said, as she learns the various offenses and where she is supposed to be on the court.

Moss said her goals this season are to "become a better player" on the court and learn time management off the court as she juggles practice, conditioning, weight training and classes.

Moss is an excellent outside shooter and free throw shooter and wants to contribute those strengths as a freshman. She lists her weaknesses as foot speed – but improving through the conditioning sessions of Heather Mason – and defense, which she knows is always a point of emphasis with Summitt.

With 11 players in place – and considering the performance of the freshmen last year – playing time for Moss could come sooner, rather than later.

"The hard thing for Lindsey is that there's no true freshman going through it with her right now," Lockwood said. "Candace and Alex are essentially like sophomores. You just watch them and it's different, because they've been through it. Lindsey is a very sharp kid. She doesn't say a lot right now, but she studies. She really is tuned in and listens and watches. I think she realizes there's going to be a point where ol' coach Summitt says, ‘You know what? Your freshman time is up.' "

Inside Tennessee Top Stories