Hornbuckle practices with cast

Sophomore guard Alexis Hornbuckle is practicing with a cast on her left hand after injuring a thumb ligament, and will be reevaluated in two weeks. The orange-and-white cast interfered somewhat with her shooting and ball handling, but it appeared to have no effect on her defense and rebounding.

Hornbuckle injured the collateral ligament on her non-shooting hand during practice Monday, according to Jenny Moshak, assistant athletics director for sports medicine. She shook it off, had the thumb taped and continued to play. A medical exam later revealed the injury.

The small cast covers her thumb and part of her hand and wrist, but the injury won't keep her off the court. She practiced Wednesday without much difficulty, although she did shoot free throws with one hand. She also hit some short jumpers but occasionally had a little trouble securing the ball with both hands on passes. The cast had no effect on her rebounding – she soared above everyone in the paint to snare one ball – or on her defense.

Alexis Hornbuckle wasn't the only one needing medical attention this week. Coach Pat Summitt is in a walking boot because of a persistent left foot injury. She broke the foot last May while running with her dog on the beach. Her busy summer, which included a lot of flying – which causes swelling – didn't allow much down time for the foot to heal.

"I probably haven't been as strong in my commitment to this as I have been to recruiting," Summitt said of her sore foot. "I've been flying all over."

After five days of practice, what is most noticeable is that Summitt does not have to raise her voice that much to get players to perform up to her standards.

"Good feel about the chemistry. Strong work ethic. Not having to coach effort anywhere," Summitt said. "I just see a great upside to this team's ability to score inside and outside. I think our post game looks better. They let us down in a lot of games last year. It wasn't that we took poor shots; we just didn't make shots."

So where can the team get better?

"Oh, in all aspects of our game," she said. "We haven't arrived at anything."

Summitt is happy with her assortment of scorers so far. The defensive game also appears to be taking shape, especially "no longer than we've been teaching and working on it," she said.

"They're a long, rangy team. They can cover a lot of ground. There's no reason why they shouldn't be an outstanding defensive team."

The team will return to the practice court at 6:30 a.m. Thursday for an early-morning session scheduled to accommodate classroom commitments for the upperclassmen.

"It's good for them to get up, come in, get their practice completed – gives them the chance to focus on academics and when they finish their academic requirements, they're free," Summitt said.

MOTION OFFENSE: Forward Candace Parker and point guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood might be the poster players for moving without the ball on offense. One series of passes demonstrated this perfectly at practice Wednesday.

Wiley-Gatewood passed to Parker on the left wing near the baseline, then headed toward the paint. Parker found a cutting Wiley-Gatewood on the left side of the lane. When Wiley-Gatewood's path to the basket was blocked in the low post, she wrapped a pass around her defender to Parker, who was now on the right side of the lane, having passed and then quickly moved to the other side of the court. Parker easily scored on a layup.

"I think when you're a player of their stature and in particular at the high school level thinking what they had to do – they were a focal point for everyone," Summitt said. "So they learned very quickly when I give the ball up, if I want to get it back, I can't be a statue. I've really got to be a player in motion and constantly working to create opportunities to receive and score."

SUMMITT MILESTONE: Summitt enters this season with 882 career wins. That means No. 900, another career milestone, won't be too far off this season and should come during SEC regular season play. She is hoping it is met with little fanfare. After becoming the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history last season, the court at Thompson-Boling Arena now bears her name.

"As I've told a lot of people I'm so over Pat Summitt now," she said. "It's time to move on. It's about the team and these student-athletes. I want everyone to understand you just don't take for granted that people choose to come to your program. You really realize what that means. I appreciate all these gifted student-athletes wanting to wear the orange. They've got a lot of pride. There's great tradition here. They just take a lot of pride."

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