Candace Parker returns to practice Friday

Lady Vol freshman forward Candace Parker returned to the practice court Friday after taking a few days off to rest her knee. Sophomore guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood also practiced Friday, and both players seemed to be better following the brief break in action.

Friday's practice was fast-paced, mostly full court and defensively oriented. The Lady Vols will hold a short and light practice Saturday before opening the season Sunday with an exhibition game against Dalhousie-Canada at 3 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Coach Pat Summitt was pleased to see the pair back on the court and since their breaks from practice are medical in nature, they will never be penalized in terms of playing time, she said. Both figure to see plenty of action Sunday – Summitt intends to use all 11 players – though she hasn't decided yet on who will start and will consult with her staff before selecting the first five.

She does know she will use the two exhibition games to start two different lineups so fans shouldn't read too much into either first five.

Essentially the team has six starters in Alexis Hornbuckle, Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood, Shanna Zolman, Candace Parker, Nicky Anosike and Tye'sha Fluker.

"We'll pick out five for this game, pick out five for next game and then as we play opponents, it may vary depending on who we play," Summitt said. "This team just has to buy into it. If we go against two big post people, we might want two big post people."

Parker can play on the perimeter or inside the paint. Wiley-Gatewood is a pure point guard, but with her shooting ability she can also move to the wing and let Hornbuckle bring the ball up court.

The good news for Summitt is that both were on the floor Friday and moving well.

"They just needed some rest, and they both got right back in," said Summitt, who had expected both to be ready Friday.

They missed some time this week to rest their sore knees. Both players are coming back from knee surgeries last season. Parker took off three practices, and Wiley-Gatewood missed one day and a short portion of another session. The entire team had Thursday off.

Since a good portion of Friday's practice was devoted to defense, their performance was even more encouraging since the movements on the court include a lot of lateral ones and sudden starts and stops.

"It's good to see them get in some defensive reps," Summitt said.

Parker had some swelling in her knee brought on by a tight iliotibial band. The mandate was for the swelling to go down before she returned. Wiley-Gatewood's knee can sometimes flare up – she had surgery for patellar tendonitis – and cause pain, necessitating rest and light rehab.

"It's November," said Summitt, indicating it's time for precaution.

NEW RULES: Tennessee will play both its exhibition games under two experimental rules – a deeper three-point line and a 10 second backcourt rule. The line is now 19 feet, 9 inches from the basket; it will be pushed back nine inches to 20 feet, 6 inches. There also will be a 10 second rule for the offensive team to advance the ball past center court. Previously there was no time limit to get the ball across center court to initiate the offense, not counting the shot clock of course.

When Tennessee plays three games at the Paradise Jam over Thanksgiving the new rules also will be in place so they will get used to them in the exhibition games. The experimental rules will not be used throughout the rest of the season.

Summitt is not a fan of tinkering with the rules.

"My opinion: Leave the rules of the game alone," Summitt said. "We have a great game."

Summitt said the only thing that needs to be done is to enforce the rules already in place, specifically to stop allowing defenders to maul post players.

"Take control of what happens in the paint, be consistent on it and leave the rest of the court alone," Summitt said.

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