Sybil Dosty's season to debut Sunday

When Sybil Dosty needed to work on her footwork and agility over the summer, she turned to a former Arizona football player. When she needs to talk hoops, all she has to do is call her father, former Arizona basketball player Robbie Dosty.

Sybil Dosty, a 6'3 center/forward from Tucson, Arizona, will see her first action of the season this Sunday when Tennessee takes on Stetson University at Thompson-Boling Arena at 1:30 p.m. Her father will make the trip from Tucson to see his daughter's sophomore debut.

"He'll be here," Dosty said of her dad. "I'm really excited about that."

Dosty played sparingly as a freshman as she adjusted to the tempo of the college game, but she was one of the most-reliable scorers when she did get game minutes. But until she improved her conditioning and defense, Dosty knew her court time would be limited. So she stayed in Knoxville for the first summer school session and then went home to work out.

"I was here in June. I was in school, and I worked out a lot with the team because they were all here," Dosty said. "When I went home, I worked out everyday doing different agility drills. I actually worked out with some football players from (the University of Arizona) and did stuff that they do, agility-wise and running. I played a lot of pickup with boys and a lot of individual stuff as well."

The summer work has shown up this fall. Dosty is quicker up and down the floor and has earned the praise of her coach for her play around the basket on offense and defense.

"She's playing inspired basketball and competing hard," coach Pat Summitt said. "She thought she was doing that last year but now she really, I think, feels and knows the difference. I think she had a good off-season, just a lot more serious about her own game and helping this team. Definitely (quicker). Moving better, quicker, more physical on the boards. She's getting up, playing around the glass, and that's good. She had some good inside moves and finishes, good putbacks."

Dosty believes the foot speed emanated from her emphasis on footwork. Besides working out with football players, she drilled herself with the workouts devised by Heather Mason, the team's strength and conditioning coach.

"I think that had a lot to do with the work I did with football," said Dosty, who specifically implemented the workout of a former Wildcat player and worked out with him. "I think that had a lot to do with it. We had a lot of different agility drills. I did that three times a week plus I did the stuff that Heather gives us to do when we go home every single day. You can't get that now in the season, of course, because of practice so that helped me out a lot. Footwork is probably one of the biggest things for a post player."

Dosty's new skills will be on display Sunday for the first time for fans, but Summitt has seen it in practice. Dosty missed the first two exhibition games for a violation of team rules (missing class.)

"I'm really excited," Dosty said of the season opener. "Everybody knows it's my first game I'm going to get to play in. I did make a mistake, and I paid for it. It's over now, and I'm ready to play. I'm really excited about Sunday. I was really upset. It was my fault."

Dosty's father played basketball for the Arizona Wildcats. His promising career was curtailed when he wrecked his car while swerving to avoid a dog on Interstate 10 near Tempe. The car flipped several times, and Robbie Dosty's knee was seriously injured. He needed several surgeries but made it back to the court and averaged 13.4 points as a senior. He was selected by the Golden State Warriors in the 1981 NBA draft. Dosty made it through training camp, but was let go after that because Golden State was stacked at his position, small forward, with Larry Smith and, ironically, Bernard King, a former star for Tennessee.

Dosty turned to her father, who has followed his daughter's college career closely with several trips to Knoxville and was always in the stands when she played at Salpointe Catholic High School, after she learned she would miss the exhibition games.

"What I was thinking – I talked to my dad about this – was that since I couldn't play in the games I had to go to every practice like it was my games," Dosty said. "I had to perform in practice like I would in a game and show Pat that I wasn't going to be sulking about it and feeling sorry for myself. I'm still going to work just as hard."

When Dosty's number is called Sunday, she won't be thinking about scoring. She already knows she can do that.

"A lot of times last year I was going in the game thinking, ‘Score.' Now I think defense is really important and probably most important would be rebounding," Dosty said. "That's what our post game people really need to do right now is be on the boards.

"Last year what held me back so much was – besides the tempo of the game – my defense held me back from being on the court. Pat knew if I go in the game I was probably going to score – if I was going for two minutes, I had two points – but I have to be focused on defense. (As far as offense), "if you get a shot opportunity, then you finish. I don't feel like I have to think about it as much."

Playing defense in college is an adjustment for every player. Playing defense for Summitt requires, not only an attitude adjustment, but an understanding of her system. For post players, the jump from high school to college is often the hardest.

"No question," said assistant coach Dean Lockwood, who drills the post players in practice. "Just physically what you've been able to do with your physical gifts and your tools against smaller not as talented players – you've been able to get by on ability. The program you've come from – what has been demanded of you? What has the expectation level been every single day? How long have you practiced? How hard have you practiced? What fundamentals and mechanics have you been taught? And then what you bring to the show every time you come to play – the level of intensity, the level of energy, the level of passion, the level of competitiveness. Those things are worth their weight in gold in a player. I can't underestimate the value of those things a player brings.

"We can coach you to a certain point, but at some point it's up to a player to bring those dimensions. And I think where Sybil is now she's got a much-better understanding of that now than what she did a year ago. I don't think she really grasped what it took to be effective at this level. If you've always gotten by on ability and you've not been forced to do anything else then you don't know any different. In fairness to you, you don't know any different. I think she had to go through the School of Hard Knocks a little bit and realize, ‘Holy Cow. This is a whole other pace, a whole other game and a whole other level is being demanded of me right now.' I think that was new for her."

Dosty wouldn't dispute a word of that and said she was not prepared to play defense at the level that Tennessee demands.

"I didn't. Definitely not," Dosty said. "In high school all I had to do was block shots. It wasn't a problem for me. I could play behind the post, they'd turn around, I'd just block the shot. Here you have to step out and guard guards. I never had to do that in high school. When I got here I thought I was good. I was like, ‘Dang.' "

For Dosty, the next two games – Stetson and then UT-Chattanooga on Monday evening at 7 p.m. – give her a chance to showcase her overall post play and show Summitt she's ready for real minutes.

"Definitely," Dosty said. "I think in practice I've really shown her recently that I'm ready to play, and I want to contribute to the team. But I think in the next two games she's going to want to see what in practice carried over to the games and if I can perform well these first two games, I think I'll set myself up for a pretty good season."

MOSS RETURNS: Freshman guard Lindsey Moss returned to practice Friday and went the entire way. Moss had missed practice this week after hyperextending her left knee in the Nov. 10 exhibition game. An MRI was done Wednesday that indicated her knee was structurally OK. Moss had spent the week on the sidelines getting rehab, and Summitt was happy to see her back on the court.

"I am. Obviously good news about Lindsey," Summitt said. "Jenny (Moshak) said she would keep working her and see how she responds."

STARTERS STEW: Summitt has said she will use different starting lineups this season and as of Friday, she was still undecided about who will open the game Sunday. She had six potential starters and on Friday she added a seventh, Alex Fuller, to the mix.

When Summitt was asked Wednesday about possible starters, she said she wanted to look at some film on Stetson. She did that Wednesday evening. When she was asked Friday about starters, she said she still hadn't made up her mind.

"I might know by tomorrow," Summitt said Friday. "I really don't know. I probably have seven now. Fuller has really stepped up. Sometimes you don't want to give that stuff away the day before. That's the most-asked question of the year. I've been so focused on trying to get our offense and defenses in, get people reps, teach. That has never been a top priority with me. I know it is with players. I know it is with the press."

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