USA star Candace Parker to get some rest now

Now that Candace Parker's September stint with the USA senior women's basketball team is done, she can return full-time to the classroom and to the court at Tennessee. Getting back to the books will take place quickly. Getting back on the floor will have to wait awhile.

Before Candace Parker left for Brazil, coach Pat Summitt lauded her accomplishments as one of three former Lady Vols – the other two were Tamika Catchings and Michelle Snow – to make the 12-player roster. She knew the experience would pay dividends for Parker down the road, and the 6'5 guard/forward/center acquitted herself very well on an international stage.

Parker averaged 12.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. She had a team-high 14 blocks – the next-closest player was Snow with six – as the United States went 8-1 and claimed a bronze medal at the 2006 FIBA World Championships. The blocks set a record in a world championships series. She also led the team in three categories: field goal percentage at 58.3 percent; defensive rebounds – 45 for an average per game of 5.5; and free throw attempts – 31-47 for 66 percent. Her 6.1 rebounds per game was second only to Catchings' 6.9 rpg. But the team had to play a grueling nine games over 11 days in September, and that's precisely why Summitt wants her to get some rest stateside.

"I think she's going to need time off when she gets back," Summitt said.

And how exactly does Summitt keep her hyper-competitive All-American off the court?

"Just say you can't practice," Summitt said with a laugh. "I've told her you've got to have rest; your body has to have rest. While she isn't going through all that conditioning with these kids (the UT team), she's going to be traveling and playing and have a lot of wear and tear on her body. I don't want her going into the season mentally or physically or emotionally drained from this experience. I hope it's uplifting and exciting for her, and she has a great experience and gets some rest and then join us."

There's no doubt that Parker had a good experience – despite the fact the team didn't get to the gold medal game – based on how she performed and how she was received by her teammates and head coach, Anne Donovan.

"Candace Parker has been huge with a big role on this team," Donovan said.

Parker earned the respect of the veterans both for her offense and defense and her court presence.

"It's a tremendous honor to be on this team," Parker said after one game. "I've grown up watching these players play. Sometimes I really can't believe I'm here. They really have shown me the ropes a lot. One of my biggest mentors on this team is Tina Thompson. She's really been in my ear, giving me encouragement, and when things aren't going well she's always been there telling me what to do and the tricks of the trade. Everybody has really helped me out in learning the international game, because it's a lot different than the American game."

That experience, coupled with having played a full season of college basketball, bodes well for Parker as the redshirt sophomore prepares for her second year at Tennessee. Summitt knew the overseas adventure would be good for Parker, and she was understandably delighted to have three Tennessee players on the USA roster.

"I'm really proud of all three players," Summitt said. "Tamika and Michelle have been impact players on their respective teams (Indiana Fever and Houston Comets) and had very successful pro careers and played overseas. They left the program and just kept getting better. Take someone like Michelle and see how she has elevated her game in the last three years is amazing. Catchings, I haven't coached anyone that has outworked her. She's really special. To have Candace be able to join such a veteran team … I'm just really proud for her."

GUARD STRENGTH: Tennessee only has 10 players on the roster – and freshman forward Nicci Moats hasn't been cleared for practice as she rehabs her knee – but a position that was depleted last season by a transfer and late-season injury is a strength this year.

The Lady Vols have two pure point guards in freshman Cait McMahan and junior college transfer Shannon Bobbitt. Their continued development means junior guard Alexis Hornbuckle can play mostly on the wing, where she is most effective because of her rebounding and ability to cut to the basket and either drive for a lay-up or dish off to a shooter.

"I think after playing the point guard it'll probably be a breath of fresh air to get over there and not have to handle every possession," Summitt said of Hornbuckle. "Get her in the open floor. Will I play her at the point? Sure. We've got two newcomers to the backcourt."

But Summitt plans on giving both McMahan and Bobbitt every opportunity to earn significant minutes at the helm of the offense.

"I'm confident that they can (handle) the job," Summitt said. "I'm not opposed to playing two point guards together."

Bobbitt has wowed Summitt with her speed and defense; McMahan has impressed the coach with her overall approach to the game.

"I think with Shannon she's great in up-tempo, she gets after it defensively," Summitt said. "If you're going to play on her team you'd better be ready to run the floor because the ball gets up very quickly. I think that's something we need. She can figure out a way to get to the glass. … Those type of guards, they are hard to guard. They're low; they can play low. They can get up and down the floor, they can get by defenders, and they can bring some pressure defensively.

"Cait, certainly her toughness, her leadership, her competitive drive. All of those are factors, but she's just got a great feel for the game in my opinion. That's what you want your point guard to do is to see the floor well, know what we need when we're coming down the floor, know what to look for, and I think Cait knows."

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