Summitt elicits desired practice response

A familiar voice boomed through the arena early on in practice Monday afternoon. Coach Pat Summitt wasn't particularly pleased with the effort she was getting, and she let the Lady Vols know it. It was vintage Summitt – imploring the players on defense, intolerant of turnovers and energizing the team.

The Monday practice followed a day off Sunday, and players sometimes come in sluggish after a break. This team, so far, had done better than past teams, but the early execution was sloppy, and Pat Summitt made it clear that needed to change.

"You never know how a team's going to handle a day off. … They just cut the motor off and forget to turn it back on what they come back in," Summitt said. "That's where your leadership comes in. Your upperclassmen, they've got to police the team in certain phases of practice and expectations, and we didn't have that (initially). I thought they responded well."

Summitt's eyes were all over the court - she even noticed a towel on the floor too close to the baseline and ordered it moved for safety reasons - and she blew her whistle to stop play and teach by pointing out miscues and applauding good plays.

The uptick in intensity was particularly noticeable on defense. During half-court play, senior Dominique Redding took a baseline charge from a male practice player that would have rattled anyone's cage. Her teammates cheered the play, and Redding shook off the contact and played on.

Summitt said with a wry grin that "there's a first in everybody's career" – meaning the level of contact – but she was pleased with Redding's play in that defensive series. Redding has been much more communicative in practice than in past years, especially on defense, and seems to be settling into a role of setting the example as a senior.

Sophomore forward Candace Parker continued to look impressive in the preseason. The coaching staff specifically wanted to see defensive improvement and, so far, Parker has delivered. Parker's offensive repertoire also has expanded both on the perimeter and her moves in the paint.

Parker was an instrumental part of the USA senior women's national team, which took the bronze medal at the World Championships in Brazil in September, and that experience – coupled with a full year of college play – has aided her development.

The Lady Vols coaching staff often watched the USA games in the basketball offices last month and tried not to cringe anytime Parker took contact.

"You can't live your life in fear," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "It's like parents. You start letting your kids play and ride their bikes. And then he turns that corner or she turns that corner … there's a certain element you just have to trust. But honestly every time there was some hard contact or she would go down, you'd go … oh … she's getting up, good, good. We watched that with a concerned eye."

The staff has reason to be concerned about injuries. There are 10 scholarship players plus one walk-on. The freshmen – guard Cait McMahan and forward Nicci Moats – both missed practice Monday for knee rehab sessions. McMahan had arthroscopic surgery on Friday to clean out her knee and will be out for two weeks or so. Both players are coming back from major reconstructive surgery last winter – McMahan on her right knee and Moats on her left knee – and the protocol will be to ease off when necessary, according to Jenny Moshak, assistant athletics director for sports medicine.

"She's just having a little swelling, but she's all right," Summitt said of Moats. "Jenny just wanted to rehab her today and hold her out."

The team will return to practice late Tuesday afternoon, and Moats' status will be evaluated. Wednesday is SEC Media Days in Alabama so Summitt and seniors Redding and Sidney Spencer will participate in that preseason event. Wednesday's practice will be held later that evening when they return.

TV COVERAGE: Three Tennessee away games will be shown on cable TV - CSTV will show the Nov. 28 game at Louisiana Tech; CSS will air the Feb. 8 game at Auburn; and Cox will show the Feb. 22 game at Arkansas.

In total, 21 of 28 Lady Vol regular season games are scheduled to be televised. The games not scheduled for TV at this point are six home games - Stanford, Tennessee-Martin, George Washington, West Virginia, Mississippi State and South Carolina - and at Florida.


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