Lady Vols make media day appearance

Tennessee held a late practice Wednesday evening – the team waited for coach Pat Summitt and two seniors to return from SEC media appearances in Alabama where they talked about team speed, expectations and the overall development of Candace Parker.

The Lady Vols gathered shortly after 7:30 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena for a lengthy practice session that included a lot of full court scrimmage situations and drills with a special emphasis on defense.

The team will get a day off Thursday, and it should be beneficial in terms of rest before the season gets underway – the first exhibition game is next Wednesday, Nov. 1 – but especially for sophomore forward Candace Parker, who injured her ankle late in practice and had to leave the court.

Parker stepped on the foot of a male practice player, turned her right ankle and spent the rest of practice with ice bags on her ankle.

"It's a lateral ankle sprain. We'll know how bad it is after we see what happens in the next 12 hours or so with swelling. It's hard to tell at this point," said Jenny Moshak, assistant athletics director for sports medicine.

Moshak will examine Parker on Thursday to determine the extent of the sprain and the course of treatment. Her status is day to day. The team's next scheduled practice session is set for Friday afternoon.

Two other players, freshmen Cait McMahan and Nicci Moats, spent the practice session on the sidelines. McMahan is rehabbing after having arthroscopic surgery last Friday to clean out her right knee, which suffered a bone bruise last month. The same knee was surgically repaired last winter after she tore the ACL, but the ligament is fine, and "she's doing very well," Moshak said. McMahan is expected to be out for about two weeks or so.

Moats, who had her left knee surgically repaired last winter, has experienced some swelling and missed her third consecutive practice Thursday.

"I think she'll probably practice on Friday," Moshak said. "She's making great progress every day so if she continues on the same line of progress, she'll practice Friday."

The late evening practice allowed Pat Summitt and seniors Sidney Spencer and Dominique Redding to return to Knoxville from a trip to Birmingham for the league's media day.

The SEC provided some audio and video coverage of the event (available on www.secsports.com).

The coaches were asked to state their names for identification purposes since the audio would be on the Internet, and Summitt said: "My name is Pat Summitt, and I coach at the University of Tennessee."

It's unlikely there is anyone that doesn't know that, and the line drew laughs when Summitt added that she had said that 33 years ago.

During a video portion produced for the league's website, Summitt was asked what to expect from her team.

"That's a good question. What can we expect from this team?" Summitt responded. "I'm still trying to gauge that. I like what I've seen on the court. … We're a quicker team. We can play a little bit more the way I like to coach. I think we'll be able to run more and hopefully press more. Bring some excitement. Last year we played more zone than I think I've coached in my entire career."

During the press conference portion of Summitt's appearance, she also was asked about expectations.

"I would say expectations are always high with our program, and that's not going to change," she said. "As far as what I expect from this group, I like what we've added to our team from a year ago. We were a little handicapped in our style of play. We really lacked up-tempo and extending pressure and playing man-to-man defense.

"We found ourselves being a little bit slow getting up the floor and played a lot of zone and yet we did what we thought would be the best fit for our team. I think this team can really generate more offense from our defense. That's exciting because if we got behind it was far more difficult for us to catch up than years past. I think with the makeup of this team, we'll have a chance to do that."

Summitt also was asked about playing zone defense and whether that was too passive for her.

"The four letter word, the zone," Summitt said. "Actually, no, it's not too passive. I really prefer it more as a changeup – maybe change the rhythm, keep teams a little off balance – but I think for me, and with my personality, I just like to get after people and try to create with the intensity and the pressure defensively."

Summitt also was asked about the development of Parker, who now has a year of college experience and also played with the USA senior women's national team in the World Championships in Brazil last month. Last season, Parker played every position for Tennessee – including a stint at point after a transfer and injury depleted Tennessee's guards.

"I think Candace Parker is a much-improved player from a year ago," Summitt said. "With the confidence she gained, she also is just more aggressive, much more assertive in the paint. Last year I think she was really torn between am I a point guard or a post player? Now I think she understands she can play multiple positions, but if we want her to score it's really hard for people to defend her in the paint. She's such a great one-on-one player.

"For Candace she's definitely been more finesse in her game, but now she understands, ‘I've got to grind it out sometimes. I've got to really post up and just impose my will on the defense.' She's willing to do that and maybe a year ago she'd have a fadeaway or really just try to do more in her face-up game."

Summitt also was asked about Spencer, a Hoover, Alabama, native who got to go home for media day since the event was held in the suburb of Birmingham.

"Obviously Sidney Spencer has done a great job for us," Summitt said. "She plays a more important role this year than ever before. … She knows that she's a scorer. She's not hesitating, and that's good news for our basketball team. … The main thing now is she knows it's her senior year, and she's got a great chance of playing at the next level. In order for her to do that she has to show her value on the floor and all the dimensions to her game, which she has many."

Spencer and Redding appeared on the SEC's video slice on the website. Spencer talked about having a point guard this season – McMahan and junior college transfer Shannon Bobbitt are handling those duties – and Redding discussed the team's goals.

"Something that we lacked last year, we have a true, true point guard and that's been a position that definitely needed to be filled," Spencer said. "It brings a whole different dimension. Everybody can play their normal spots. That's been something that's really been key."

"We're a veteran group … we're ready to play," Redding said. "Last year the Elite Eight (where Tennessee finished the season) was good, but we're ready to get back to the top status. I think it's going to be more up and down, exciting game of basketball we bring."

The last question directed at Summitt was about the overall toughness of the SEC.

"There's no chance I'll ever get bored is it while I'm at Tennessee?" she said. "I think it's great. A lot of people suggested there're some other conferences that are tougher than the SEC. I don't believe it. I never have, and I want us to continue to prove we have the best league in women's basketball."

OFFICIAL CHANGES: Bill Stokes, the women's supervisor of officials, also spoke at media day to address changes and points of emphasis. Here are his remarks from the SEC's website.

"This year, the home team will be given a technical foul at the beginning of the game if they do not have LED lights, red lights or lights on the shot clock and game clock.

"Last year we set a rule for an intentional kick ball. The wording was cleaned up to say that if the clock is at 14 or under, it will be set at 15 and if it is 15 or up it will stay the same.

"We have always paid attention to undergarments. There will be no undershirts that hit below the elbow or compression pants that extend below the game pants. Armbands can only be worn for medical reasons. If you do wear head or wristbands, they have to be the same color as the dominant jersey color or white. This will be the uniform for the entire team.

"Double fouls will go back to the point of interruption instead of to the basket. Timeouts are the same as the men's (no awarding of timeouts when the player calls it going out of bounds).

"In the past, if a player is bleeding they have to leave the court and if there was a contact problem, they could take as much time as they need. This year, they are going in the same category. You have 20 seconds to get done whatever has to be done or call a timeout or take the player out.

"Screening now has to be within the confines of your shoulders. You can no longer spread yourself out for contact. That has always been the interpretation, but now it is a rule.

"A point of emphasis this year is bench decorum. We will call this foul. There is a coaches' box, and the bench should sit down unless there is a big play. This year, it will be enforced."


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