All the right moves

Dominique Redding filled up the box score in Tennessee's first exhibition game with 20 points, but the forward wanted to talk about defense and rebounding before the team took the practice floor Friday. Coach Pat Summitt wasn't within earshot, but those words from the senior shooter would have put a smile on her face.

Coach Pat Summitt has spent three years imploring Dominique Redding to play defense and go to the boards, as Redding's ability to score has never been in question. And if preseason practice sessions are any gauge, the message has now gotten through.

Throughout her three years at Tennessee, Redding has shown an admirable ability to withstand the scrutiny of Summitt, who spares no criticism when she thinks it is warranted. Now that Redding is a senior – along with friend and roommate Sidney Spencer – that scrutiny will ratchet up another level.

"I've had more practice at it," Redding said with a laugh. "She prepared me for it every day always staying on me. I've seen you've got to do things the right way. She always gets on me about that, but at the same time I'm human so we're all going to mess up. I take it in stride – take her message instead of her tone. Sometimes it gets hard and I'll be like, ‘Man … ' but one of my teammates will come over and pick me up."

During practice Friday – an upbeat session that included an emphasis on full- and half-court defense – Redding drew words of praise from Summitt for her intensity. Those words put a bounce in Redding's step. Redding is a key piece of the team this season – there are only 10 players on scholarship – because she can score, and although she has served in a reserve role for three years, she does have experience in big games.

It would be instructive in this case to look at last year's box score against Carson-Newman. In that Nov. 10, 2005, game Redding was 3-5 from the floor and had zero rebounds in 18 minutes of play. In Wednesday's 104-49 win over Carson-Newman, Redding hit nine of 11 shots in 21 minutes of play and also recorded five rebounds. And although the Lady Eagles were overmatched at every position, Tennessee's shots still had to fall.

"True, you're correct about that," Redding said. "But at the same time I've just got to stay in the gym and shoot extra and do everything I've got to do.

"Off the reversal if I'm open I'm going to shoot it obviously. It's not that I'm hunting (shots). I'm trying to hunt for rebounds. That's how you stay on the court is rebounding. Coach is never worried about my offense. I hope I can just continue to do that throughout the season."

Her teammates celebrated with Redding in the locker room after the game, but the team also was ready to critique its performance. Carson-Newman was even with the Lady Vols on the boards, 36-36.

Redding used the day off Thursday to watch film, as did Spencer.

"I watched film on my own, so did she and then we watched it together," Redding said. "I can be more aggressive on defense and box out more. I could have had more rebounds if I had boxed out."

They attributed the team's sub-par board play to the transition game and the failure to take charge on the glass.

"We were more in transition so pretty much anybody can get the rebound and everyone was like, ‘Oh, the other person is going to get the rebound,' instead of everyone just going after the board," Redding said. "So just box out more."

Redding and Spencer have both said they are ready to take on the role of team leaders this season – though it seems hard to believe for both that their last year has arrived.

"I cannot believe it, but I'm happy at the same time to have a leadership role," Redding said. "I have to do everything right every day. I try to every day. We didn't think we would get that far when we were freshmen. It seemed so far away, but it has gone by really fast. It's special. She's my buddy."

On the way to the locker room after Wednesday's game Spencer was all smiles and hugged Redding. Spencer also put on Redding's jersey in the locker room in a gesture of admiration and as a way to celebrate her friend's performance.

"Last year when she had her breakout game against Connecticut and she scored 21 points, I was just ecstatic," Redding said. "I was so happy for her. I think that's what we share for each other. We might play the same position, but it's just a greater love that we have."

Tennessee will need both Redding and Spencer to look for their shots this season to make up for the loss of sharpshooter Shanna Zolman, who left with the school's single season and career three-point records.

"With us being small in numbers no one can have an off night," Redding said. "We've all got to go in there and just play. I think that is actually better for us because it keeps us focused."

PRE-FOOTBALL PRACTICE: The Lady Vols will hold an open practice Saturday at 10:15 a.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena for fans who want to watch the team before the Tennessee-LSU football game, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m.

Freshman Nicci Moats practiced Friday –a good sign as she is still making her way back from knee surgery – and freshman Cait McMahan continued her knee rehab on the sideline while also staying focused on the action on the floor. McMahan is expected to be cleared for the season opener, Nov. 12.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories