Lady Vol player evaluations

The Lady Vols have three games on tap, beginning Sunday afternoon at Texas, before taking a break for Christmas. The basketball team has compiled an 8-1 record and is ranked No. 5 in the country. Coach Pat Summitt sees a good team, but she wants a great team. Here is her assessment of each scholarship player after one-third of the regular season has been played in 2006-07.


Dominique Redding, 6'1 forward, Clearwater, Florida

By the numbers: Played in all nine games, averaging 11.6 minutes per game; an excellent free throw shooter, 5-5 (100 percent) and hitting 46.7 percent of her field goal attempts; has to cut down on turnovers (14) during her minutes on the floor and use her size to play better defense and get on the boards.

"I think she's shooting the basketball really well," Pat Summitt said. "The thing about Dom is defense and board play. She came here as a great scorer at the high school level, and she's gone in and made a lot of big shots for us throughout her career but lack of consistency on the defensive end and on the boards. It's now or never. Let's get it done."

Redding had a good five days of practice this past week in terms of energy and effort and being communicative on the floor.

"That's what she needs to bring to her team every day," Summitt said.

Sidney Spencer, 6'3 forward, Hoover, Alabama

By the numbers: Has started all nine games, averaging 26.4 minutes per game; hitting an eye-popping 62.2 percent (23-37) from behind the arc and 52.3 percent overall (45-86) for an average of 13.1 points per game; despite her size only averaging 2.7 rebounds a game but does have 15 offensive boards to nine on defense; much improved on defense this season with nine steals and following help principles on defense instead of fouling.

"Shooting the ball very well, leadership is strong," Summitt said. "I think her defense is getting better. Probably her board play is the weakest part of her game, but she's been much more determined in that area. I think for her with her size she's not going to the boards, and she's not getting back in transition so she's spectating, and she has to be a participant."

Spencer is very coachable and will listen to instruction from the staff and Summitt, who already noted Spencer's improved board play against George Washington last week.

"And she's smart," Summitt said. "She'll figure it out."


Nicky Anosike, 6'4 center/forward, Staten Island, N.Y.

By the numbers: Has started all nine games, averaging 24.6 minutes per game; the quintessential player whose effort on both ends won't always show up in the box score and who doesn't take off possessions; hitting 55.4 percent of her shots, scoring 9.2 points a game; excellent interior passer with 27 assists; stalwart on defense with 14 blocks and 12 steals and ability to swipe the ball in the open court and anticipate passes; second-leading rebounder at 5.6 boards per game.

"I think she's improved her offensive skills, face-up," Summitt said. "Obviously has played hard defensively and is not quite as prone to foul as she was a year ago."

With Anosike's size and strength she could be more forceful inside, where Tennessee needs post defense and better board play.

"To me she's not using her physical body to the level that she can," Summitt said.

Alexis Hornbuckle, 5'11 guard, Duncan, West Virginia

By the numbers: Has started all nine games, averaging 28.0 minutes a game; hitting 40.9 percent of her threes, a significant improvement over her first two seasons and is at 44.3 percent overall (9-22), a number she needs to improve; has a sterling 30 assists to 15 turnovers and leads the team with 32 steals.

"I think she just needs to be a more consistent scorer for us – she's got to be a consistent scoring threat for this team," Summitt said.

Hornbuckle has been able to play more at the wing this season but if the point guards are in foul trouble or struggling, she has had to move back to the one spot. Hornbuckle has handled it with aplomb.

"Her handles are good, leadership's been solid, defensively brings the intensity," Summitt said.


Alberta Auguste, 5'11 guard/forward, Marrero, Louisiana

By the numbers: Has played in all nine games, gets better each time out, averaging 19.1 minutes a game; hitting 52.8 percent of her shots (19-36), but is better from long range than she has demonstrated so far (1-5); good rebounder with 13 boards apiece on the offensive and defensive ends; 19 steals and 21 assists but needs to cut back on turnovers with 23.

"I think she can bring a lot of energy off the bench and really spark our team," Summitt said. "I think she's got to get more consistent from the offensive standpoint. I like her aggressiveness. When she goes in I've felt that she has really picked up the tempo of our team."

Auguste has an attitude that her coaches relish – she wants to learn and wants to get better. When she does turn over the ball she redoubles her effort to get it back.

"She does follow up mistakes with hustle plays, and she really has a nose for the ball on the glass," Summitt said. "She rebounds for us."

Shannon Bobbitt, 5'2 guard, Manhattan, N.Y.

By the numbers: Has started eight games, missed one road game because of academic commitments, averaging 21.4 minutes a game; distributes the ball well with 33 assists (team leader) to just 17 turnovers; excellent free throw shooter (10-12) who needs to shoot better from behind the arc (7-19, 36.8 percent) and overall (14-37, 37.8 percent); has 11 steals but could bring more heat on defense and likely will as she adjusts to the game and being Summitt's leader on the floor.

"I'd probably say she needs to improve more on the defensive end, keeping herself out of foul trouble, being consistent bringing the pressure," Summitt said. "Probably look to score more offensively."

Bobbitt has made the adjustment to Division I basketball and doesn't hesitate to speak up in practice. She also has learned the offense quickly and has been called a breath of fresh air – along with Auguste – because of their appreciation of playing at Tennessee and their willingness to listen and learn.

"She's picked up the offense," Summitt said. "She's very vocal, she brings a lot of energy. She's a very positive leader."


Alex Fuller, 6'3 forward/center, Shelbyville, Tennessee

By the numbers: Has played in all nine games, averaging 21.0 minutes a game and is called a "sixth starter" by the coaching staff; one of the team's best rebounders at 4.8 per game and can play defense as evidenced by nine steals and three blocks; also a scorer, averaging 7.8 ppg, and has hit 60 percent of her shots (24-40); can step outside and hit from behind the arc, which makes her a difficult matchup at power forward; spent the off-season running and playing basketball and is in the best shape of her career, needs to use her body to her advantage.

"Alex has to be more physical in the paint and on the boards," Summitt said. "I've been pleased with her game overall in other areas. She's in good shape."

Fuller is playing significant minutes for the first time at Tennessee – she had to take a redshirt year two years ago and was hindered by a hip injury as a redshirt freshman – and Summitt wants her to step up.

"I think she's got to play big in big games," Summitt said. "I think she's a gamer, but I think she has to continue to bring it in the close, big games."

Candace Parker, 6'5 guard/forward/center, Naperville, Illinois

By the numbers: Has started all nine games, averaging 28.1 minutes per game; leads team in points (19.6) and rebounds (8.3) and is hitting 57.8 percent of her shots (67-116), also has hit 3-4 threes, needs to shoot better from the free throw line (39-56, 69.6 percent); has 58 boards on defense, twice as many as anyone else on the team (28 by Fuller); leads team in blocks (23) and is second in steals (20) behind only Hornbuckle's 32.

"Her size, her presence, her versatility," Summitt said. "I think with Candace it's important that she not pace herself. I'd rather see her play hard for ‘X' number of minutes and then sub her out and put her back in. I don't want her to get in any bad habits of keeping herself in the game. I want her going all out."

Parker played on the perimeter a lot last season – with Anosike and the now-graduated Tye'sha Fluker inside – but must be a post presence for Tennessee now and not shy away from contact. She is getting brutalized inside with too few foul calls, a scourge on the women's game that is showing no signs of abatement.

"It's not like she has the body of a power player, but she is strong," Summitt said. "Just getting her to be more aggressive on her post-ups. She's aggressive on her drives. I think where she fades a lot is on her post-ups."


Cait McMahan, 5'4 guard, Maryville, Tennessee

By the numbers: Played in all nine games and started one, averaging 17.4 minutes per game; tenacious defender with nine steals and despite her size, two blocks; will get on the boards – averaging 2.0 per game – with 15 on the defensive end; has picked up the offense and makes her coach forget she is just a freshman; needs to shoot better from outside (13-35, 37.1 percent) and cut down on turnovers (14) while increasing assists (15).

"I think for her it's doing a better job at running our half-court offense," Summitt said. "I think Cait is hard-nosed, she pushes tempo, she's a vocal leader, aggressive at both ends of the floor."

McMahan is playing the most-difficult position – Summitt's coach on the floor – and hasn't backed down from the challenge.

"Overall been pleased with Cait," Summitt said. "For her to be a freshman and take on the vocal leadership that she has has been very positive."

Nicci Moats, 6'2 forward, Daleville, Virginia

By the numbers: Has played in seven games, averaging 5.0 minutes per game; has pulled down eight rebounds in 35 total minutes of play; has a tendency to foul (nine) but also can play defense, as evidenced by four blocks and two steals; has offensive skills but needs to slow down and let the game flow, also needs to get in college condition after missing most of her senior year in high school because of a knee injury.

"She's got to get in better shape," Summitt said. "She's got to get more quality practice time. Her game speed is not at the level of the rest of our team. She got behind early so she's still playing catch-up."

Summitt does see potential in Moats, who needs to get the most out of her repetitions in practice.

"She's got skills, she's got nice moves, she's got a nice touch," Summitt said. "We've got to get her performing her skills at a different intensity level."


The team spent the past week of practice trying to correct its weaknesses – namely a lack of board play and a reluctance to get physical with opponents. Summitt built her program on defense and rebounding so this team's shortcomings are particularly galling.

"I think a couple of things have been glaring," Summitt said. "The thing that has stood out is they're a finesse team. They have to be willing to be more physical because it is a physical game.

"I think the other thing is they run a lot faster on offense than they do on defense. They have got to get their transition defense in place because we're going to play teams that are really going to challenge us. It's interesting. You want to run at people but not with people so you've got to slow them down. You've got to slow down the offense of all of our opponents. We've got to slow them down."

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