The movie is set in the 1960s, and the reassigned coach is none too happy about his new job since girls' sports are clearly an afterthought in an economically depressed town that revolves around high school sports. The movie traverses the path the coach – and his team – took to carve out their rightful place in the community and to triumph against considerable odds. Diana Taurasi, a former star at UConn and a current WNBA and USA national team player, makes an appearance in the movie.
The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame signed on as an affiliate for the movie's premiere in Knoxville.
Jonathan Sehring, president of IFC Entertainment said, "Premiering the film that celebrates the joys and challenges of the women's basketball movement in the hometown of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, is a perfect fit."
Karen Tucker, director of basketball relations at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, said, "When we first heard about ‘Believe in Me,' and Jim Keith's fascinating story, we immediately decided that we wanted to be involved with its release. After viewing the movie ourselves, we realized that it would be a great way of continuing our mission to ‘honor the past, celebrate the present and promote the future' of women's basketball."
The Knoxville location had an added benefit for Judson-Yager and her family.
"It was because of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, and we really wanted to get a chance to watch Pat Summitt and her ladies practice so it was all of it combined," Judson-Yager said. "It was premiering in Clovis, (New Mexico), which is where we shot it, but this had everything."
Judson-Yager, who will be 27 next week, grew up playing basketball and going to camp at Colorado, which was then coached by Ceal Barry. Judson-Yager was coached by her father, Craig Yager, who is a retired schoolteacher. He and Judson-Yager's mother, Lucy Judson, still reside in Colorado, where Judson-Yager was raised.
Also in attendance at the Lady Vols practice was Judson-Yager's grandmother, Miriam Yager, who played basketball in Iowa in the 1930s. Lucy Judson played girl's basketball in Pennsylvania, as did the couple's first daughter, Kejy, who also was at practice.
The three generations of family were able to talk to Summitt after practice. Judson-Yager's father has always admired Summitt, and he introduced his daughters to basketball at a young age, leading to a lifelong interest in the sport. The family became Tennessee fans many years ago.
"It's a little bit surreal because I grew up watching Pat," Judson-Yager said of watching the team practice in Stokely Athletics Center on Saturday afternoon. "It's really nice to have my whole family on a lot of different levels – my dad was my coach, my grandma played, my mom played, my sister played – and it's my family so it's really nice to sit here and watch. I grew up playing and I grew up going to Ceal's practices and all of her camps. I know it, but I don't so it's great."
Judson-Yager, who is working on an animated martial arts series (ogmasterkush.com), now makes her home in Los Angeles. She learned of the basketball movie and knew she needed to be involved.
"My agent set me up with an audition and I walked into the casting director's office and I said, ‘Before we get started I really want to be a part of this project,' " Judson-Yager said. "Because it really is very close to my heart. So I had a basketball audition, a couple of theatrical auditions and then they booked me."
The movie has opened nationwide now. More information can be found at www.wbhof.com and www.believeinmemovie.com
PRACTICE REPORT: The Lady Vols got in another lengthy practice session Saturday that once again included a lot of full-court work.
Pat Summitt intends to hold another productive session Sunday afternoon and then give her team the day off from the court Monday. They will gather at her house Monday evening to watch the selection show on ESPN at 8 p.m. Eastern and see who their next opponent will be and where they are going.
"We've tried to add some new things, some new wrinkles, particularly on the offensive end," Summitt said. "We'll do a couple of things defensively, but defensively we're pretty much who we are.
"Offensively I think that we've learned just from going through the conference and playing the schedule we've played how people want to play Candace Parker and how people want to play Alexis Hornbuckle and what they're doing with our point guard play. So with that said there's an opportunity to tweak a few things but certainly we're not going to overhaul offense or defense at this point."
Friday's practice focused on defense. The offense got its turn Saturday.
"We spent a lot of time on defense yesterday, more time on offense today, probably do a good combination tomorrow (Sunday) and get a lot of shots in and then give them Monday off," Summitt said.
A day off is usually contingent on a good closing performance the day before, but this team has responded to Summitt's challenges all season so Sunday should be no exception.
"I'm pretty happy," Summitt said of the practice sessions conducted since the team lost to LSU in the semifinals of the SEC tourney a week ago. "This time of year you're striving for perfection in everything. You don't always get it but you've just got to keep working, working, working, trying to get it."