Lady Vols learning to battle

Pat Summitt put her team through simulated game situations Saturday – sometimes for as long as 10 minutes a stretch – to see how they would battle through fatigue. The coach ended up with some film that she said would show "the good, the bad and the ugly."

The freshmen got tossed into the fire – minus one who sat out because of a blow to the head – against a skilled practice squad. The male practice squad pushed tempo and even had enough show up on a Saturday morning to keep a fresh five on the floor.

"The guys played well," Pat Summitt said. "We had extra people. They kept the pressure on us."

The team practiced in Pratt Pavilion and as passers-by headed up an adjacent ramp into Thompson-Boling Arena for circus shows they were able to get glimpses of the players through a side window.

"That's Candace Parker!" said one wide-eyed boy who appeared to be about 6 years old.

An NCAA committee examined the use of male practice players with an eye on abolishing their participation, but the issue has been tabled for now, much to the relief of Summitt.

"I can't even relate to the thinking," Summitt said. "Hello, it makes every player better. It just makes us better. It's made our game better."

It also allowed Tennessee, with nine available players, to have enough fresh bodies to scrimmage against the guys for more than an hour. With Kelley Cain sitting out that part of Saturday's itinerary – she was hit above the right eye Friday at practice – the Lady Vols wouldn't have had enough for five-on-five among themselves. Cain participated in the warmup and walk-through of the offense Saturday, but she was held out of any contact situations.

"I thought we gave in to fatigue at times," Summitt said. "We started out at six-minute segments, then we went to eight, then we went to 10. We did some good things, but it was sporadic. Our transition defense and our rebounding probably stood out as the biggest weaknesses. And we have to have both. And not being consistent in getting paint points. We just started putting up a lot of outside shots."

The scrimmages against the athletic practice team allowed the other three freshmen, Vicki Baugh, Angie Bjorklund and Sydney Smallbone, to get into situations at game speed.

"I thought Vicki played pretty hard today, played through some of that (fatigue) and that's good because she's been giving in to it," Summitt said. "Syd's got to have better awareness (on transition defense). If she's supposed to guard (a specific player) and she gets back there and (someone else) is guarding you, she's going to guard you, too. She's got to learn to really scramble. I thought Angie had a good day."

Summitt calmly broke down the sessions – she used officials for the scrimmages to make it even more game-like – and noted it would be particularly instructive once the film was broken down and shown to the players.

"You just have to let them play through it. I could have stopped probably three out of every five possessions to correct them. Now we've got film," said Summitt, who walked out of Pratt with the tape already in hand. "I can watch that, and I can show it to them. We can show them the good, the bad and the ugly and there was some of all.

‘We're still a work in progress. There's no doubt about that."

The team will get the day off Sunday and then will return Monday to watch film before the afternoon practice.

Before practice ended, Summitt and the coaching staff asked the players for their view of how the sessions went.

"They had good feedback," Summitt said. "They know what they did well and what they need to work on. I asked for their input right away."

The veteran leadership on the team has been lauded since practice began a week ago. The coaches seem confident that areas that need to be addressed on the court will be because of how the players are capable of policing themselves.

"I am as confident in the leadership in this team that I see as I have ever been at any point in my life in 25 years of coaching," Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood said. "I can think of a team at West Point and I can think of one of my teams at Northwood (Michigan) University (that had comparable leadership).

"If emergency struck and the four coaches had to leave the building and we said, ‘Here's the practice plan. Can you get this done?' I would feel very good that those things would be done and addressed in the way that we would want them done. I could not say that about every team I've been on. I use the term, ‘They get it.' Nicky gets it. Lex gets it. Alex gets it. Candace gets it. Shannon gets it. Bird has gotten it. We are very confident in this group of upperclassmen.

"I trust them, and it takes a lot for me to say that. I trust them."

HARDEST WORKING MAN IN WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: It's not unusual for Dean Lockwood to be soaked in sweat after a practice. His coaching style is to get in the paint and demonstrate hands-on what he wants from the players in terms of footwork, boxing out and power moves to the basket. He'll use padded cushions to make contact with the players as they shoot in the paint. This is accompanied by a running commentary of coaching and encouragement.

"He works harder than us, and I like it," freshman post player Vicki Baugh said.

Baugh, a 6'4 forward, has the body size to battle inside, but she played a lot on the perimeter in high school and has relied on Lockwood to help her make the adjustment to the paint.

"Working without the ball, movement, fundamentals," Baugh said. "This is different for me. I think I've gotten better at it."

SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY: Baugh is from Sacramento, California, but is making the adjustment to Southern culture and accents.

"I actually think it's pretty nice," Baugh said. "People are a lot more friendly here. It's not weird to walk down the street and say hello to a complete stranger. That's what I like about here. It's not as busy so that's been an adjustment, but with all the work we do you won't have time."

Like most freshmen, when Baugh gets any time to herself she takes a nap. Otherwise, classes, practice, weight training, conditioning, meetings and study hall fill her time.

"I really feel like an adult," she said. "Everything is on schedule. When I have free time I sleep. That's all I do. And watch movies."

KELLEY KEEPING UP: Kelley Cain missed the scrimmage part of practice Saturday because of an inadvertent shot to the head Friday, but that was the first time she has been slowed down since practice started.

Cain, a 6'6 center, has been able to keep up when Tennessee plays an up-tempo pace. That is unusual for one of the bigs, especially a freshman. But Cain worked over the summer with Heather Mason, the strength and conditioning coach, to get ready.

"That was a question mark going in," Pat Summitt said. "The pace of the game – is it going to be a challenge? She's had to dial up her intensity and really work on getting up and down but Heather told me several weeks ago, ‘You're not going to have to wait on her, coach. She's getting there.' (Earlier in the week), Heather was watching and I said, ‘You're right. Kelley is definitely getting there.' "

"That was interesting," a smiling Cain said of the grueling workouts with Mason. "It was different. I know it's for the best, and it's going to make me a stronger and better player. I just give it my all."


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