Pat Summitt pleased with practice response

Coach Pat Summitt got the practice response that she wanted Tuesday after a flat effort the day before. The players seized control of the session, and the freshmen stood out primarily because they didn't particularly stand out.

"Vicki Baugh, she's getting better and better," Coach Pat Summitt said. "There is such a great upside to her game. I'm really pleased with all the freshmen. It's not like they just stand out (for the wrong reasons)."

Freshmen can struggle to pick up the system and find the right spot on the floor on both ends of the court. They also are not used to practice sessions that last two and three hours. But Tennessee's newcomers are blending in with the veterans.

Baugh, a 6'4 forward, is getting the right kind of attention with her physical play around the basket. The freshmen guards, Sydney Smallbone and Angie Bjorklund, also are picking up the system. Smallbone has the added responsibility of trying to learn the point guard spot, too. Both guards have shown an ability to shoot the ball from behind the arc.

"Sydney is learning how to defend and learning a new system," Summitt said. "For her she needs more reps."

The biggest question mark with freshmen is can they defend to Summitt's satisfaction? Bjorklund is needed on the floor this season to help Tennessee replace the long-range offense of the now-graduated sharpshooter Sidney Spencer. But that means Bjorklund has to be able to hold her own on the perimeter defensively.

"Angie, I told her today she's really light on her feet defensively," Summitt said. "Based on what I've seen from her and from Baugh, they're ahead defensively. The two of them are definitely ahead."

The fourth freshman, center Kelley Cain, missed her third practice session because of a concussion she sustained last Friday. She was able to ride a stationary bicycle. Senior forward/guard Alberta Auguste was held out again Tuesday because of a calf contusion. Both are listed as day to day.

Senior guard Alexis Hornbuckle returned to the floor after missing part of Monday's session because of a minor flare-up to her knee. Her presence can't be discounted given the players' improved performance Tuesday.

"She always makes a difference," Summitt said. "They came ready to practice. The players that practiced got a lot of reps."

Summitt got exactly what she was seeking – energy and an upbeat and up-tempo practice atmosphere.

"The team took a lot of ownership today," Summitt said. "We worked a lot on defensive concepts and put it all together into team concepts. We ran through all of our offenses today and worked on our press and our press break."

Summitt was smiling Tuesday, a stark contrast to the grim look on her face Monday.

"Do keep in mind that coaches they tend to feel according to how their players practice," Summitt said. "I went home last night, and I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I had to go speak. I went home so stressed I took a 20-minute nap before I got up to do a function (for a children's home in Knoxville). The team just stressed me out. My fatigue yesterday was trying to motivate that team. I didn't see any defense."

Summitt was able to smile as she said that Tuesday.

"I'm in a good mood. I'm going to go cook dinner – whatever Tyler wants," Summitt said, referring to her teenage son.

Summitt didn't want to worry about the injury scare to Candace Parker – the junior forward was going up to the basket in the closing minutes of practice and then came to the sideline holding her right shoulder – unless she is given a reason to do so.

Jenny Moshak, the Lady Vols assistant athletics director for sports medicine, said it was too soon to have any definitive diagnosis. Parker was scheduled to see the team physician on Wednesday for an X-ray. The results of that procedure will determine if a next step is needed, such as an MRI.

"She didn't seem overly concerned," Summitt said of Moshak's initial reaction. "But we'll err on the side of caution and go have it checked out."

The team will return to practice Wednesday night after Summitt, Hornbuckle and senior Nicky Anosike return by plane from SEC Media Day in Birmingham. The plan for the week is to keep installing the Lady Vols system on defense and offense.

"We've been able to move at a pretty fast pace overall as far as the amount of teaching we've done to this point," Summitt said. They (the freshmen) may hit the wall at some point in time, but at this point they haven't."

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