"I feel great," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said of the team's two days of preparation for the second game of the 2007-08 season. "We went up and down. They were focused. They did what we asked them to do. I feel really good about it. Hopefully we'll be well prepared. If our two practices are any indication, we're going to be well prepared."
The return of senior Alexis Hornbuckle, who sat out Monday's practice because of tendonitis in her knees, gave the Lady Vols nine players for the two-hour session.
Freshman Kelley Cain underwent courtside rehabilitation for her right knee, but she has not been cleared to return to the court. She injured the knee last week when she planted under the basket and her kneecap slipped. It is a condition Cain has dealt with throughout high school because of the way her kneecap is formed.
Head Coach Pat Summitt had not yet had a chance to talk to Jenny Moshak, the Lady Vols' head of sports medicine, to get a prognosis on Cain, but her availability for Thursday would seem to be doubtful.
"I haven't talked to her, but I would assume Jenny would want to wait," Summitt said.
Both Summitt and Oklahoma Head Coach Sherri Coale held media conferences Tuesday to discuss the upcoming game. The coaches also will hold press conferences Wednesday in Tampa.
The game gives women's college basketball fans the chance to finally see Candace Parker, a junior All-American for Tennessee, and Courtney Paris, a junior All-American for Oklahoma, play against each other.
"I think everyone has been waiting for this matchup for a long time," Summitt said. "I am glad that all of the women's basketball fans who have an interest in the matchup will be able to see it."
The players have the same initials and wear the same jersey number in No. 3, but their games are quite different. Paris is a force on the low block and a true center. Parker is a power forward that can play inside or out.
"Two very, very different weapons but each extraordinary in its own way," Coale said. "Courtney is power and brawn and there aren't very many women's basketball players who can physically match up to her stature and keep her from owning a piece of real estate that she wants. And if she gets that piece of real estate it's over. She's going to produce, and the opponent is going to be in trouble."
"Candace is a little bit more like a wild bird that you're trying to catch just because she's fleet of foot, she's graceful, she can shoot from the three, she can take three strong dribbles from half-court and dunk it as we've seen before. So she is a different type of animal to cage yet each of them is very, very difficult for any one person in women's college basketball to match up with. So when you see the two of them – even though their games are vastly different – you've got to have a game plan that involves more than one guy.
"I don't there's any one guy in the game that's going to take Courtney out of hers or take Candace out of hers so it's got to be a group effort. Fortunately basketball is a team sport so we'll have four other guys on the floor to help, and Tennessee will do the same."
Parker's offensive ability in the women's game is unparalleled. She can play on the blocks or slip to the outside and knock down jumpers. She can either lead the break or finish it. She attempted two three-pointers against Chattanooga and hit both of them.
Summitt wants to see Parker dominate on the defensive end, too, this season.
"The real challenge for Candace and a part of what I think could be a great addition and upside to her game is her intensity on the defensive end – her ability not only to defend on the block but out on the court," Summitt said. "She has size and a great presence. I think she has demonstrated a different commitment on the defensive end.
"She understands that it could be something that would inspire our team and also allow us to bring more size on the perimeter. It is just a matter of time before we are able to play a big lineup and have Candace or Nicky on the perimeter and have Vicki Baugh or Kelley Cain in the paint."
Because of the offensive versatility of Parker, Summitt could play three of those players at once. Nicky Anosike, Baugh and Cain are post players – though Baugh also has the potential to venture away from the paint – and Parker can play on the perimeter or inside. Anosike can defend inside or out so Summitt could play her inside on offense and outside on defense.
"The length and the size of that type of matchup is a possibility as we get better and challenge people to defend in that fashion," Summitt said.
LEADERSHIP AWARD: Pat Summitt was back at practice Tuesday after having to slip out a few minutes early Monday to fly to New York to be recognized as one of the America's best leaders of 2007. The 18 honorees, ranging from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, discussed leadership in a forum Monday evening.
"It was great," Summitt said. "It was a different format and a good opportunity to be there and to be among a lot of great leaders. (Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University) David Gergen was pretty much in charge, and he did a great job. We had a Q&A which was neat, to talk about different leadership styles. There was a variety, from the standpoint of who was present and what type of background with which they are involved. We are all involved in some type of leadership, so it was neat."
PARKER'S LEGACY: During the broadcast of the Stanford-Rutgers game on Sunday ESPN commentator Doris Burke compared Candace Parker to one of the all-time greats of the game, Cheryl Miller. But Burke added that Parker would have to win another national title to seal her legacy in women's college basketball.
Pat Summitt heard the comment, but she does not agree with the sentiment.
"The game is quite different now than it was in the 1980s," Summitt said. "I say different in terms of the parity in the game. Certainly I hope Candace can help us win another NCAA title, but if we don't I don't think that it will take away from how people view Candace Parker, her impact on the game and her place in the game.
"I think realistically we have to recognize the growth of women's basketball. Maybe in the 1980s you had three or four teams that you thought could win an NCAA championship. Now I think there are six or seven teams who could possibly cut down the nets."
In response to a separate question during her weekly teleconference Summitt noted the number of teams who are achieving success. She was asked if there were a player who was the face of the college game – the question seemed to imply there was – but Summitt chose to first spotlight the sport as a whole.
"When people think of women's basketball, I think there are some programs that have established themselves as some of the best in the country," Summitt said. "Tennessee and Connecticut have been in the spotlight in that role and you look at what has happened in the ACC with Maryland, North Carolina and Duke and with Maryland winning a championship. Competition is much greater than ever before.
"In terms of players, Candace Parker and Courtney Paris have been two players that have brought a lot of attention to the game. The fact that we have that matchup coming in Tampa later this week, there are a lot of people that are really looking forward to watching that particular matchup. I think Candace has had a strong influence on women's basketball with her style of play, her ability to play above the rim and the play we saw from her last year in our NCAA title run."
SIGNING DAY: The early signing period for basketball recruits starts Wednesday and lasts a week.
Tennessee has received six verbal commitments from: Briana Bass 5'2 guard, North Central High School, Indianapolis; Alyssia Brewer, 6'3 forward, Sapulpa, OK, Sapulpa High School; Amber Gray, 6'1 guard/forward, Lakota West, West Chester, Ohio; Glory Johnson, 6'3 forward, Knoxville, Tenn., Webb School of Knoxville; Alicia Manning, 6'0 guard/forward, Etowah High School, Woodstock, Ga.; and Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 guard/forward, Morrilton Ark., Morrilton High School.
Players can sign their letters of intent beginning Wednesday and either fax or mail them to the intended school.
Tennessee can't comment on the individual recruits or its signing class of 2008 until all of the LOIs have been received.