"I think it's probably because I shot a lot of shots in college," Pat Summitt said. "Didn't make as many as I wanted. I was a pitcher in softball; of course that was slow-pitch. Probably a combination, but I think when I dislocated it when I hit the raccoon (was the final blow).
Summitt first dislocated her right shoulder after she saw the raccoon menacing her beloved yellow Labrador, Sally Sue, on the back deck of the house. Summitt lowered her shoulder, delivered a forearm shiver and knocked the raccoon off the deck and onto the ground below.
The team physician had to come over late that night and with the help of Tyler Summitt, the coach's teenage son, the shoulder was put back in place. But such an injury causes the shoulder to be unstable and prone to popping out of place again.
"It came out seven more times so it's been out eight times," Summitt said. "All eight hurt."
The arthroscopic surgery was performed Thursday morning by Dr. Edwin Spencer and UT team orthopedists Dr. Russ Betcher and Dr. Greg Mathien at Ft. Sanders West Surgery Center, according to Jenny Moshak, the Lady Vols' chief of sports medicine.
"The surgery addressed recurrent instability problems with her shoulder," Moshak said.
Moshak said that Summitt was "doing well" post-surgery and "will begin rehabbing the shoulder in about a week."
Summitt, who will be in a sling for about six weeks, expects to perform well as a rehabbing patient.
"Jenny will make sure of that," Summitt said.
Summitt's sense of humor was more intact than her shoulder on the eve of her surgery.
"I'm going to hit him with my left one if he comes back," Summitt said.
One of Summitt's neighbors is doing his part to minimize Summitt's encounters with raccoons with a catch-and-release project.
My neighbor called (Tuesday) night," she said. "He's caught 13. I think they take them out in woods somewhere up in the mountains."
Summitt also isn't giving up her favorite foods. Last March she had gone outside to carry the trash to the container, and it was the smell of salmon that she had cooked for dinner that brought the raccoon to her deck. She cooked salmon one night this month, too.
"The other night we were cooking salmon and I went outside and the dogs came out and I looked and there was a raccoon," Summitt said. "Anytime I cook fish they come around."
That raccoon, however, stayed on the ground below and didn't come up to the deck. Perhaps word has spread among the raccoon population to keep a safe distance from Summitt.
The Lady Vols practiced this week on Monday and Wednesday so that Summitt wouldn't miss any sessions because of her surgery. She plans to be back for the practices scheduled for next week.
"I hope so," Summitt said. "I hope not to miss any."
The two sessions this week were used to install some offensive sets so that the six true freshmen can get repetitions running plays as a team.
"We get in a lot of team concepts," Summitt said. "That's what we're working on. Skill work, which they need. Repetition. It's good to have the practice guys here so one team can watch and vice versa."
A team of five Lady Vols goes against the male practice players while the other five watch, and then they rotate. With sophomore Cait McMahan on the sidelines rehabbing, two freshmen are taking turns running the point, Briana Bass and Alicia Manning.
"I think early we're going to have to do it by committee and then hopefully somebody's going to step up and take the spot," Associate Head Coach Holly Warlick said. "Bri's there and Alicia right now and I could see (Shekinna) Stricklen running the point a little bit."
The freshman the coaches are most excited about so far is a redshirt one, Kelley Cain, the 6'6 center who missed last season to have her right kneecap realigned.
"I am thrilled with what Kelley Cain is bringing to our team – her attitude, she's got soft hands, great shooting touch," Summitt said.
Cain has been off the court for nearly a year – she got hurt in early November of 2007 in practice – and is working to restore her level of conditioning. She has looked steadily better this past month as she both gets comfortable with her knee and being back on the court. She hit the deck hard in Wednesday's session but popped back up. The male practice team gets physical inside, but Cain is still getting deep position in the paint and finishing at the rim.
"I'm so pleased with Kelley," Warlick said. "She's what I thought she could do. She had to sit out a whole year and that's tough. She's a big kid, she's got great hands, she gets up and down the floor. She takes a beating. I'd have a mouthpiece and a face guard. But she's been enduring it."
Cain could have some help in the post sooner than expected if sophomore Vicki Baugh continues on pace to return by the official start of practice on Oct. 17. The 6'4 forward had ACL surgery on her left knee last May but has made such strides in rehab that she may be cleared by the start of the season. The signs that Baugh could be ready sooner rather than later began to emerge over the summer.
"Having been here during the summer and talking to Jenny, Jenny seemed pretty positive about her return at the start of official practice," Summitt said.
How much better is Tennessee if Baugh can play?
"We're a lot better, especially if she comes back where she left off," Summitt said. "She gained a lot of experience and confidence in the postseason last year."