Alex Fuller day to day after knee mishap

Tennessee got good knee news with Vicki Baugh expected to be able to practice some Sunday and what initially looked like a serious incident involving Alex Fuller on Saturday ended with her playing status as day to day. The results were promising on the court, too, as the team performed the layup drill to perfection one day after needing multiple attempts to finish.

"Concentration," Coach Pat Summitt said of the difference from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon. "They didn't take accountability for their layup drill yesterday and today they did. That's a sign of progress."

The 2.5-hour practice session ended with the drill – the same as Friday – but it took two minutes Saturday, compared to at least 20 minutes the day before. No player can miss from the right or left for a minute on each side at game speed or the clock resets. Nine players were available for the drill Saturday, and they didn't miss a single attempt.

"We had it in our heads that we were going to make every layup, and that's what we did," said freshman guard Shekinna Stricklen, who was perfect Friday and Saturday. "We talked to each other, and we picked each other up."

Stricklen handled some repetitions at point guard behind Cait McMahan and Briana Bass, as Summitt wants to create depth at a vital position and be able to go with a big lineup at times.

"I like it," Stricklen said. "I haven't played there. It's new for me, but I'm learning. I'm watching the tapes from practice and picking up things. Once I get all the plays down and everybody's position I think I'll be OK."

Summitt's reasons for deploying the shooting guard/small forward at the top of the offense were "my size and my vision," Stricklen said. "I'm 6'2 and quick, and she said she thought it would be good for me."

Summitt echoed that explanation.

"Her size and her vision and her skill," Summitt said. "We've got two small point guards, and there may be a time that we want a different mismatch, and we want to go big. She's really good in the open floor, too. Plus, anytime you can learn multiple positions it enhances your opportunity to play and to play more minutes and to have a bigger impact."

Alexis Hornbuckle learned the one, two and three spots as a freshman and ended up playing all three during her Tennessee career. Hornbuckle won two national titles as a Lady Vol and was drafted No. 4 by the Detroit Shock last April. The Shock won the WNBA championship last month, and Hornbuckle was a key contributor off the bench, playing both point and wing for Detroit during the season and in the playoffs.

Hornbuckle was part of a large freshman class that had to contribute immediately, but she also benefited from three seniors on the squad in Loree Moore, Brittany Jackson and Shyra Ely and two juniors in Tye'sha Fluker and Shanna Zolman. Stricklen's class also is a "Six Pack," but with one senior and no juniors on the 2008-09 roster the newcomers will have to play major roles.

"We're all bringing the same intensity and every day we're getting better and better," Stricklen said. "We're freshmen, but we've got to come ready every day."

The senior on the team, Alex Fuller, put a scare in the staff and her teammates when she fell to the floor after getting tangled up with sophomore Angie Bjorklund under the basket while both were rebounding.

"I didn't see it, but I saw her down and I was like, ‘What happened?' " Summitt said, her tone of voice indicating her alarm.

Fuller remained on the floor for a few minutes while the medical staff hovered, but she was able to get to the training room under her own power, albeit slowly. Fuller's mother, Debra Price, was in attendance Saturday and was able to comfort her daughter.

After practice ended, Jenny Moshak, the program's chief of sports medicine, said Fuller appears to have not sustained serious injury to her left knee, but she will be evaluated Sunday and will be listed as day to day.

"I think she escaped anything major, which is the good thing," Moshak said. "We'll see how the knee responds over the next 24 hours. There was a traumatic experience, but the structures survived. Now we'll just see if the knee is a happy camper or an unhappy camper over this next 24 hours."

Fuller and Bjorklund were both lunging for the ball when they collided. Bjorklund tried to help break Fuller's fall by holding her as she went down and then quickly called for Moshak.

"She was rebounding and then Angie fell into her but Alex's knee was bent and then she fell out of it," Moshak said. "I think that's what saved her. She did not feel a pop so that is obviously a good sign and test-wise, the clinical tests, she's passing. So now it's just a matter of the experience and see how the knee feels (Sunday). She's day to day."

Fuller missed the 2004-05 season to rehab her left knee after ACL surgery. This is the fifth year for the redshirt senior, and she has emerged as a team leader and maternal figure for a very young squad.

"She's strong," Summitt said. "She was a good rehabber and a lot of the players that have knee injuries come back a lot stronger. That probably was to her advantage."

Vicki Baugh, a sophomore forward who is recovering from ACL surgery last May, covered her face with her hands when Fuller went down and later appeared visibly relieved for her teammate. Baugh spent the session in rehab and lifting weights.

Baugh participated in last Tuesday's team workout but has been withheld from official practice for the past two days because of swelling in her left knee. But after positive rehab results Saturday, Moshak plans to let Baugh take the court Sunday with restrictions.

"I am optimistic she will participate in some of practice," Moshak said. "Her knee swelling is almost gone. She had a fabulous workout in the weight room, her strongest day ever, and was able to do everything with flying colors. So I am optimistic she will see some playing time. She will not go the full time."

McMahan did not go the full time Saturday, but that was by design and the good news for Moshak is that the point guard willingly pulled herself after two hours when she realized her knee – McMahan had major surgery on her right knee in June 2007 and missed last season – needed a break.

"That's the communication," Moshak said. "That's what we have to have in order for her to make it through the next three years."

One more player ended up by Moshak's side Saturday after freshman forward Glory Johnson took a blow above the left eye.

Glory was a head to head," Moshak said. "Cait ran into her. Glory never saw it coming. She passed her concussion tests. The only symptom is a headache."

Johnson took some Tylenol, spent some time in the training room and then returned to practice.

"We always do a pre-concussion assessment, and she matched her pre-concussion assessment both cognitively and balance-wise," Moshak said. "She was good to come back into practice and then her headache went away. She knows what to watch for overnight and then I'll check her again (Sunday)."

All things considered the news was good on the medical front.

"Yes," Moshak said. "Just busy."

Saturday's session included a lot of shooting repetitions and defensive drills. The players also played quite a bit of five on five against each other – only nine were left for the final layup drill with Fuller, McMahan and Baugh sidelined – because only one male practice player showed up.

"I'm going to definitely talk to them," Summitt said. "I was disappointed that we didn't have guys show up today. That's been such an important part of our practice and game preparation."

The male practice squad this year has a lot of new faces, and Summitt will deliver the message Sunday of how much the team depends on them.

The team will practice Sunday afternoon – the third of five consecutive sessions – and Summitt will be cognizant of the clock while balancing the need to instruct and ratchet up conditioning. The first two sessions have both been under three hours, and the newcomers have acquitted themselves well with their energy and intensity levels.

"We're in teaching mode," Summitt said. "We'll have to probably dial them up a little bit in the full-court drill and get them up and down more."


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