One thing became clear: After writing a lineup almost in permanent ink for the past two years the coaching staff is choosing from among seven or eight potential starters plus trying to figure out a bench rotation.
Playing time is literally for the plucking.
Ironically, both players missed practice – Stricklen for all of it and Johnson for all but about 30 minutes – because of mishaps.
Stricklen was still out for observation under the program's concussion protocol because of a blow to the face Saturday, but is expected to be cleared tonight to practice. Johnson collided with Cait McMahan on Tuesday and tweaked her right knee. Johnson spent the rest of practice getting treatment on the sideline and will undergo further evaluation by Jenny Moshak, the chief of sports medicine, so her status is not yet known.
Freshman forward Amber Gray slipped under the basket on the last drill and turned an ankle. She was expected to be OK.
Briana Bass head-faked a male practice player so well that he leaped and landed on top of her, but she popped up after a few seconds. That came right after she executed a crossover to the basket that left another practice player flat-footed. Before practice ended she took a tumble at center court while on defense.
By the time practice ended, most of the team was weighted down with ice packs. Alyssia Brewer was the lucky one. She never made it out of the locker room because of a stomach illness, but she should be able to practice Wednesday if her condition continues to improve.
Wednesday's practice was moved from early morning to late evening to accommodate schedules so the extra time might buy players some more recovery time.
Tennessee's starting lineup is also tenuous because sophomore forward Vicki Baugh, a likely starter, hasn't been cleared for full-court drill as she rehabs from left knee surgery. Her incremental release to practice depends on how her knee responds and whether or not it swells. She was able to practice Tuesday and got a pep talk on the sideline from close pal Candace Parker, who stopped by the arena while in town.
Sophomore guard Angie Bjorklund also is a likely starter, but she will miss one exhibition game because of a missed class in summer school. Baugh will miss one or two games – Summitt will know the exact number once she confirms the matter with Kerry Howland, an assistant director of the Thornton Center – for the same reason. Summitt's longstanding rule is a player misses one game per class missed.
"With our returning players, you've got to think that Alex being on the floor, she does have a calming effect on us, and that's probably a good thing because we do need to have better composure," Summitt said. "Obviously Angie. And then a lot depends on Vicki Baugh or Kelley Cain. Those two are right there.
"I like Kelley's size and what she's bringing to us. I'm not sure at this point in time where Vicki will be by the time we start (the season), but just having her on the court (Monday and Tuesday) in our half-court sets, she elevated our practice by just being on the floor. She definitely had an impact. She brings a lot of energy. I think the team has a lot of respect for her, especially these young players."
As far as the point position Summitt could use Cait McMahan or Bass or deploy a large lineup with Stricklen at the top of the key.
"The question is with Cait and Briana – do you start a true point guard or do you go with a bigger lineup?" Summitt said. "I think that might vary throughout the season. It's not something I'm going to be locked in to. Our coaching staff has talked about it.
"Certainly Cait has the experience over Briana. Briana Bass, she may be the quickest player I've ever coached with the ball, and I've coached a lot of quick players. She got down the floor; she outran everybody in practice. Now that she's feeling much more comfortable, her speed with the basketball is exceptional. I think she just has to learn our offenses and our offensive system a little bit better and be more committed on the defensive end. I think she and Cait can complement each other."
The coaches also must find a bench rotation and sophomore Sydney Smallbone has shown considerable improvement over last season. Freshmen Alicia Manning, Brewer and Gray also are making a push for minutes.
Fans who come to the exhibition game against Carson-Newman on Nov. 6 should not expect to see the same starting lineup three days later on Nov. 9 against Love & Basketball.
It could change again in the season opener against San Francisco on Nov. 15 and once again, on one day's rest, for the game against Virginia on Nov. 17. Six of the 12 players on the roster are either coming back from knee surgery or have knee issues that require calibration of court time.
"I don't think I'm going to be set on, ‘We're going to start these five people.' It may be that we're going to start five of seven or eight players," Summitt said. "I want to give them quality time. We've got two exhibition games that we can experiment with it and then after that we may want to have a set starting lineup, but at this point I couldn't tell you what that would be."
The players know they're earning their time every day in practice. Tuesday's session started with a film session – an idea to start sooner that Summitt borrowed from Bruce Pearl – and two freshmen asked Summitt after practice Tuesday for extra time with her in the film room.
"There's something to be said for having a young team; it certainly fires me up," Summitt said. "I get excited, and I look forward to practice every day. It's my classroom and my favorite time of the day. To be able to teach, especially with this bunch, they really want to learn.
"I have never had so many players ask me to watch tape with them. A lot of times they don't want the head coach to watch tape with them, but it's been the opposite. They wanted to watch tape and I think that's the way that you really learn. The one thing we didn't do that I know Bruce did right off is he started watching film early. After we watched our first film together as a team, as opposed to the individual setting, we got better."
The full text of Summitt's remarks to the media plus player quotes can be found on the Lady Vols website: Basketball Media Day .
Media Day also means a chance to ask off-beat questions of the players, who are gathering together for Halloween this Friday – Summitt's game plan is for that to be the off day this week – with an interesting assortment of costumes. They also talked about favorite foods, songs, ideal vacation destinations, who would play Summitt in a movie and their new names if they ever have to enter the Witness Protection Program.
What is your Halloween costume?: "I would be a clown."
Who would play Pat in the movie about her life?: "I don't know. (Incredulous look followed by utter silence, which is out of character for the talkative Bass. Would she have to play herself?) Yes."
Pat is now your domestic pet to take home. What is her name?: "Skippy."
I'm scared of: "Storms. I'm scared of spiders, too."
Favorite smell: "Chocolate."
Food you could eat every day: "Salad."
Song you could listen to every day: "A song called Faithful Is Our God by Hezekiah Walker. It's a gospel song. (Shekinna Stricklen adds "Never Would Have Made It" by the same artist.) If you go on ‘YouTube' and type in Faithful, it will have it."
If you could have any animal as a pet, what would it be?: "I like tigers when they're little babies."
If you could take an all-expenses paid vacation where are you going?: "Paris! I love Paris. That's my dream. I want to go to Paris and Australia."
What other sport would you play at Tennessee if you could?: "Volleyball."
If you had to enter the Witness Protection Program what is your new name?: "Sally Mae Jenkins."
Halloween costume: "I am not sure. I wanted to be a monster but everyone says that you shouldn't be scary on Halloween for whatever reason. (But it's Halloween. Isn't that the point?) Yeah, I thought it was. I don't know yet. I have no clue. I might be a ghost and poke some eyes in a sheet or something."
Who plays Pat in the movie?: "Oh my gosh. Put a wig on Tyler (Pat's teenage son). He can play her."
Pat's name as your pet: "I'll probably name her Queen because my pet will probably be sleeping in my bed and I'll be in the doggy pen."
I'm scared of: "Besides losing loved ones I don't like insects or bugs because they're disgusting. I hate the roaches here. I didn't see them in California."
Food to eat every day: "Spaghetti."
Song on repeat: "Lyfe Jennings' It's Real; Missy Elliott, Interlude. Anything Missy. Anything Lyfe."
Any animal as a pet: "I want a giraffe because that's why my little brother calls me. So it would be cool to have one."
Paid vacation: "I'll probably go to outer space because that's someplace people don't really get to go. So if someone is willing to pay for all of it I'm going to go there."
Witness Protection Program name: "I don't know. How about Tennessee Lady Vol."
Halloween costume: "I don't have a costume yet. (What if you could just be anything you want to be?) I wasn't ready for this question, even though it's coming up. I'd probably be a Ninja Turtle. Definitely. I used to love them."
Who plays Pat in the movie?: "Who's going to play Pat in a movie? I don't think anyone can play Pat in a movie. What did they say? (Tyler in a wig.) I like that answer. There you go."
Pat's name as your pet:(Did you have pets growing up?) I was overall deprived of pets. I had the seven-cent goldfish that would like die in two days. Every time I got one two days later it would be floating up there. (Perfect. Pat is now your pet. You get one.) Nothing cute like Fluffy. Oh, these questions. You're killing me. Sparky. I kind of do like Sparky."
I'm scared of: "Spiders."
Food to eat every day: (Alicia Manning answered for her: Chips and salsa). "Yes, chips and salsa. You're right."
Song on repeat: "Lesson Learned by Alicia Keys. I do listen to it every day."
Any animal as a pet: (We're going to forget the sad tale of your little goldfish. What would it be?) "A monkey. A little guy that I could just take home with me."
Paid vacation: "Spokane, Washington. No, I'm just kidding. (You know the game at Gonzaga sold out?) I know, like in a few hours. That's crazy. I would go to Hawaii."
Witness Protection Program name: "What? How do you come up with these questions? Oh my gosh, witness protection. You're killing me. (Vicki said Tennessee Lady Vol. She's got a bizarre sense of humor.) She really does. Jordan Christine. (What's your new last name?) New last name? I don't know. Pitt. Because I would be married to Brad Pitt."
Halloween costume: "I have no idea. I never even thought about that. Wonder Woman."
Who plays Pat in the movie?: "Can it be a girl or a guy? I say the guy from Coach Carter. (Samuel L. Jackson.)
Pat's name as your pet: "What's her name? It can be any name? Feisty!"
I'm scared of: "Getting a career-ending injury."
Favorite smell: "This might sound awkward but the smell of gasoline. (Cait said the same thing as a freshman.)
Food to eat every day: "Crab legs."
Song on repeat: "Homecoming by Kanye West."
Any animal as a pet: "A Siberian white tiger or a sea otter because they're one of the smartest."
Paid vacation: "The moon."
Another sport at Tennessee: "I don't even know a sport I'm good at because I played basketball all my life. Football or swimming."
Witness Protection Program name: "I'm going to go with Tamika Rose Obama."
Halloween costume: "Probably a Lady Vol because I have all the stuff."
Who plays Pat in the movie?: "Who would play Pat? Nobody could do it better than Pat herself."
Pat's name as your pet: "Trish-Trish."
I'm scared of: "Spiders."
Favorite smells: "Different perfumes. And pies, like sweet potato pie. I have a candle that's pumpkin spice."
Food to eat every day: "That's tough. Can it be two things? (Yes) I like macaroni and cheese and collard greens together. I can make macaroni and cheese, but I haven't yet learned to make collard greens."
Song on repeat: "I like all types of songs. I would say Imagine Me by Kirk Franklin."
Any animal as a pet: "Can I have it outside my home? (Yes, Vicki picked a giraffe.) A giraffe? I like white tigers. I think they're so pretty."
Paid vacation: "That's hard. It's not a specific place but can I describe it to you? (Sure.) I want to go to a place where it has a lot of good shopping but also I want to stay in a hotel on the beach where it's nice and warm, not too hot, but not cold. A water park maybe somewhere, some good food. (Malibu?) That sounds good to me."
Another sport at Tennessee: "Probably volleyball because I've never done it before and it looks like fun."
Witness Protection Program name: "Kimberly Jones. I don't know what my middle name would be. That is so random."
Halloween costume: Me and Kelley and Glory, I think we're all going to be Dreamgirls. I don't know if you know them. (The movie/musical?) Yes."
Who plays Pat in the movie?: "Jamie Lee Curtis."
Pat's name as your pet: (As a freshman, Fuller opted for no comment. She's a senior now.) "Fierce."
I'm scared of: "To be alone."
Food to eat every day: "Sushi."
Song on repeat: "She Got Her Own, Jamie Foxx and Ne-Yo."
Any animal as a pet: "I would have a teacup terrier."
Paid vacation: "Probably somewhere in South Africa or Italy."
Witness Protection Program name: (Vicki was Tennessee Lady Vol.) Oh, no. That's too obvious. They'd find me. (If you could have named yourself what would it be?) What it is now. (Alexandria Patrice Fuller, you're just going to keep it and take your chances?) Yes."
Halloween costume: "The Joker."
Who plays Pat in the movie?: "I'd say the coach from Glory Road." (Josh Lucas.) He did a good job."
Pat's name as your pet: "What would I name her? That's scary. Pat as my pet? I'll come back to it."
I'm scared of: "God. I'm only afraid of him. He controls everything."
Favorite smell: "Fresh baked cookies."
Food to eat every day: "Baked potatoes."
Song on repeat: "Superwoman by Alicia Keys."
Any animal as a pet: "A lion. Because it would teach me to fight for everything, like the heart of a lion. They're going to get what they want no matter what it takes."
Paid vacation: "Africa. I've always wanted to go to see how they live and so I can give back to the people who are in need." (You can get your lion, too. But you still have to name Pat.) I'd name her Dream. Because she's always dreaming big and she's always accomplished everything that she's ever dreamed of."
Other sport at Tennessee: "Volleyball. I played volleyball all throughout high school. I loved it. (That is what Briana said, too. I assume she would be that little defensive player.) A libero. That is what Briana would be."
Witness Protection Program name: "Ashley Christine. (What's your last name?) Smith, because it's so common."
Halloween costume: "Catwoman. Or Storm from the X-Men. I'm a cartoon person." (Alas, she was selected to be a Dreamgirl with Kelley and Alex.)
Who plays Pat in the movie?: "That's a tough one. I would probably give the role to Cait. She's funny. She can do a couple of different scenes and play a mean role. At the same time she can be a goofball."
Pat's name as your pet: "I would probably name her Patty-cake because it flows with the name and I wouldn't want to change her name any because everybody knows her by Pat and now that she's my pet I can just add Patty-cake to it."
I'm scared of: "I can't really say I'm scared of anything. I don't really like snakes, especially poisonous snakes. It's a fear for my mom, too, so I guess I get it from my mom. When she was little she used to have dreams about snakes and she was born in Nigeria so they were everywhere. She really didn't like snakes so I started not liking snakes. Every time a snake is on TV my mom changes it really fast. Now I do it, too."
Favorite smell: "I love the smell of rain after it rains, and I love the smell of burning leaves and grass. It kind of smells like hickory."
Food to eat every day: "Rib eye steak. Every single day I could eat rib eye."
Song on repeat: "Superwoman by Alicia Keys."
Any animal as a pet: "I want, man, that's a tough one. I want a koala bear because they're cuddly. (They have vicious claws.) That's terrible. I'll try to get him de-clawed. But I want a koala."
Paid vacation: "I'm going to the Fiji Islands just because I've always wanted to go. I've never been."
Another sport at Tennessee: "I would probably like to run track. That is something I did in high school, and I don't mind doing the work. 100, 200, long jump."
Witness Protection Program name: "That's a tough one. My new name would probably be Epiphany. I'll take the Smith last name because a lot of people have that last name so nobody could figure out who I am. Smith is common. Epiphany Smith."
Halloween costume: "Pat. No, I'm just kidding. I don't know. I guess I'll be Superwoman."
Who plays Pat in the movie?: "A movie about her life? That's a tough one. I think Pat would have to do it herself honestly. No one can play Pat. She's her own character."
Pat's name as your pet: Oh, man. Pat is my pet. (You take her home and train her.) Train her? Probably Pattywack. Definitely Pattywack. (Like nicknack pattywack give a dog a bone?) Yeah. I like it because it rhymes."
I'm scared of: "I don't like spiders. Angie hates them."
Favorite smell:"Iced tea from Bath & Body works. I love all vanilla smells and coconut."
Food to eat every day: "I love Italian food. My family is Italian. I like spinach artichoke dip and I love sweet tea and my grandma's green beans."
Song on repeat: "Any Alicia Keys song."
Any animal as a pet: "I want a spider monkey."
Paid vacation: "Right now I probably want to go visit my parents in Maui because I haven't seen them since graduation. (Manning's father is an electrician and he took a job in Maui last spring. After Manning graduated from high school, her mother joined him.) Other than that I want to go to Australia or maybe China.
Other sport at Tennessee: "Softball. I played softball up until my junior year in high school. I could have gone somewhere for softball. I played mostly infield. I can play any position."
Witness Protection Program name: "My nickname is A-Town because I'm from Atlanta. I don't know. Do you have any ideas? (What would you name your child? Maybe that approach would help.) I like the name Jessica because it has a lot of nicknames, Jess, Jessie. I like my middle name. Jessica Rene … hmmm. I don't know. I like my last name because of Peyton Manning. I'll just keep it."
Halloween costume: "Should I say? They voted for me to be Pat Summitt. I've had to sing ‘Rocky Top' two times for some stuff. They always pick me to do this. We're going trick or treating."
Who plays Pat in the movie?: "Does it have to be a woman? (No, someone else said Samuel L. Jackson.) You know on Coach Carter, he was asked who he modeled his role after and he said Pat Summitt. You know that, don't you? (Yes. So you pick him?) Yeah, he did a great job on Coach Carter."
Pat's name as your pet: "These are crazy …. Patricia."
Food you can eat every day: "I'm going to say fruit salad."
Song on repeat: "I'm going to come back to that one, but I want to answer it. (A few minutes pass) Eminem, Till I Collapse. Good song. One Mic, by Nas. (15 minutes pass) I thought of another one. Charlene by Anthony Hamilton."
Finish the sentence I am scared of: "Failing."
All-expenses paid vacation: "I'm going to … I want to go to … I don't even know. I want to go two places. I want to go somewhere in the mountains and there's a lake outside my cabin. It's got to be kind of cold and when I wake up the next day it's got to be hot so I can go out on the boat and Jet-Ski and stuff. And I go hiking. And jump off waterfalls. So where do you think that's at? (Lake Tahoe, maybe?) And then I want the beach. But I want to jump off a waterfall."
An animal as a pet: "Chimpanzee. Because they're fun. They're like humans kind of."
Witness Protection Program name: "Pearl Teresa McMahan."
Halloween costume: "I got nominated to be Heather Mason. (Are you guys going out because you're off Friday?) We're off Friday?! (Kelley Cain listening in: "We're off? I'm glad you know our schedule.") I've got to get my hair all curled up like her. I just have to say ‘Indeed' a lot and ‘Absolutely' and talk fast."
Who plays Pat in the movie: "The woman in A League of Their Own. (Geena Davis, the catcher?) Yeah. That's who I think it should be."
Pat's name as your pet: "Titan. Something just loud."
Any animal as a pet: "A miniature penguin, a small one. I know you get a big tank for it and keep it cold. I think it would be cool."
Food to eat every day: "Italian food. Manicotti, any kind of pasta, all the good stuff."
I am scared of: "Getting in a car accident, any kind of accident that you can't control, like someone comes right into you."
Song on repeat: "Fast Cars and Freedom by Rascal Flatts."
Paid vacation to: "Italy. Rome. (Are you Italian?) Yes, I have Italian in me, my grandparents, my mom's side. It's old style, you go to the river, you get on the boats, the good food, everything about it."
Witness Protection Program name: "I don't even know. Jennifer Sue Lopez."
Halloween costume: "Hannah Montana with the headset and everything."
Who plays Pat in the movie?: (Who could get the stare down?) "I don't think anybody could do it."
Pat's name as your pet: "I would have to say I don't know … Whistle. She's always blowing the whistle."
I'm scared of: "Spiders. I'm scared of the dark."
Favorite smell: "Strawberry cake."
Food to eat every day: "Ribs."
Song on repeat: "God Bless the Broken Road, Rascal Flatts."
Any animal as a pet: "A chimpanzee."
Paid vacation: "I would have to say Europe. (Any particular country?) I would have to say the whole thing."
Other sport at Tennessee: "Softball."
Witness Protection Program Name: "Tina Shekanna Moore."