Glory Johnson has 'special drive'

One afternoon in a recent practice session a super-quick male practice player made two breakaway baskets in a row. The Lady Vols team was working on transition defense, and he was too fast for the guards in the open floor. Glory Johnson had seen enough.

On his third dash to the basket from the perimeter Johnson took off from the paint, caught up to him in the paint at the opposite end and as he went in for what he thought was an uncontested layup, she crashed in from behind to knock away the ball. He never saw her coming and was thoroughly surprised at her arrival.

"When people keep on scoring on you or keep on getting past you it's like, ‘Can I get a chance to guard this person?' " Johnson said.

It was Johnson's acceleration that was so eye-popping. When she got to mid-court she found another gear and closed the distance despite the practice player's considerable head start.

"To show that you can do it, you can guard that person just going all-out all the time and working hard all the time," Johnson said of the mindset behind her effort that day. "I can put a lot out there so I try to show people that I can go hard and I can go long."

The play brought a smile to Pat Summitt's face the day it happened and when she was asked about it later.

"She's got a special drive," Summitt said. "I thought the main thing she had to do was get in shape and now that she's in shape she can run and run and run. It frees her up to not be worried about getting up and down, just go play the game. And that's where we need to get other players, too. There is no one else on the team aside from Vicki that is going to be able to go baseline to baseline as quickly as she can. And she can go."

Both Glory Johnson and Vicki Baugh are expected to be in the starting lineup tonight in the post when No. 11/13 Tennessee, 7-2, takes on Old Dominion, 5-2, at 7 p.m. Eastern (Lady Vol Radio Network; TV: CSN/CSS) at the Ted Constant Center in Norfolk, Va.

Summitt talking about a high school state sprint champion needing to be in shape may sound surprising, but Johnson said even she had to make an adjustment to the expectations of collegiate basketball and, specifically, Summitt's requirement that players not take off possessions in games or in practice, a standard that is basically impossible to meet but must be strived for at Tennessee.

"At the beginning I struggled because I didn't know how much work I was going to have to put in," Johnson said. "After the first week I realized there is no letting up in practice or during conditioning or anything. You just can't let up. You have to go hard all the time. You can deal with being tired right then and there, because you'll feel better about it afterwards."

Johnson is close friends with Amber Gray, a freshman forward who has missed some practices because of an assortment of aches and pains and then a concussion, the fourth Lady Vol to sustain one this season, and has fallen behind in conditioning. The pair became friends playing on opposite AAU teams in which they waged battles in the paint.

"She always helps me and supports me when I'm tired out on the floor and when I'm tired at practice," Johnson said. "I try to communicate with her whenever she's hurting. I'll sit in her room with her sometimes. It's being a teammate, being there for someone."

Gray and Johnson will also engage in some friendly banter. The day after Summitt had announced she planned to use Johnson on the perimeter on occasion at small forward, the team was warming up for practice, and Gray shouted if the ball is passed to Johnson everyone needed to get back on defense because a shot was definitely going up from the wing.

The line let loose a lot of laughter and left Johnson smiling and shaking her head at the soft smack talk.

"We joke a lot," Johnson said. "She's a three player (small forward) and a four player (power forward) as well so she knows where I'm coming from trying to move out to the wing a little bit, so she can give me some pointers, and I can give her some pointers."

The experiment of Johnson on the perimeter has been put on hold because of depth in the post – Baugh and Kelley Cain are both in the process of returning from reconstructive knee surgeries and can be limited at times – and because of game situations. Against Texas on Sunday, Johnson got into early foul trouble and played three minutes in the first half. In the second half the Lady Vols were playing from behind, and Summitt needed Johnson in the paint.

"I think it's something we're going to wait and see," Summitt said Wednesday during her weekly media teleconference when asked if she would use Johnson at the three in the next two games or revisit the notion after the Christmas break. "It all depends on how the game unfolds with Old Dominion and Stanford and where we think we need Kelley Cain and Vicki Baugh to play inside together.

"We know that Glory can get to the rim any place on the floor in a timely fashion and rebound for us. She just has to keep herself out of foul trouble and have more composure at both ends. She's an incredible athlete, but at times she is overanxious and just has to learn to have more composure and settle down."

Johnson, who has the quickest first step on the team, has been splitting her practice reps with the posts and wings so that she can get in shots in the paint and on the perimeter.

"I'm working on my outside shot a little bit more," Johnson said. "I'm kind of getting used to it. It's a lot different than playing the post. It's a lot less physical, but at the same time you always have to be moving."

As far as rebounding that was a point of emphasis at Webb School of Knoxville, where she was coached by former Lady Vol basketball player Shelley Sexton Collier.

"It's something that I'm just used to," Johnson said. "I always go for rebounds. If I see a ball coming off the boards I go after it. It's just something that is natural. Whenever I wasn't going to the boards, she (Collier) was always on me no matter what. She did emphasize it."

Johnson is the youngest of five children, but she wasn't treated like the baby of the family. It might be where she developed some of her speed.

"I was the youngest; I always got picked on," Johnson said. "I had one older brother and three older sisters. I was always running around and my mom let me run around, but they would always get on to me and chase me. I was always an active kid. Two-story house running up the stairs, it was fun until you fall, but you get back up."

Johnson is one of three players on this year's team from the state of Tennessee. Redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan is from nearby Maryville, and redshirt senior Alex Fuller is from Shelbyville in Middle Tennessee.

"I don't know many people that stayed in their home state to play and had the opportunity to play at a great school," Johnson said. "It's a great school. It's great to be here. I am enjoying every single minute of it. I don't know what would have happened if I went to another school. I just enjoy being in Knoxville, enjoy having the fans and enjoy being at home."

Johnson's dedication isn't confined to the court. One of her goals this semester was to earn a Vol Scholar patch, the Torch emblem on the jerseys of Tennessee student-athletes who make the honor roll.

"I'm hoping so," Johnson said. "We'll see. That's what I aimed for."

Although Johnson was happy to have completed her first fall semester – she attended both summer sessions to get ahead academically and work on her game in the gym – she actually enjoys school, too.

"Not having to worry about classes (during the break) is a plus but at the same time I'm anxious to see what other classes I have coming up and how my classes are going to be," said Johnson, who is majoring in pharmacy and wants to own an apothecary.

Opposing coaches have had one thing in common this season – they have raved about Glory Johnson. The general sentiment: It is rare for a freshman to arrive that ready to compete.

Johnson has scored in double figures in all nine games so far this season and that pairs her with some elite company. She has tied Candace Parker for consecutive games in double figure scoring to start a rookie campaign. Number one in the record book is Chamique Holdsclaw with 14 consecutive games of double figures to start her Tennessee career.

Johnson's overall basketball skill package is still in development, but her willingness to be physical and aggressive and not back down is not in question. It has led to two technical fouls this season, incidents that Johnson regretted, although Summitt wasn't convinced that either were warranted, especially the one at George Washington in which she got tangled with an opponent under the basket and double technicals were called in a decision that seemed to surprise both players.

"I just had to hold my composure and talk to my coach and everyone else on the floor," Johnson said. "I apologized because no one wants to get a technical foul so I apologized to my team and my coaches."

Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood, who works extensively with the post players, mentioned Johnson's name with a revered few others who always had their motors revved and could set the tone for the team.

"Big tone," Lockwood said. "That's one of the things that we talk about here constantly. That's what this program has been built on in so many ways. Tamika Catchings. Nicky Anosike. Player after player after player was just that way. That's big. What we hope for her to be is a catalyst for other people. You see that kind of effort being spent you say, ‘Gosh, I've got to do that.' "

Summitt wants Johnson to strike a balance between composure and over-aggressiveness, but the reins are going to be loose for a player who has the attitude and will to match her athleticism. She compared Johnson's intensity to that of Alexis Hornbuckle, especially their relentless pursuit on the boards.

"There're a lot of similarities in terms of how Alexis played," Summitt said. "Glory is a lot like that. She's got a special competitive desire."

PROBABLE STARTERS: Pat Summitt is expected to stay with her young lineup: Briana Bass, 5'2 freshman guard, No. 1 (5.2 points per game, 2.3 rebounds per game); Angie Bjorklund, 6'0 sophomore guard, No. 5 (10.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg); Shekinna Stricklen, 6'2 freshman guard/forward, No. 40 (12.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Glory Johnson, 6'3 freshman forward, No. 25 (15.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg); and Vicki Baugh, 6'4 sophomore forward, No. 21 (7.4 ppg, 9.0 rpg).

The loss to Texas showed how vital it is for Tennessee to have Johnson on the floor. She was on the bench within two minutes with two fouls. Summitt will institute the "Nicky Anosike rule" with Johnson and pull her if she gets an early first foul because of the likelihood that a second one is seconds away. That was implemented with Anosike when she was a freshman because she had a tendency to get two quick fouls.

"I'm going to have a short leash for her if she gets in foul trouble," Summitt said.

"She's like Nicky Anosike. Remember her freshman year?" Dean Lockwood said. "We got to the point with her that when she got her first foul we pulled her. She has to be very, very careful. She's going to get some aggressive fouls because that's how she plays.

"Our problem is the needless fouls. You don't need to be reaching on somebody 30 feet away (from the basket). You don't need to stumble over somebody going for a steal. Her aggressiveness is great. But now what we need is a combination of composure with the aggressiveness."

Summitt isn't particularly pleased with the points of emphasis in the college game in which touch fouls are called on the perimeter while the post players collide in the paint. It's an issue she has raised in the past, too.

"In this game right now it is incredibly physical in the post – a lot goes on in there – and yet the point of emphasis is hand-checking and sportsmanship," said Summitt, as she demonstrated how light the touch can be and the player can still be called for a foul. "There's somewhere a happy medium if no advantage is gained."

Summitt has used four different lineups this season, and she indicated Wednesday that the starters could keep changing.

"We're probably going to tinker with this all year," Summitt said.

One candidate to start is Kelley Cain, a 6'6 redshirt freshman center who is dealing with some soreness in her surgically repaired right kneecap. Cain would start when Summitt wanted a big lineup, and Johnson would likely move to the perimeter, but Cain is still getting in game condition and adjusting to what feels to her like a new knee.

As the season unfolds Tennessee will identify its clutch players and one has started to emerge in Johnson.

"She's a go-to player for us," Summitt said. "I think once she learns to slow down and make better reads and use both feet – she's shooting off one leg, she and Vicki both at times – when she is playing on balance I think she can be very, very effective."

Another player who could become a go-to is Bjorklund, whose long-range shot showed definitive signs of returning against Texas, but she was sidelined for long stretches with foul trouble, including a hand-checking call.

"I should have adjusted to the refs right from the first," Bjorklund said. "I need to adjust more to how they're (officiating)."

Bjorklund is young in years but one of the most experienced players on the team after starting 30 of 38 games last season. With that in mind Summitt has asked her to speak up with this young team.

"That's not exactly something I've been doing," Bjorklund said. "I try to lead by example and not so much a vocal role, but she has really, especially the past couple of days, has challenged me to become more of a vocal leader on the court and off the court, taking them in and saying, ‘Hey, how are you doing,' and seeing how things are going with them here.

"Off the court and on the court if I see something I need to go up to them and let them know, ‘You need to do this.' "

It's even more critical in a road game, especially with redshirt sophomore Cait McMahan out tonight. McMahan, a vocal player who had started six games this season, has chronic soreness in her surgically repaired right knee.

"Cait is having some knee issues," Summitt said. "She has her fair share of swelling and pain to go along with it. So I said, ‘That's it; let's rest.' We're going to rest her as long as it takes."

Old Dominion Coach Wendy Larry is expected to start: Jazzmin Walters, 5'2 senior guard, No. 4 (11.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg), hit the three-pointer in overtime last season to send ODU to the "Sweet 16" in the win over Virginia, also had 10 assists in that game, started at point guard in all 36 games last season; Jen Nuzzo, 5'8 senior guard, No. 12 (5.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg), played in all 36 games last season and started against Tennessee last year when then-senior guard T.J. Jordan was out with a stress fracture in her foot, scored a career-high 14 points against Stanford last season on the strength of four 3-pointers, took a redshirt year in 2005-06 with a stress fracture in her leg; Shadasia Green, 5'9 sophomore forward, No. 35 (6.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg), posted her first career double-double in last game vs. St. Joseph's with 14 points, 11 rebounds, both career highs, had 10 points against Tennessee last season, her pass to Walters set up the NCAA tourney win over Virginia; Jessica Canady, 6'1 junior forward, No. 24 (14.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg), played in all 36 games last season and was ODU's "Sixth Lady," scored in double figures in 21 games off the bench, scored 50 points in a high school game for Jamestown in Virginia; and Tiffany Green, 6'2 senior center, No. 45 (15.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg), started all 36 games last season, was Second Team All-CAA, also made the CAA All-Defensive Team and CAA All-Tourney Team, ranked ninth in the country this season with three blocks per game, had six blocks against Virginia in the NCAA tourney, missed the 2005-06 season with a fractured foot.

SCOUTING REPORT:Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood handled the scouting report for the Tennessee-Old Dominion game. Here is his assessment.

When Old Dominion has the ball: "They're a dribble-drive oriented team. They really try to score off the dribble. They love transition. Love, love, love, love transition. Very good offensive rebounding team. They're averaging 19 offensive rebounds a game. They're forcing 26 turnovers a game. In terms of how they score and what they can do they're athletic enough to really get into you, their on-ball defense is very good, very aggressive, (which creates transition baskets).

"They'll run, they'll dribble drive. Jazzmin Walters is as good as an open floor guard as there is around. She loves transition and loves to create and penetrate and get into the lane and wreak havoc. That's how they're scoring. They're not going to run seven or eight passes and four or five screens. They're looking to dribble drive. They do a lot of stuff off high-low. They use the high ball screens."

Lockwood said Walters is vital to the Lady Monarchs' attack.

"She's their catalyst," he said. "Take Bree away from us. That's how valuable that kid is."

Defensively, Old Dominion would likely open in man but could switch to some zone looks later.

"They're primarily man, but they have played 1-3-1 zone and some 2-3 zone," Lockwood said. "They use a 2-2-1 press and they'll vary their points of pickup on that. They're very turnover-oriented. They're primarily a man team, but they use zone as a good mixer. They try to keep you off balance, keep you out of rhythm."

When Tennessee has the ball: "We want to go inside. We want to really, really make that kind of our anchor, our center point of our attack and play inside-outside a lot. I think we have to execute. We can't one, two pass, quick shoot it. We've got to really, really execute and our number one thing is take care of the basketball. These people turn turnovers into points."

Defensively the Lady Vols don't want to be in what Lockwood now laughingly calls their "mone" attack – a mixture of man and zone that left the coaches confused.

"We moan on the bench and the opponent moans because they don't know what we're in because we ourselves don't know what we're in, and at any given point in time we usually have two players on the floor who are not sure if we're man or zone," Lockwood said. "That's part of the magic of it is that we kind of keep two players out of the loop so two players are playing man and three zone or vice versa.

"When we can see that there's uncertainty we shift into our ‘mone' defense. It's usually a three-two split, but we don't know which two at any given point."

Lockwood was, of course, kidding. The coaches tried to switch to the matchup zone against Texas, but there was some on-court confusion and a couple of players stayed in man while the other three lined up to match up.

On Thursday, the plan is to start in man and stay in that alignment, although the coaches will mix it up again if need be.

"Our man is our bread and butter, but we are going to probably mix multiple defenses in there and certainly at some point look at some zone just to see how it's going," Lockwood said. "If our man is effective you may see 40 minutes of man. But if they're dribble driving and getting offensive rebounds and doing some things that we're not real comfortable with we won't hesitate to show zone."

Pat Summitt and her assistants will be looking for execution on both sides of the ball Thursday, as they want the team to make both shots on offense and stops on defense.

"They both are important because if we can make stops that gives us a chance obviously to be a better defensive team if we go in there committed to do this together," Summitt said. "And then playing on the offensive end with what I call more sureness, more certainty of here's what we're in and here's what we're looking for.

"I think they at times, and particularly (Sunday) and for lack of a better way to say it we were very nervous. We played very anxious, and we played it a lot. Very few possessions were sharp and efficient."

But if the shots aren't falling the coaches don't want to see what happened Sunday – a lack of concentration on defense.

"We talked throughout the game about needing to make stops when you're not shooting well – things you can control every night is how hard you play and how committed you are on the defensive end," Summitt said.

"The majority of the teams that I have coached have at least started out the season letting their offense affect their defense. If you've got a veteran team that usually doesn't happen. If you have young teams, that happens."

Summitt said the veteran team of the past two years actually became more adamant about getting stops when their shots stopped falling.

"The last two years, let's say they were struggling offensively, didn't shoot well, they'd be talking and saying, ‘We've got to make stops,' " Summitt said. "Right now we have not really had that sense of urgency as a team."

Summitt did point out that senior Alex Fuller was calling for action. But Summitt wants to hear the voices of sophomores Angie Bjorklund, Sydney Smallbone and Vicki Baugh, especially with redshirt sophomore guard Cait McMahan out of action for now.

"I'm sure Alex is saying we've got to make stops," Summitt said. "She needs some help. Angie and Syd have got to speak up more. Vicki has got to speak up more. It's like Alex, because she is our lone senior, everybody else that's been here in the program they're just turning and letting Alex do all the communication. And if Cait's not on the floor that makes a big difference."

ON TAP: Two other SEC teams are in action tonight: Dartmouth at Arkansas; and Southeast Louisiana at LSU.

On Friday, five SEC teams are playing in the following matchups: Auburn at George Washington; Alabama A&M at Kentucky; Mississippi State at Utah Valley; Stanford at South Carolina; and Tennessee State at Vanderbilt. Stanford plays at Tennessee on Sunday night at 7 p.m. Eastern (ESPN2).

ODDS AND ENDS: Tennessee leads the series with Old Dominion, 32-9 with a 13-4 mark on the road in a series that began in the 1976-77 season. The 41 meetings with the same school are the most for both programs outside of conference foes. The Lady Monarchs' last win came in 1997 on their home court. There have been some close games in Norfolk, and ODU is protecting a 29-game home winning streak. The last team to beat ODU at home was Tennessee in 2006. "I'm sure that'll be great motivation," Pat Summitt said. "And as coaches we always try to use anything that is going to inspire our team and have a reason for revenge. That's just another incentive, as if they need any, because any time we play, those teams bring great competitive intensity." Tennessee has snapped ODU's streaks in the past – 64 games in 1981, 33 games in 1999 and 17 games in 1995. … Tennessee is 10-1 in games played on December 18. The last win on this date was against Stanford, 71-56, in 2002. The lone loss on this date was to Long Beach State, 71-68, in 1979. … Tennessee and Old Dominion have three common opponents this season. Tennessee lost to Virginia, 83-82, while ODU beat the Cavaliers, 78-70. Texas beat both teams – 78-44 against ODU and 73-59 against Tennessee. Mississippi is the third shared opponent later this season. … The Lady Monarchs had been ranked No. 23 in the AP poll and No. 20 in the coaches' poll this season. They have fallen out of the top 25 but are still receiving votes in both polls.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories