"Day to day; we'll just see," Summitt said. "I felt her pain. I've been there, done that. I don't think anybody hit her. It just gave way."
Summitt was referencing an injury to her shoulder in March 2008 when she suffered a dislocation after knocking a raccoon off the back porch that was menacing Sally, the coach's yellow Labrador. Her son, Tyler, had to help his mother put the shoulder back in place. Sports injuries involving the shoulder are some of the most painful.
"It is," Summitt said.
The loss of Johnson left just three post players on the floor – redshirt sophomore Kelley Cain, sophomore Alyssia Brewer and freshman Faith Dupree, who needed back treatment before the session ended. Junior forward Vicki Baugh participated in a few drills, but her primary focus remains rehabbing her left knee.
In the interim, Summitt said, the team needs Brewer and Dupree "to establish the inside game and I think Taber (Spani) is going to help us there, too, because Kelley can play low. She can play high, as well as Faith. I am optimistic that we'll have Glory back."
Summitt was ready Wednesday to set her perimeter lineup for Sunday's game. Sophomore Shekinna Stricklen will start at point guard with junior Angie Bjorklund and freshman Taber Spani on the wings. Cain would be inside, and, if cleared to play, Johnson would join her in the paint. Johnson has had issues with her shoulder in the past and wore a brace in the early season workouts after tweaking it over the summer.
"I think we've got time here to evaluate and obviously see what the medical staff says," Summitt said. "The doctors will let me know."
Regardless, Summitt had intended to use Spani some at power forward anyway. Brewer is primarily the backup for Cain at center. Dupree can be deployed at both post spots.
"Taber will definitely play some four, and a lot depends on Faith and how she is getting up and down," Summitt said. "She ran the floor really hard and well early in practice, and I think after that she was getting tight in her lower back. That is why she came out and iced."
Summitt was particularly displeased Wednesday with her third freshman, Kamiko Williams.
"Kamiko comes out here and gives in to fatigue," Summitt said. "There is no excuse for that. I am not going to tolerate that. If she wants to play she has got to learn how to do it in practice and show me that she's committed."
For the team and coaches overall, it was time to put Monday's rather lackluster exhibition win behind them and move on to preparations for Baylor.
"Definitely," Summitt said.
Summitt seems to have made a more permanent decision as far as who starts at point guard by declaring it to be Stricklen for the regular season opener. Going back to last season it had been point guard by committee and although that is sometimes necessary it does not help offensive continuity. A team is better off, in basketball terms, if the same player opens games at the point position.
"I have picked one; I picked Stricklen," Summitt said. "Could I change it (later)? Yes. But, no (I prefer not to)."
In the two exhibition games, Stricklen thrived in the first one when she started at point guard and struggled in the second one when she opened on the wing. Conversely, Briana Bass thrived in the first one when she came off the bench and struggled in the second one when she started. Summitt said she thought Bass would accept her role of coming off the bench and ensuring there is not a drop-off at the position.
"She wants to play," Summitt said. "In that game (Sunday) and in most games we're going to want to have a big lineup early."
The offshoot of such a decision means the players who open the game become more familiar with each other, which raises their comfort level.
"Familiarity is really important," Bjorklund said. "If she wants us to play consistent we need to be consistent, but at the same time I completely trust Coach and her decisions. Whatever starters she has I'm going with that, and we just need to play out of it."
The lineup Sunday would definitely be bigger with Johnson, a 6'3 forward who is athletic enough to guard inside or on the perimeter, and Summitt and the rest of the coaches will be anxious to hear of her short- and long-term prognosis. When it was apparent how much pain Johnson was in, Summitt and Assistant Coach Daedra Charles-Furlow stayed with her on the baseline with Jenny Moshak and the rest of the medical staff while Holly Warlick and Dean Lockwood ran practice.
Amber Gray, who is sitting out this year to recover from brain surgery and a stroke, sat with Johnson to comfort her friend and teammate, and Baugh stopped by to pat Johnson on the head before convening the rest of the team in a prayer circle on the court.
"Vick just kind of said, ‘You know what? We should pray for her real quick,' " Bjorklund said. "I think anytime a teammate goes down we want to make sure God is involved, because our team is big on faith."
Players have been injured in past years in practice without a brief stoppage for prayer, and Cain said it's a reflection of how close the players have become.
"It definitely does," Cain said. "You can tell we've done a 360 since last year, a completely different team and we've been through so much. We definitely had to get together and pray for her."
ESPN TELECONFERENCE: Carol Stiff, ESPN's senior director of programming, and broadcasters Kara Lawson and Carolyn Peck, held a press conference Wednesday afternoon to promote the kickoff of women's basketball coverage on ESPN's networks.
The coverage officially kicks off this Sunday when Tennessee and Baylor meet in Knoxville for the State Farm Women's Tip-Off Classic on ESPN2. Two days later ESPN is promoting 24 hours of college basketball with two women's games a part of that coverage in San Antonio – Tennessee vs. Texas Tech (ESPNU) and Connecticut vs. Texas (ESPN2).
Tennessee is back on ESPN2 on Sunday, Dec. 6, to meet Texas in Knoxville, a game in which both Pat Summitt and Gail Goestenkors will wear pink cowboy hats.
In total, the 2009-10 ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN360.com and ESPN FULL COURT women's college basketball schedule will feature approximately 250 telecasts, the most ever on the ESPN networks. That includes more than 130 regular season games, more than 40 conference tournament matchups, the Division II Women's Basketball Semifinals and Championship, and the entire NCAA Division I Tournament.
ESPN will also hold its first College Gameday for women's basketball to coincide with a matchup between Connecticut and Notre Dame on Jan. 16.
"We're extremely proud of being a part of the game and having the opportunity to showcase all these great stories and talents," Stiff said.
It didn't take long for the issue of Tennessee-Connecticut to be raised – the second question of the teleconference. Stiff was asked when she last had approached UConn Coach Geno Auriemma or Summitt about renewing the series. Summitt declined to renew the series after the 2007 game, and nearly three years later the national media will occasionally still bring it up.
"Not for a while," Stiff said. "Probably more than a year."
When asked how the absence of the game had hurt the sport, Stiff replied, "I don't think it's hurt the sport because we continue to grow the sport, and we continue to try to cultivate other opponents that can match it. I don't think it's hurt the sport. We miss it. I know that at ESPN it was always set on everyone's radar, and I know that the press carried it greatly across their networks and their platforms.
"I would love to have it back, but it's not going to happen. We've been told it's not going to happen, so we move on and we try to find another matchup. Stanford and Connecticut seems to be heating up as a great rivalry. It's up to us to build these storylines and to continue to cultivate new No. 1s vs. No. 2s and rivalries across the sport."
Lawson was then asked to weigh in on what it meant for women's basketball to not have that "signature game."
"Like Carol said I think it's more of the casual fan that got really excited about it, and that you could draw maybe not your typical women's basketball fan to the sport," Lawson said. "It definitely was a game that everyone looked to as a barometer to see how good each team was that particular season. It was the marquee game every season and one that as a player I looked to and one that as an analyst when I started covering sports was always fun to watch."
Lawson and Peck participated in the press conference as the lead analysts for ESPN's women's basketball coverage, and both broadcasters have ties to Tennessee.
Lawson played at Tennessee for Summitt and has made Knoxville her home base this fall as she rehabs a quad injury. Peck is from Jefferson City, a small town close to Knoxville, played basketball at Vanderbilt in Nashville and was a graduate assistant at Tennessee. Her home base is now Florida, but a state known for being a basketball one has now produced ESPN's primary analysts.
"I think it has a lot to do with the Southern twang that I have," Peck said.
Although Peck meant it as a joke her ability to speak Southern likely helped a significant number of ESPN's viewers understand what Indiana Fever Coach Lin Dunn was saying while miked for the WNBA Finals. Dunn also is from the state of Tennessee and graduated from Tennessee-Martin, the alma mater of Summitt.
On a serious note Peck added, "I really appreciate the opportunity to work for ESPN and to work with Kara. I think it's just basketball junkies that we happen to be and have an opportunity to work for ESPN."
Another writer asked for an assessment of the state of the game outside of the hoops hotbeds of Knoxville and Storrs.
"I think it's in a healthy state," Stiff said. "We're committing our resources to approximately 250 games. That bodes well for the game. I think there is plenty of talent that is being cultivated and coming up through the ranks. I feel like with the fact that we do have players for four years that stay in school we have great storylines that Kara and Carolyn can tell.
"Ratings for the (NCAA) Tournament seem to do well each and every year. There are more and more marketing efforts that are being made through the NCAA working with schools and grants to grow the game. So I think we are taking all the steps in the right direction to reinforce and to grow and to make this game a great game for years to come."
Peck said, "I think the talent is continuing to improve and there are more rivalries and exciting basketball to watch other than what everybody used to look for in the Tennessee-Connecticut matchup. As Carol mentioned, you have Connecticut playing Stanford. You look at Tennessee's schedule and they are playing just about everybody that's ranked. You even look at the mid-majors that are going to potentially make some noise this year – Xavier, MTSU, Gonzaga, Ball State.
"I think that there's a spread of a wealth of talent across the country that is continuing to gain interest for basketball fans."
Lawson said, "One of the reasons I am really, really excited about this year is the amount of great young players on team, the amount of freshmen that are really going to have an impact in the national race in terms of teams advancing to the Elite Eights, the Final Fours.
"What ESPN does is stay so close to the inner workings of women's college basketball and being right there at the forefront of creating rivalries. That allows fans and new people to be exposed to the best that this sport has to offer."