Faith Dupree sidelined for season

Tennessee's post depth took a hit Monday with the announcement that forward Faith Dupree would be sidelined for the season because of lower back pain. The freshman had been bothered by back spasms and a decision was made to spend this season working on her core strength and flexibility off the floor so that she would be healthy on the court next year.

Jenny Moshak, the team's chief of sports medicine, Dr. Greg Mathien, Tennessee's orthopedic surgeon, and team physician Dr. Rebecca Morgan had been discussing the best treatment plan for Faith Dupree and it was decided that time off would be ideal. Dupree is not facing any surgery but instead will undergo a regimen of rehab, stretching and weight training tailor-made for back improvement.

"I just talked with Jenny a couple of days ago and Jenny and Dr. Mathien had been talking, and that's what they recommended to get her (healthy)," Coach Pat Summitt said. "So many good things can happen for her."

Dupree had missed a week of practice in preseason and then missed the first exhibition game. She was limited in the second exhibition game and missed some additional practice sessions because of her back. Dupree played in the first two games but not in Sunday's game against Virginia.

"She's in and out of practice and did we want a year of that? No," Summitt said. "We want to get her healthy so she can play, so that's the thinking behind it."

Dupree, who went to Webb School of Knoxville, had an effective preseason in which she showed a knack for hitting shots and a willingness to run the floor. But as the length and intensity of practices increased, her back began having spasms, and she needed treatment more often and was out of practice for longer stretches.

"The bottom line is she's got a back that's got some issues, and she had this from high school," Moshak said. "She lacks flexibility, she lacks core strength. She did very well preseason but we could really control that.

"She's a post player who gets pounded on inside. When she started to play and we got into some of the longer practices she had some problems so we kept her out, treated her like crazy and got things under control. She was able to play for a while, but then everything started coming back and I'm like, ‘We're going to be chasing our tails this entire year.' "

Moshak said the most-effective remedy with Dupree's back would be time.

"We need some time to get her body to where it can absorb these forces," Moshak said. "She's got to gain hamstring flexibility, which she has improved, but it's not where it needs to be. She does not have the core strength and core stability yet, but I think we can get there. She's got to have a little more body control and positioning and body awareness, a little more physical shape and conditioning. All of that is going to help as well.

"If we can transfer that I think she would be better off trying to have four solid years than a year where we're in and out, in and out, in and out, and that's where it was starting out to be. We knew it wasn't going to get any better with our schedule because of traveling and then never knowing when we have her and don't have her is frustrating for the coaching staff."

Summitt said it was possible that Dupree could later return to practice, but the first step was to turn her over to Moshak's staff.

"Hopefully as she gets a lot stronger in her core and gets that low back pain under control she can do some things on the court here in practice," Summitt said. "But this is going to be a gradual progress. We're not pushing anything. The main thing is we want her healthy next year to play."

That leaves Tennessee with three true post players – Kelley Cain, Glory Johnson and Alyssia Brewer. Vicki Baugh has practiced on a limited basis, as she continues her comeback from two ACL surgeries on her left knee.

Moshak opted to take Baugh off the court for a week – she returned Monday and was effective in limited work – and allow her knee some rest from any pounding.

"We took a week off of just shutting her down and got everything to where nothing hurts anymore, so that's a good start," Moshak said.

Baugh worked in the post Monday and then pulled herself from practice, as is protocol from Moshak.

"I told her, ‘You can't go from nothing to 100 percent,' so 25, 50, 75, 100," Moshak said. "What she did today she had no pain. Pat said it was the best she's looked in a long time."

For the first time this fall Baugh moved laterally on defense Monday without wincing or rubbing her left knee.

"The patellar tendon pain is gone, and that's what was slowing her down," Moshak said.

That pain was expected and standard with the procedure, because that tendon provided the graft for Baugh's new ACL. In her previous surgery Baugh had used a donor ACL. Moshak was hopeful the tendon graft would prove to be a better solution for Baugh.

The first step was elimination of pain.

"It's gone right now," Moshak said. "Let's hope it doesn't come back."

The next step is how the knee responds as Baugh tries to practice for longer periods.

"Right now I am very pleased with what Vicki did today so I am pretty optimistic about a lot of things," Moshak said.

Cain also is coming back from knee surgery. She missed her first year on campus to realign her right kneecap and then played hobbled last season when the screws from that procedure migrated out of the bone. Last April those screws were removed. Cain started slowly in preseason but has been moving very well of late and seems to be playing without thinking too much about her knee.

"I am extremely pleased with where Kelley is," Moshak said.

Tennessee has also improvised inside to add depth by using freshman Taber Spani at power forward. Sophomore forward Alicia Manning also can play there on occasion and with Manning also backing up the point position she is proving herself to be a very versatile player.

If Baugh were to make it back this season that would allow Tennessee to put one of its best and most athletic players on the court.

"I feel good about Vicki, but we're not rushing Vicki," Summitt said. "Taber can always play in the high post area. I am not concerned about that."

There is also the possibility that Dupree could opt not to redshirt, if need be, and return this season, but that was not in Summitt's game plan as of now.

"If we got deep in the season and we lost a player then we might rethink it," Summitt said. "But we're not going to sacrifice anything with Faith. There's a little leeway there now that's Lyssi's playing a lot better."

Brewer, who has played limited but effective minutes in the first two games – she missed the Texas Tech game for violation of team policy – has the skill set to play inside on both ends of the floor. She was 0-2 against Virginia, but played solid defense and had six rebounds, and that will get Summitt's attention in a good way.

The Lady Vols returned to practice Monday afternoon. Summitt watched the Virginia game tape – a 77-63 win for Tennessee – on the plane Sunday evening with her son, Tyler Summitt, as the team flew back to Knoxville.

"We were late picking the ball up in transition. Hands down," Summitt said, referring to the players' hand position on defense. "We can be as big as we play because we are big, especially our starting lineup. I think that's where we have just got to make sure that they learn from the tape."

"My new assistant, Tyler," Summitt said with a smile, "he pulls out the clips for me. He did a great job. We watched the tape on the way back on the plane and he marked it. It was good because they got to see it today. That's a great opportunity for us to continue to teach."

The team watched film before practice and then worked on specifics for the upcoming game against Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro.

"We wanted to get our scouting report pretty much done, and we watched the tape beforehand," Summitt said. "We will give them tomorrow (Tuesday) off so they can rest and then we'll do some more scouting after our shoot-around."

Tennessee will travel to Middle Tennessee on Tuesday and then hold a shoot-around on Wednesday at the Murphy Center. The game tips at 8 p.m. Eastern Wednesday.

Practice was held in Pratt Pavilion on Monday and a few things were missing as the players walked in before the session began – backpacks with their class materials, a handful of sweats and basketball shoes.

With access to their locker room restored after the win at Virginia, the players were able to stash gear and other items in their lockers in the arena.

Moshak was likely as happy as the players were to return to the locker room. She has a training room inside the plush accommodations, and this means she can work on the players in one well-stocked location instead of hauling around her equipment.

"She was real excited," Summitt said. "I said part of it is for you, as well."

SHANNA IN TOWN: Shanna Crossley, who was known as Shanna Zolman during her playing days at Tennessee, was at practice Monday with her husband, Andrew Crossley, who is from nearby Morristown, Tenn.

"We spent some time with my family in Indiana, and being the holiday season for Thanksgiving we wanted some time with his family, too," Crossley said. "That's why it's such a great trip for us, because we get to see family and I get to come back here and practice with the girls."

Crossley plays for the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars but had a truncated season this past summer after tearing the meniscus in her left knee early in the season. She had missed the previous 2008 season after tearing her ACL in the same knee.

On Monday, Crossley played on the scout team and then went through a shooting routine on her own. She had been able to return to the court for the Silver Stars in the latter part of last season.

"It feels really good actually," Crossley said of her knee. "My husband is a strength coach, and he has really been working with me and helping me with the strengthening of it. That's what I am trying to focus on this off-season is just strengthen it so much.

"The reason I tore my meniscus is because it was still a little bit loose in the ACL, and my muscles weren't strong enough to hold it together. I am trying to strengthen it, wear the brace this off-season and try to get back to my old self again."

Crossley was in Slovakia for a month with a professional team but opted to come back stateside. That wasn't because of her knee but because the team wasn't a good fit.

"It's one thing to find a team and it's another thing to find a good fit," Crossley said. "It's such a different style of basketball. Everything is very different. I've just got to find a good fit. It could be tomorrow. It could be after Christmas."

In the meantime, Crossley will spend time with family and work out. She marveled at Pratt Pavilion – it was under construction while she was at Tennessee – and laughed when asked if she would have moved a cot into the facility and lived there.

"Probably," Crossley said. "This is amazing. We were spoiled beyond belief, but these girls are even more spoiled than we were. It's a good situation for them."

When the coaching staff walked in to Pratt on Monday, Crossley was already there with a basketball in hand. When Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood, who is handling the scouting report for the Middle Tennessee game, saw Crossley he immediately gave her a hug and then asked if she wanted to play on the practice team.

Former Lady Vol Dominique Redding also showed up Monday, so the two former teammates paired up again.

Crossley saw the Tennessee team play in person once last year at Texas – "I think they've made tremendous strides since then," she said – and kept up with them throughout the season.

"They do look better," she said. "They're going to be at such an advantage later on when they do all mature and they've gone through the program for two or three years."

This year's squad has no seniors, and it's an oddity for any team.

"They don't have that Ashley Robinson, Tasha Butts that I had coming in that just pounds on you and shows you how it's done," Crossley said. "They didn't have as much of that as we did when we came to Tennessee, but they've made tremendous strides without that. They're continuing to figure it out and when they see how everything goes they will be continue to be very successful."

Kara Lawson also was at practice Monday – she is not on the court but is rehabbing a quad injury with Jenny Moshak – and the three former players chatted with each other and the coaches after the session ended. Redding stayed afterwards to help Crossley with her shooting drills.

"I coached two of those three, I didn't have the opportunity to coach Kara, but it speaks to relationships," Lockwood said. "It's what this whole deal is about – it's relationships. At the end of this time, the days, the weeks, the months, the years, they tick and they go, and at the end of it somebody else is going to be doing all this. What are we left with when we're not here? It's the relationships.

"Even though the years and the time and the miles separate you to have the opportunity to just connect with people and stay connected, that's the real joy of this thing. There are some thrills and some highs. Winning championships is what we do and what drives us every day, but at the end of the day when it's all on the shelf the real joy behind it is the relationships."

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