Pat Summitt wants ball in the paint

Kelley Cain was held out of practice Thursday as she continues to follow the school's concussion protocol, but she could be allowed to return today for non-contact drills. Tennessee spent most of the session at Pratt Pavilion working on guarding sets run by Texas – the opponent on Sunday – and will focus today on what should happen when the ball is in the hands of the Lady Vols.

One of the things that should not happen is the hoisting of a quick three-pointer. Angie Bjorklund is shooting a stellar 45.5 percent from behind the arc (20-44), but the team as a whole is 31.2 percent (34-109). With post players like Kelley Cain, Glory Johnson and Alyssia Brewer and guards who can put the ball on the floor and get to the paint, Pat Summitt wants to see the inside attack established early in the game.

"I think they (shoot) early, and I don't want them to do that," Summitt said. "We've talked about that. We want to get paint points or settle for the two ball. With Angie she's obviously looking for the three ball all the time. If they're in a good rhythm and it's falling, that's one thing.

"But when we open up a game the paint points matter. We're trying to live and die by the three ball. We don't need to. We've got people who can play off the dribble and get to the paint."

One of those players is Kamiko Williams, who drew Summitt's wrath for her practice performance on Thursday. Summitt told the freshman guard to raise her intensity or risk not traveling with the team this month.

Tennessee has two high-profile road trips in December to play in Madison Square Garden in New York against Rutgers and then in Northern California for games against Stanford and San Francisco. With fall classes having ended and final exams ending next week, those road trips will be all basketball and off-court excursions, such as sightseeing and shopping, as the players won't have mandatory study sessions and will have some free time.

Williams, called by Summitt "the most athletic guard" on the roster, could help the Lady Vols this season.

"I do think Kamiko had a life lesson today," Summitt said. "She came in just not ready to play. She didn't want to be in practice today. It was pretty obvious. She wasn't talking. She wasn't engaged. That's unacceptable. I told her, ‘Don't mess with me. You'll be staying home from road trips.' "

With Brewer having taken a major step in Tuesday's game to get with the program, so to speak, that leaves Williams out on an island in terms of being a frequent target for correction. That means her teammates are going to have to intercede on her behalf and serve as both motivators and sympathizers. When Williams left Pratt on Thursday, Vicki Baugh had an arm around her.

"That came up today," Summitt said. "Vicki Baugh and Angie both said, ‘We haven't helped her. We've got to help her.' They said it won't happen again."

The emergence of Brewer has been well timed for Tennessee because the Lady Vols have taken injury hits in the post. Amber Gray is out for the season to recover from shoulder surgery and a stroke. Faith Dupree will sit out this season to strengthen her back. Baugh has yet to play as she is coming back from ACL surgery, but she did practice for part of the session Thursday.

Cain missed the George Washington game after getting hit in the back of the head last Saturday against UCLA. Tennessee's concussion protocol means that Cain must pass several physical and mental tests before being allowed to return to the court. Those include a written test, balance drills and conditioning work that indicate she is at her pre-concussion baseline levels. The final clearance to play must come from the team physician, Dr. Rebecca Morgan.

"We're just following the protocols and the guidelines of when she can come back," Summitt said. "Jenny (Moshak) said she should be able to go non-contact (Friday). That's still a wait and see."

Texas has size in the paint with Ashley Gayle and Cokie Reed, who are both 6'4, and Earnesia Williams, who is 6'1.

Brewer logged 22 minutes in the 93-53 win over George Washington and had a career-high 23 points on 11-15 shooting, plus seven second-half rebounds. The 6'3 forward is offensively skilled, and Summitt wants her to have an equal impact on the defensive end of the floor.

Practice began with two managers holding the ends of a rope, and the players going back and forth underneath it in defensive slides.

"Because Lyssi Brewer needs to get low," Summitt said when asked why the rope made a practice appearance. "That was the Lyssi Brewer rope. She's made a lot of progress."

Summitt agreed that Brewer's performance could serve as a springboard to her season, because the game gave the sophomore some much-needed confidence.

"She got a lot of compliments, and I was really, really pleased with her offensive game," Summitt said. "Where she right now really needs to improve is on the defensive end. She's not low, so that's why we got the rope out."

Brewer also must improve her box-outs. The Colonial players got around her in the first half to secure boards.

"Just not reacting (to the ball)," Summitt said. "We watch film. I told her if she wants to play the minutes she wants to play, get low. I told her, ‘When you get tired, pull yourself. Go all out for three minutes with your hips low and when you need to come out, let me know.' "

That would be the case going forward. Against George Washington, Summitt pulled the starters, except for Briana Bass, and let the reserves play the final 11 minutes without substitutions. Brewer tugged on her jersey to come out, but Summitt wanted the bench to log a lot of minutes, since the game was well in hand. The players did have media timeouts to catch their breath.

Brewer leads the team in field goal percentage at 72.7 percent (16-22). Johnson is next at 60.7 percent (34-56). A year ago Johnson shot 40.4 percent, a low number for a post player. Johnson shot 61.6 percent from the free throw line last season but has started this season at 76.9 percent (20-26). Summitt can't recall another player making that big of a leap from freshman to sophomore year.

"I don't think so," Summitt said. "She's just investing now. That freshman year was very challenging for her. She would be (nearly) late for practice. She'd get there … and might not have all her gear. Now, she's understanding that she's going to be in a role as a starter and have the impact that she's got to get it right.

"She's been getting it right and Dean's been putting in a lot of extra time with Glory. Last year you couldn't hardly find her. She wasn't committed to getting in the gym and getting a lot of shots up and working with Dean (Lockwood), it wasn't something that she was committed to. Dean, he's pretty persistent, he kept trying to get her there."

Summitt looks at her post players and although the depth is not there she sees a group that can tip games in Tennessee's favor.

"I think that we still have a lot of room for improvement, but if we can get Kelley Cain healthy on the inside and Glory Johnson, by far the best athlete on our team, and Lyssi Brewer can maintain her play at the level we need, I think our inside game will probably be the strength of our team," Summitt said.

Johnson also leads the team in steals with 14. She is the second-leading scorer at 14.7 points per game – tied with Bjorklund – and shares top rebounding honors with Shekinna Stricklen as they both have tallied 50 and are averaging 8.3 boards per game.

The team as a whole is shooting a respectable 44.9 percent (173-385), a number that would be even better if not for the 31.2 percent from behind the arc. That number has been pulled downward by an uncharacteristic 3-20 mark (15.0 percent) from Stricklen, whose overall shooting percentage is 41.3 percent (33-80). Take out the three-point shots and Stricklen would be 30-60 (50 percent) from the field.

Summitt isn't concerned about the overall three-point percentage because she expects the attempts to come down, at least early in the game.

"I think they've been overanxious with it, and we've got to get more disciplined," Summitt said. "That's fixable."

Thursday's practice was defense-oriented, as the scout team ran a lot of the offensive sets of Texas. The Lady Vols also got in some full court work on offense, which will continue in earnest on Friday.

"We really wanted to get in all of Texas' sets," Summitt said. "(Friday will) focus more on us, what we want to do."

ROCKY TOP ROCKETTES: Pat Summitt made her debut with "The Rockettes" on Monday when the stars of Radio City Music Hall performed a Christmas show at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Summitt was decked out in red in keeping with the holiday theme and reprised her role as singer of "Rocky Top." She performed the song in a cheerleader's outfit with her assistant coaches in 2007 at halftime of a Vols game to pay back Bruce Pearl for painting his chest orange at a Lady Vols game.

"I just started singing, Rocky Top," said Summitt, who sang the first two lines, "and then I stopped there and I go, ‘I am on ole Rocky Top with ‘The Rockettes.' They had a couple of lines about the holiday and having holiday memories. And (I said) sit back and relax and enjoy the show.

"It was neat to watch them. They' re amazing. You're talking about discipline. Athletic. Very disciplined.

Summitt was particularly impressed with the precision, especially when the line tilted in perfect unison with soldiers lined up as part of the show.

"There is not anybody on our staff that could do that or on our team," Summitt said. "They wanted me to (high kick). They wanted me to practice, but I had a skirt on. I should have worn pants. Then I could at least kick."

WEEKLY TELECONFERENCE Coach Pat Summitt held her weekly teleconference on Wednesday and was asked if an NBA team had ever asked her to sit on the sidelines.

"No, but my attorney at Williams and Connolly in D.C. has been on me," Summitt said. "He has said you need to go coach in the pros, you could be an assistant in the pros, you need to coach men. And I don't have any desire to coach men. Where I think I can have the biggest impact is coaching women."

Summitt also was asked how long she thought she would continue to coach.

"Well, I'm 57 years old," Summitt said. "Do I have 10 years? Maybe, I don't know. I have not even thought about quitting because I love what I do. As long as I still feel like I can be effective in leading our program and continuing to bring in the talent to stay among the top four or five teams in the country, I want to do it because it's my passion.

"It's what I wake up every day excited about, is not going to the office, but going to the court, where I can go to work and hopefully teach and inspire."


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