Pat Summitt said if Cain were to be cleared, she would return to the usual starting lineup of Shekinna Stricklen, Angie Bjorklund, Taber Spani, Glory Johnson and Cain. If Cain can't go, Summitt said she would start Alyssia Brewer in a nod both to the inside size of the Longhorns and the improvement shown recently by Brewer.
"She's scoring in the paint, around the rim, which is what we've been trying to arrive at," Summitt said. "Her biggest challenge is to get low defensively because she's getting much lower offensively."
Brewer had something else Friday besides a vote of confidence from her coach. When Summitt approached Brewer in practice for correction, several teammates, led by Briana Bass, quickly surrounded her in support and also listened to the coach.
It was a small gesture but one that should help the team overall, especially freshman Kamiko Williams, who also has gotten a regular earful from Summitt. Because of the youth on the team – and no seniors at all – players not on the receiving end of Summitt's thunder have a tendency to seek shelter away from the storm. Veteran team members, by virtue of experience and knowing how to react to Summitt, are more inclined to hover nearby in support.
"I think what they've realized watching Kamiko, I was all over her yesterday, and they said in the huddle, ‘You know it's our fault. We should be helping her,' " Summitt said. I said, ‘You're right. You should be encouraging her and helping her and explaining what she needs to do.'
Instead all she's hearing is my voice mainly and the other assistants. I said something to Angie and Kinna, and they said, ‘We've got it Coach. We should have done this already.' They were focused on their own game and I said, ‘Kamiko can help us if we can reel her in and keep her focused.' "
Summitt also realized that she is not as patient as she was a year ago – and she won't be this season – so perhaps some players weren't certain of how to react on a teammate's behalf and instead yielded space. The players on the roster now were either on the 2008 national title team – a veteran squad that knew how to get its work done in practice efficiently – or the 2009 group of mostly freshmen and sophomores that got a year of a very patient Summitt, for the most part.
"The volume has been turned up quite a bit, and it's going to be," Summitt said.
Summitt was pleased with the past two days of practice in Pratt Pavilion – the volleyball team is hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tourney so the arena is occupied until Sunday's game – as the team got it a lot of work on both sides of the ball and went over Texas' sets and the stuff that Tennessee wants to run.
Summitt opted to give the team the day off Saturday, but the players are required to meet with Jenny Moshak for assorted treatments, such as cold whirlpools and other injury prevention and recovery modalities.
"They just have rehab," Summitt said. "They have to go rehab with Jenny. Everybody does."
Saturday will be the team's third day off this week as they were off the day before Tuesday's game and the day after. The players were each given a DVD of Texas game tape to watch, and they will reconvene with the coaches on Sunday at shoot-around.
"It's a combination of how they practiced, and we were out here a long time today," Summitt said of the decision for another off day. "We've got to have our legs against Texas. They all took their DVDs they'll be watching. We covered about everything we needed to. We've gone over all our sets. All we'll do is end out-of-bounds (plays), and shooting (on Sunday at pre-game). We don't play until 7 o'clock."
Williams has an additional set of study aids, and once exams are completed next week she could use the time between semesters to study basketball.
"She has got to study, study, study all of our set plays and know how we defend," Summitt said. "She's got all the DVDs she needs. She's got to go to work on it. I'm sure she's getting ready for exams, but eventually she's got to get it in order to get playing time."
PINK COWBOY HATS: Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt and Texas Coach Gail Goestenkors will both be wearing pink cowboy hats Sunday when they walk onto the court with their teams and will be introduced to the crowd with the fancy headwear.
It started last September when Summitt wore a pink cowboy hat to the pairings party on the night before the 4Kay Golf Classic in Greensboro, N.C., at the Grandover Resort and Conference Center.
"I wore one of Traci Smith's hats," Summitt said. "She's from Knoxville. She's a Lady Vol fan and a good friend of mine."
"Pat arrives at the pairings party, and she's wearing this pink cowboy hat with sequins and lot of bling-bling happening," Stephanie Glance said. "The evening goes on, we eat, and then there are a lot of auctions. I originally asked Pat if she would auction off the hat, sign it, and she was like, ‘Sure.' So we started auctioning off the hat."
Glance, who coached with the late Kay Yow at North Carolina State and is now the administrative assistant to the head coach at Tennessee, said one thing led to another – the bids and stakes were raised – and the auction went from Texas Assistant Coach Mickie DeMoss, a former Lady Vol assistant, agreeing to wear the hat on a $2,000 bid from Summitt to four ACC coaches bidding $2,500 each if both Summitt and Goestenkors would wear hats at the Tennessee-Texas game.
The game will be at 7 p.m. Sunday and will be shown on ESPN2.
"Gail and I agreed that we would wear them at the game," Summitt said.
The coaches will likely appear at center court together before the game and then stash the hats for safekeeping, as they could be autographed and auctioned later to raise more money.
Beth Dunkenberger of Virginia Tech and Katie Meier of Miami were the two coaches who spearheaded the effort to raise the bids. When the dust settled, Dunkenberger; Meier; Kellie Harper of N.C. State and a former Lady Vol player; and MaChelle Joseph of Georgia Tech agreed to pay $2,500 each for a total bid of $10,000 to benefit the Kay Yow Foundation.
"The ACC coaches were joking, ‘How did we end up being the ones?' " Glance said. "It was a neat thing that happened. It wasn't planned. This just came about. There was a lot of energy and a lot of love in the room."