Cait McMahan to play in summer league

Cait McMahan will suit up Tuesday for the Women's Pilot Rocky Top League after entreaties from Courtney McDaniel and Alyssia Brewer in a one-game appearance to replace the point guard for Team Adidas. On the eve of the game McMahan acknowledged some trepidation, not because of her balky knees, but because she only knows one style on the court – all out.

Cait McMahan, who graduated from Tennessee last May, had to stop playing basketball midway through the 2008-09 season because of chronic pain in her knees that began in her senior year of high school and never really alleviated, despite three surgeries and a redshirt year.

Tuesday will give McMahan the chance to reunite with former Lady Vol teammates on the court as Team Adidas features Alyssia Brewer and will take on Team Hustle, which includes Glory Johnson and Sydney Smallbone.

The league also includes former Lady Vol Courtney McDaniel, who plays for Smith & Hammaker with current Lady Vol Shekinna Stricklen.

"I am really good friends with Courtney McDaniel, and she said I should play," said McMahan, who now gives private basketball lessons in her hometown of Maryville, Tenn. "It's not like I haven't been practicing basketball, but the issue has always been my knee. Lyssi was like, ‘Come play Tuesday. Our point guard is gone. Just one game.' I was like, ‘All right, I'll play one game.' "

Team Adidas' regular point guard, Taylor Mills, has had to return to Kennesaw State to enroll for summer classes. Both Team Adidas and Team Hustle are 3-1, and the winner will claim sole possession of first place in the Women's Pilot Rocky Top League. It is that factor that is particularly worrisome for McMahan, who always wants to win when she takes the court.

"The main thing I'm worried about is I'm going to give my all, because that's just how I've always played," McMahan said. "I want to go in and have fun, but it's weird for me to do that because every time I've played I've gone in wanting to win. It's like a battlefield to me. I can't pretend."

McMahan's lateral mobility is restricted, and the instability can cause the knee to buckle on her, an occurrence she has gotten used to now.

"I am pretty nervous about it, because I haven't been in a real game setting," McMahan said. "My knee is going to give out. It's just a matter of time or when during the game. I just hope it's not at a key point in the game when I'm on defense. I told them that, and they were all fine with it."

Defense is also not a priority in the summer league.

"That's what they said," McMahan said. "They said, ‘Cait, it's just pretty much pickup.' I watched the men and they were like, ‘It's just like the men.' "

If McMahan does get beat on defense, she needs to let her player go and rely on Brewer or another paint player to stop the drive to the basket.

"I'll yell at Lyssi and I'll yell at Caitlin Hollifield," McMahan said.

Hollifield, who is from Knoxville and played at Powell High School, also is on Team Adidas. The 6'1 forward played one season at Alabama before transferring to Western Carolina in 2009.

"I am looking forward to playing with her," McMahan said. "She plays so hard, and she is very good."

McMahan, whose once-promising basketball career at Tennessee was derailed by knee injuries, is looking forward to being on the court again with Lady Vols, especially to play with Brewer, who was a freshman in the 2008-09 season.

"It's very neat," McMahan said. "To take the court with Lyssi Brewer, she was one of the freshmen I kind of got close to. I was excited she asked. I saw how much she wanted me to play and wanted to be on the court with me again so it kind of flattered me.

"I am just going to go in and not get too caught up in not being able to play like I used to."

McMahan has absorbed staggering blows on and off the court. The loss of her basketball career paled in comparison to the death of her mother, Teresa McMahan, who battled cancer three times and finally succumbed in May of 2007. McMahan missed the next season in 2007-08 to recover from knee surgery and then had to quit midseason the following year.

It was an end to her basketball career that McMahan saw coming.

"I knew that chapter was closing, even before the doctors met with me and made the decision that it would be better off if I didn't play," McMahan said. "My knee gives out. If I play defense, my knee gives out. It's not the pain. I can take the pain. I took it ever since my senior year in high school.

"It just that my knee gives out. You can't play DI and your knee gives out, especially on a national championship-qualifying team. I don't want to say (that playing Tuesday) closes a chapter. It's just a way for me to enjoy the game. I am always going to love basketball. Giving individual lessons when I give my girls a break for water, I'm shooting. I'm getting back in kid mode and I'm shooting threes at the buzzer."

McMahan graduated in May and now provides the basketball lessons, a business venture that has kept her active this summer. She also is pursuing a music/rapper career with Swiperboy Entertainment (SBE), the label run by current Vol basketball player Renaldo Woolridge, and their creations are on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Tuesday's experience could later end up in song.

"It might," McMahan said. "It just might."

Tuesday's games begin at 6 p.m. at Catholic High School in Knoxville with Smith & Hammaker vs. the News Sentinel in the first game followed by McMahan's Team Adidas vs. Team Hustle at 7:30 p.m. The final game at 9 p.m. features Duncan Automotive vs. DeRoyal. The results will set the playoff schedule for Thursday evening with the title game scheduled for Friday.

"When I go out I am still going to want to win," said McMahan, who can only play Tuesday because of family commitments later in the week. "I am very excited to get to see everybody and play a little roundball for an hour."

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