Glory Johnson diversifies game

Glory Johnson's workout group had quite a challenge Friday as they got football field sprints with Heather Mason in the morning and an hour of court work with the coaches in the afternoon. The two freshmen were with the junior forward in Pratt Pavilion and showed why Pat Summitt expects both newcomers to contribute this season.

Each group of Lady Vol players has now had three separate hour-long workout sessions – no more than four at a time can take the court for no more than two hours a week by preseason rules until mid-September – spread out over the past nine days and a priority for the coaches has clearly emerged: The Tennessee players are going to run.

The players also get six hours a week with Heather Mason, the strength and conditioning coach, and she usually has them under her care three days a week in the morning. Friday's workout at the indoor football complex was particularly arduous.

"Heather made us run about 17 full lengths of the football field," said Glory Johnson, who still had enough in her legs after practice Friday to try to dunk – she gets high enough but loses her grip on the ball – at Pratt Pavilion. "Ten in ten minutes and then we had seven in ten-and-a-half minutes. It was rough. She challenges us every morning."

"We have to get through it somehow, and then we had individuals today, so I guess we were the lucky group," Johnson added with a smile.

Running is not an issue for Johnson, a state champion sprinter at Webb School of Knoxville as a prep athlete. She had plenty left for Friday's workout with the coaches, but more surprising was the energy output of freshmen Meighan Simmons and Lauren Avant and also redshirt freshman forward Faith Dupree.

Every group during the individual workouts has repeated drills designed to clean the glass and push the ball in transition. The posts are expected to make the outlet pass and sprint to the other basket in a hurry – one sequence Friday of Johnson to Avant to Simmons and back to Johnson took less than five seconds to score as the ball got down the court via the air with few dribbles – and both Johnson and Dupree held up their ends.

But it was the two true freshmen that opened some eyes, as both Avant and Simmons showed sustained speed in the drill. If they were tired, they likely endeared themselves to Pat Summitt by not showing it.

The person on the court most soaked in sweat was Assistant Coach Dean Lockwood, whose enthusiasm during drills is relentless. He was the same way Thursday after directing three separate groups over three hours.

"Dean is full of energy," Johnson said. "I bet he sleeps really well at night because he is full of energy all day long no matter where you see him, in the office, just walking, he is really happy and full of energy. He sweats more than I do. I am sure he sweats more than anybody else, him and Angie (Bjorklund) maybe."

The gospel according to Lockwood has already been delivered to the newcomers.

"Coach Dean said when you think about winning a national championship you can't worry about fatigue and your mind getting tired," Simmons said. "You need to continue to move forward and push your body."

"I love transition," Avant said. "I love up-tempo games. That is what I want to do. Raise the tempo. This team can do it."

Summitt said both freshmen should be immediate contributors this season.

"Absolutely," she said.

Friday's Lady Vol foursome had a few extra observers at the session because Elizabeth Williams, a 6'3 center in the class of 2011 from Virginia Beach, Va., was in attendance with her family on an unofficial visit.

Williams' visit came the day after Tennessee got a commitment from Ariel Massengale, the top-rated point guard in the class of 2011, from Bolingbrook High School in Illinois. The scouting reports on Williams state she can run the floor with the guards, so she likely saw a style of play she liked Friday.

It is definitely a style of play suited to Johnson, whose athleticism, speed and size create mismatches for opponents. The next step for Johnson was to develop a consistent outside shot, and she worked on that aspect of her game over the summer.

"I was trying to work on my ball handling and my shooting," Johnson said. "I know how to drive. I just have to be confident enough to put the ball down. And if they want to play me as a driver, then I have to be able to take shots."

Tennessee has a nearly full complement of 14 players this season – one short of the 15 scholarship players allowed – and Summitt has said she intends to increase the tempo this season and put pressure on the defense.

Johnson is a post player who can cover 94 feet of court in a hurry, so she should be able to carve out meaningful minutes, despite the stacked roster, though minutes could also decrease across the board for players who had to log a lot last season by circumstance.

"We all know we're going to share our minutes," Johnson said. "Whether someone is starting or not starting, we're a team, and we're trying to win. The less minutes you have to play, the more energy you have so we take it as that. Day by day and in practice go hard and you'll earn your minutes."

It's likely an easier sale for the coaches this preseason because Tennessee has fallen well short of Lady Vol standards in the past two postseasons – a first-round loss in 2009 and a Sweet 16 berth in 2010.

The much-heralded second Six Pack is entering its junior season – minus Amber Gray, who was not medically cleared at Tennessee because of a stroke/aneurysm and transferred closer to home to Xavier – and is aware that the eligibility clock is ticking without a Final Four appearance yet.

"Right," Johnson said. "It's a goal of mine and I'm sure it's a goal of every one of my teammates to go there and to go farther. But at the same time it's a long way away, and we all have a lot of work to do, especially as a team. Once we get together and develop a really close relationship (on the court), I think we'll be great. I think we'll get there."

They also are more mature as players and teammates now that they're upperclassmen.

"I think we are," Johnson said. "We shouldn't be fighting over minutes. We should be wanting to win. We should be wanting to win as a Lady Vol and excel as a team and individually."

The post game will get a boost this season as Vicki Baugh, a redshirt junior forward, has returned to the court after 18 months off to recover from ACL surgery, her second within one calendar year. Baugh can be a fierce competitor on the court, but her fun-loving personality makes her a favorite among her teammates off the court.

When Johnson was asked about Baugh returning, she tried to reply with a serious answer but Baugh was lurking nearby, even though it was her off day, and kept repeating Johnson's name in a mock evil voice.

"That's Vicki, I am sorry," Johnson said as she tried to answer without laughing. "I like playing with Vicki, and she motivates me at the same time. She is the type of player that I want to be."


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