Monthly Archives: October 2014

More Media Day

A few leftovers from Wednesday’s Media Day for women’s basketball:

— Redshirt freshman guard Jannah Tucker, who’s recovering from offseason knee surgery, said she might experience a little contact in practice as early as next week.

— Head coach Holly Warlick said there was a chance sophomore center Mercedes Russell might have been able to return in January after undergoing offseason surgery on both feet. But Warlick wasn’t in favor of Russell returning for an abbreviated season.

“I don’t want to sell her short on her college career and have her have half a year,” Warlick said.

Russell, who said both of her feet already “feel great”, appreciates her coach’s consideration.

“I think it’s going to be good for me in the long run, just because of my health,” Russell said.

— Despite the loss of leading scorer Meighan Simmons, Tennessee returns 70.7 percent of its scoring from last season. The Lady Vols also return 83.2 percent of their rebounds, 81.7 percent of their assists, 79.5 percent of their steals and 68.9 percent of their blocks. Russell sitting out the season apparently results in the latter percentage. She led the team with 40 blocks last season.

— Tennessee’s least amount of depth is at the post position and junior center Nia Moore has been slowed lately by a sprained left ankle. She said it’s the first ankle injury she’s ever had.


A matter of consistency

The five-questions preview of Tennessee’s women’s basketball season for and Sunday’s editions of the News Sentinel, had a recurring theme.

Consistency cropped more than once as a key variable. Suppose this would be the case for any team or season. But when we last saw the Lady Vols, they had just  stumbled out of the NCAA tournament, looking nothing like the team that had stormed through the SEC tournament two weeks prior.

I submitted my SEC preseason ballot last Thursday in advance of Tuesday’s media day in Charlotte, N.C. My top three picks were South Carolina, Texas A&M and then Tennessee.

The Gamecocks weren’t a difficult choice as champions. All five starters return from last season’s regular season championship team. Plus, the nation’s No. 2 ranked recruiting class has been added featuring 6-foot-4 A’ja Wilson, the top recruit.

Choosing between A&M and Tennessee was a difficult call. The Aggies return a trio of standout guards. One of them, junior Courtney Walker, might turn out to be the best player in the conference. She averaged 21.2 points per game last postseason and led A&M to the Elite Eight. The Aggies also have added 6-5 Khaalia Hillsman, a five-star recruit, to their frontline, thereby addressing their most glaring weakness in two losses to Tennessee last season.

The Lady Vols, meanwhile, have lost leading scorer Meighan Simmons. She played one of the best games of her collegiate career at A&M last season, scoring 26 points and shooting 12 for 19 from the floor. Foot surgeries, meanwhile, have sidelined 6-5 Mercedes Russell for the season.

All three teams will be among the top six of the Top 25 preseason ballot I’ll submit to the Associated Press later this month. Their tug of war over the top spot in the league could continue over bigger prizes.

Tennessee ought to benefit from having swept its top conference rivals last season. In general, the Lady Vols still have more experience. This season, that ought to translate into more consistency for this team – no question.



‘Thanks for the support’

Tennessee thinks social media is a good thing and the women’s basketball team is no exception.

Twitter and Instagram handles are included in each players’ online biography. Jannah Tucker and Nia Moore are the only two players who don’t have both. Instagram accounts suffice for both.

Of the Lady Vols’ newcomers, Kortney Dunbar has been very active. She interacts with fans, fellow students and peers. She tweets about life and hoops and retweets those who mention her. However, the freshman forward from Edwardsville, Ill., said she realizes that there can be too much of a good thing.

“They want us to interact with the fans but it needs to be kept to a minimum,” she said. ” ‘Hey thanks for the support’ or things like that.

“I want to show my fans that I appreciate their tweets and all that. I am playing for them. … They come to watch us. I definitely do appreciate the support I get.”

A question and answer feature about Dunbar will appear in Wednesday’s editions of the News Sentinel and will be online at


A puncher’s chance

A question-and-answer profile of Tennessee redshirt freshman Jannah Tucker in Sunday’s editions of the News Sentinel and online at will chronicle her family’s affinity for basketball.

Turns out Tucker’s father, Robert, also has a background in boxing.

“We were in the weight room one day and he started hitting this speed bag and I was amazed,” Tucker said. “He showed me and I struggled. I could not do it. I don’t know what it was. I couldn’t hit it past two times.”

Father and daughter kept at it and the daughter’s arms burned. The eventually moved on to footwork and other maneuvers associated with father’s other sport. And so it began …

Tucker eventually realized that they were working their way back toward basketball with such workouts. She became adept enough to forge a useful correlation between the two.

“For instance, shooting,” she said. “You have to bring the ball up when you shoot. If you can bring the recoil up quicker, it makes your shot quicker.

“So having hands up there all the time built up strength in my shoulders and arms. So that way I could rip the ball up quicker and with my feet I got quicker.”