Monthly Archives: July 2009
Now that this is over…we can enjoy the rest of our summer.
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Pat Summitt had her eye on Candace Parker from the time the phenom was a preteen playing AAU basketball.
When the legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach met her future superstar at a DePaul game, Parker was just an eighth-grader in Naperville but already making a name for herself nationwide.
“I just thought a lot of what Candace brought to the game was she just had a great skill set and passion and a drive and a love for the game,” Summitt says now.
“So many players that are skilled and play the game, to me, they’re not always in love with the game, and I thought Candace represented that type of player that was really special and unique in a lot of ways.”
Parker still had an entire high school career ahead of her, but she remained on Summitt’s radar and the coach made sure she stayed on Parker’s as well.
“My take on it was, ‘I don’t want to play against her,’ ” Summitt said during a telephone interview last week. “We better find a way to sign her.”
That’s just what she did. In November 2003, Parker announced on national television she would play for Summitt at Tennessee.
After recovering from a knee injury, Parker went on to help the Lady Vols to back-to-back national titles and took home countless awards of her own before signing with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
Summitt has quite a few fond memories of Parker’s time at Tennessee, but one that stands out came in the 2008 NCAA semifinal game against Louisiana State University. Tennessee was down by one with seven seconds on the clock. Huddled in a timeout, coaches agreed to set up a play that would put the ball in Parker’s hands.
“I thought she had time to get down the floor and make a play for herself, but her instincts took over and she saw an opening and threw Nicky (Anosike) a beautiful pass and when it didn’t go in on the first one I was like, ‘oh no,'” Summitt said. “Thank goodness Alexis (Hornbuckle) was athletic enough to tip it in.”
Tennessee beat LSU 47-46 and went on to win its second straight national championship.
Summitt said having Parker, Anosike and Hornbuckle on the team together was a special time both for her and the team’s legion of loyal fans.
“In the end, I think the players understood what it means to play in that environment,” Summitt said. “I think those last two years they were just passionate about winning and they kept each other in check in a way it wasn’t difficult to coach them. It was fun to watch them play.”
Now my offseason is complete. I can finally enjoy the championship and gear up for the next season. Let’s Go Lakers.
She’s been immersed in her own medical ordeal for most of the month.
Yet she’s gathered everyone just the same.
“Given the circumstances, all that she has been through, I think it has brought our team and all of us closer together,” Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt said. “When you see someone who’s so young, going through so many challenges. Amber is family. It has brought us closer together. . . . and made us realize how precious life is.”
Complications ensued after Gray underwent shoulder surgery on July 2 at St. Mary’s Medical Center. The Lady Vols forward underwent a series of tests and later was moved to the University of Cincinnati’s Neuroscience Institute, where she underwent a 12 1/2-hour surgical procedure beginning on July 20 for an aneurysm in her brain.
Gray was moved last week to the Drake Rehabilitation Center in Cincinnati. Gray’s mother, Tonya Carter, said Monday that there’s no timetable for her daughter’s recovery.
Summitt said that she’s been impressed with Gray’s upbeat attitude in the face of such a challenge.
“It wasn’t like ‘why me?’ ” Summitt said, “It’s ‘what do I have to do to get better.’
“I think her positive attitude has helped her family and everyone. She’s kept a great sense of humor. Every time I’ve gone in the room, she’d had something to say.”
The Lady Vols want to buoy Gray’s spirit with their support. While Gray was in Knoxville, the players convened their own vigil on her behalf with their presence at the hospital.
“The people at St. Mary’s did a great job of protecting Amber but letting her teammates go in two or three at a time,” Summitt said.
With Gray in Cincinnati, the Lady Vols’ challenge is closing the distance between here and there. They’ve built a bridge through cyberspace but have to be careful about too much traffic.
“I was talking with Tonya,” Summitt said. “They just had to turn (Amber’s) cell phone off so she could get the quality rest she needed.”
While the Lady Vols figure out the right amount of communication with Gray, they seem to be locked in on the appropriate content.
“It’s going to be important that she knows every day she’s in our thoughts and prayers and we’re pulling for her,” Summitt said.
And since Gray went to all the trouble, they ought hold that huddle together, too.
“She’s brought us all together,” Summitt said, “in a very good way.”