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Ladyvolnation: Pat Speaks Defense! (via Dan Fleser)

Pat Summitt sounds serious.
The warning issued by Tennessee’s women’s basketball coach to freshman Kamiko Williams last month evoked early winter, not late summer.
“We’re going to be a different team,” Summitt said. ” . . That’s why Kamiko better get in the picture real soon. I hate to see her get left out entirely.”
For Summitt, “different” means more attuned to defense and playing more like a typical Tennessee team.

“Just looking back, we were never committed to defense for 40 minutes a game,” she said. “It was more pick and choose when we’re going to play hard. We’re not going to be that team this year.”
If she’s really serious about that, it’ll take more than threatening a callow first-year player like Williams. With the Lady Vols beginning weekly full-team workouts on Thursday, it will take deploying sophomore Glory Johnson on the perimeter as Tennessee’s lead defender.
Johnson was used there some last season. The strategy was conceived as a way to utilize Johnson’s 6-foot-3 wingspan and her quickness.
The former Webb School star was the most athletic Lady Vol last season. Watching her dart around the court at Pratt Pavilion the past few weeks reinforces the distinction. Even Summitt conceded, “I have no doubt that she can guard anyone, anywhere on the court.”
Furthermore, Johnson’s physical talents have been enhanced by a season’s worth of experience. All of the sophomores are talking about an improved comfort level. Johnson described the difference in a defensive context.
“I don’t have to think about the way to play defense,” she said. “The way to close out, the way to deny – I don’t have to think about it anymore. It comes natural. It’s kind of comforting.”
What better time then to turn a strategic change-up into a staple. What better way to invigorate UT’s effort than casting Johnson in a role comparable to past stoppers Nikki McCray and Alexis Hornbuckle.
Summitt qualifies Johnson’s defensive potential with apprehension about discipline and Johnson’s tendency to foul.
“That’s the biggest hurdle we’ll have to get over with her,” Summitt said.
But that worry will follow Johnson all over the court, no matter whom she’s guarding or where she’s defending. Perhaps another concern should take priority – namely Johnson’s offensive game.
On the other end of the court, she remains a work in progress. She joked about the sleeve-like wrap she’s wearing to protect her left shoulder as it pertained to one of her more challenging shots.
“You have to find new ways to make a left-handed layup, which is rough for me already,” she said.
Johnson said that she spent the offseason working on her left-handed dribbling, her free throw shooting and her jump shot.
Listening to her brought to mind Hornbuckle and the offseasons she spent shooting countless jumpers. The best she could do in four years was become a streaky shooter.
Nobody will remember, however. Instead, Hornbuckle will be recalled as the Lady Vols’ all-time steals leader and a key contributor on back-to-back national championship teams.
Johnson could be afforded a similar opportunity. Even with forward Vicki Baugh still recovering from knee surgery and center Kelley Cain yet to complete a season because of knee and concussion problems, Tennessee remains plenty big with the addition of freshmen Faith Dupree and Taber Spani, who looks taller than her listed 6-1.
There appears to be enough height for Johnson to step out on the perimeter and create some serious havoc.
Dan Fleser covers the Lady Vols. He can be reached at 865-342-6288 or

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Posted by on September 14, 2009 in glory, govolsxtra, johnson, kamiko, ladyvols, williams


Kelly Cain Optimistic About Progress (via

Kelley Cain hasn’t charged headlong back onto the Pratt Pavilion court.
After two seasons worth of multiple knee surgeries and multiple concussions, the Tennessee women’s basketball center is proceeding through individual workouts at a more practical pace.
“The confidence is coming back day by day,” the 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore said. “I’m not rushing into anything.”
Cain had surgical screws removed from her right knee in early April. She said that her summer work was confined primarily to “rehab, rehab, rehab, rehab.” She was able to do some cardiovascular work but didn’t start running until the beginning of school.
She reports her knee, on which she had surgery to correct patella subluxation in December of 2007, is doing much better.
“It’s working,” Cain said. “Every now and then I might have pain but it’s not as bad as it used to be.”
As for the latest concussion, it occurred in a non-basketball-related incident a few weeks ago. Nobody has offered any specifics. Cain is back to being fully engaged in the on-court work, which progresses to weekly full-team workouts Thursday.
Until the start of official practice next month, Cain intends to concentrate on her conditioning, not her medical history.
“I’m looking at the positive side of everything,” she said.
Sizing Up Spani: Taber Spani’s career scoring and rebounding totals from high school stack up pretty well nationally.
The UT freshman, who was home-schooled and played for Metro Academy in Olathe, Kan., is the only girls’ player to be ranked in the top 10 for scoring (4,113 points, seventh) and rebounding (1,758, ninth).
Notebook: Texas Tech freshman post player Shauntal Nobles is out for the season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon. UT plays Tech on Nov. 17 in San Antonio. … Recruits Lauren Avant and Meighan Simmons are scheduled to visit the weekend of Oct. 2. Avant already is verbally committed to UT … ESPN football analyst Todd Blackledge visited individual workouts Thursday to see Spani. Blackledge played with Spani’s father, Gary, with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs 1983-87.

writer Dan Fleisher

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Posted by on September 14, 2009 in cain, govolsxtra, kelly, ladyvols, spani, taber

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