KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee center Mercedes Russell will begin her college career as the Lady Vols' most heralded incoming freshman since Candace Parker, a player she grew up idolizing and recently met.
Russell was on vacation this summer when she stopped by a Los Angeles Sparks practice and spoke briefly with Parker, a WNBA most valuable player and two-time Olympic gold-medal winner. Russell said Parker "told me just to work hard."
Russell must follow that advice to live up to the expectations accompanying her arrival. She makes her debut Nov. 8 when Tennessee opens its season at Middle Tennessee.
Russell, a 6-foot-6 freshman, was rated as the nation's No. 1 player in her class by multiple recruiting services. The Springfield (Ore.) graduate was named the Gatorade national high school player of the year.