KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Eight days separate the Lady Vols from their first exhibition game at Thompson-Boling Arena. With a team filled with five newcomers and two new coaching staff additions, Tennessee has been working to find the flow for the 2012-13 season.
“For the most part, I think they’re doing well,” head coach Holly Warlick said. “I think the long practices are tough. I think we’re not in the shape we need to be, but we’re trying to push them to the level where we need them to be. I think it’s tough; it’s going to be tough, but if it’s easy, then everybody would be doing it. We’re putting it out there, and our expectations are extremely high.”
“I think we’re really starting to get in the flow of things,” sophomore Cierra Burdick said. “Obviously, we still have some bumps and bruises here and there because we are so young and we are putting in a completely different offense. It’s going to take some time to get that down and learn what the coaches are expecting of us. Once we get that down, I think it will be smooth sailing.”
In the SEC’s Preseason Media Poll released Tuesday, the Orange and White were selected to finish fourth overall in the league, behind Kentucky, Georgia and Vanderbilt. The Lady Vols garnered two first-place votes, while junior Meighan Simmons was named to the Preseason All-SEC Second Team.
“When you lose five starters, you’re not going to be picked number one. Or number two or number three,” Warlick said. “This just tells us how hard we need to work and where we need to go. We’re hunting now; we’re not the hunted. We understand where we are and we’re going to continue to get better.”
“I don’t think it matters because at the end of the day it’s how we’re going to finish,” freshman Bashaara Graves said. “We’re just working hard and trying to win games.”
With only one returning post player in Izzy Harrison, 6-foot-2 Graves will be looked to for her height and help in the front court.
“I love rebounding, that’s probably the strongest aspect of my game,” Graves said. “If that’s what I need to do for us to win games, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
As the Big Orange looks to the upcoming season, next Thursday’s exhibition game against Carson-Newman will be an opportunity for teaching moments for the young squad.
“I think we do need exhibition games,” Warlick said. “We need to understand what we do in a game, how we sit, how we do a jump ball…all those things. We need to get good film footage on them. At the scrimmage last Saturday, we played everybody just so we can get some film on them, to be able to work and watch them and make it a teaching moment. I think these exhibition games will be a great teaching moment for them.”
(On any standouts in preseason practice)
“I think they all have different expectations. I think Bashaara Graves has been the most steady, as far as the freshmen are concerned. Jasmine Jones is playing with unbelievable intensity and athleticism. Andraya Carter is having to learn a lot from the point position. I think she’s catching on and is going to get there. I think Nia is a bit behind just because she wasn’t here this summer. I think we have to be patient with her and Jasmine Phillips, as well. This is a new program for them and a new system. I think they’re going to help us, but they’re not where they need to be, but we’re going to get them there.”
(On up-tempo style of play)
“I prefer to play it, but if we didn’t have the talent, we wouldn’t be doing it. We have the talent and the depth right now. We have some athletes that can get out and run and get out and do some things defensively. I’m trying to play to our strengths, and if it turns out that that’s not our strength, it’s my job as a coach to get them to where they should be.”
“That’s hard to say. I don’t think adjusting to the coaching staff has been rough at all. They’ve really made the transition smooth. They’ve let us know what they want and what they expect of us. It’s our job to come out here and try to do it. Now, the tempo of the game is extremely faster. You guys saw us getting up and down. Physically, that’s probably the biggest transition because we do have to get in better shape, we do have to be ready to run and play defense for 40 minutes.”
“It’s completely different. High school and college is probably the biggest transition they’re going to make as far as life comes. It is tough because the game is so much faster and so much quicker, but I think they’re making a smooth transition. Our players are extremely gifted, physically, and now we just need to get them caught up, as far as mental, and on the same page with the coaches and how we do things at the University of Tennessee.”