Warlick, Lady Vols set to debut a new Tennessee
By Grant Ramey | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
There will be more than just the obvious changes to the Tennessee women’s basketball program when the Lady Vols take the court for the first time in front of fans Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Obviously, Holly Warlick will take over Pat Summitt’s seat on the bench officially as Tennessee’s second basketball coach in program history. The only woman to come before her, Summitt, will also be serving as head coach emeritus for the first time in a game setting.
But those will be among the more apparent changes Thursday when the Lady Vols tipoff the exhibition schedule against Carson-Newman at 7 p.m.
Among the less obvious: names, numbers, rankings and projections.
“Our freshmen are fitting in very well,” Warlick said on Tuesday of her freshmen-laiden Lady Vols roster. “Our upperclassmen have been great leaders.
“I think we’re extremely excited to get on the floor and for you all to see where we are. If this were a regular season game, I’d be a little nervous. So we still have a couple of weeks to get ready, but that’s what these exhibition games are for.”
Lady Vol debut
Guard Andraya Carter, center Nia Moore, and forwards Bashaara Graves and Jasmine Jones will all make their Tennessee debuts against Carson-Newman.
It will be nothing short of a tryout for all 11 players on roster, though, in the first exhibition game of the season.
“I don’t have a starting lineup right now,” Warlick said. “So I’m going to use it obviously to our advantage to see who plays well together, who doesn’t, what kind of rotation.
“This is something for us to throw out and put different lineups and see how we respond, and that’s what I intend to do.”
The Lady Vols will host Coker Sunday at 2 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena before making a trip to Chattanooga to face the Lady Mocs on Nov. 9.
“Who you see start Thursday may not necessarily start Sunday or start next Friday,” Warlick said working her team through the exhibition schedule.
“We’re just going to use (the preseason), we’ve had two scrimmages and have started two different lineups, we’re kind of getting maybe a little bit of a core, but still not there to decide who’s going to start and who isn’t.”
Another change from last year that fans may hesitate to notice? A change in intensity, both during practices and games.
“At times I thought last year’s team didn’t play as hard as they could,” Warlick said. “And this year’s team, we’re trying to make them understand, we can’t be up and down. We’ve got to understand what we’re doing. Intensity level has to be there. That’s the only way this team is going to be successful.”
Warlick said seniors Taber Spani and Kamiko Williams have helped the young roster work towards being successful early in camp.
“They understand that our practices needed to change,” Warlick said of her two seniors. “It’s been different because you take five freshmen, and we’ve had to do a lot of going slow and a lot of teaching. We try not to get too ahead of the game.”
Not getting too far ahead for the freshmen means learning how to play Warlick’s brand of Tennessee basketball.
“We’re making sure we’re getting fundamental things down then we’re trying to move on,” Warlick said. “How hard they play and what we expect of them, I think they have a clear vision of how we want them to play and where we need to go. We just haven’t cut them any slack.
“I’m not saying we were easy on them the last couple of years, I’m just saying we’re putting it out there and these ladies are responding. That’s a great comment. They’re responding and understanding what style we want to play.”
Another more obvious change for Warlick, her team and the fans are the preseason polls. The LadyVols were picked 20th in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 — the lowest ranking in program history since Tennessee wasn’t ranked in the initial poll of the 1976-77 season. Warlick’s Lady Vols were picked to finish fourth in the Southeastern Conference.
The first-year coach said her team won’t soon forget those numbers.
“For us I think it’s low, but it is what it is,” the first-year coach said. “We’re not there, but all I can tell you is that it is serving as a motivation for us. You lose five starters, you lose the winningest coach in the country and I understand expectations for a lot of people would be lowered. But they’re not lowered for me. They’re not lowered for this program, for these fans.
“We don’t like being ranked 20th, but it’s preseason and we’re using it as a motivation factor.”