Dan Fleser: Lady Vols looking to have better balance with recruiting

Dan Fleser
Photo with no caption

Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2011

Mickie DeMoss didn't need a refresher to resume her role as Tennessee's recruiting coordinator.

The Lady Vols assistant coach has been there and done that before at UT — evaluating talent, planning visits and plotting strategy.

Her talents and experience, though, don't minimize the challenges facing the program. The Lady Vols are trying to balance their roster while bracing for any fallout from head coach Pat Summitt's announcement in August that she's been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. The former project is more short-term in scope while the latter has the potential for long-range implications.

While the Lady Vols are tackling both issues simultaneously, DeMoss has taken an immediate stand against super-sized recruiting classes. Signing six players paid off when the Candace Parker-led group produced consecutive national championships in 2006-07 and 2007-08. The Lady Vols repeated the shopping binge with the 2008 freshman class in order to maintain their numbers. They couldn't sustain their postseason results, however. The Lady Vols haven't been back to a Final Four since their last championship.

DeMoss realizes that UT has five seniors. And while she can't comment on specific recruits, the Lady Vols have three players committed to sign letters of intent for next season. The math leaves UT feeling the pinch with just nine players on board for 2012-13.

"You're going to have one year where your numbers are going to be low," DeMoss said. "So you just sacrifice, kind of hold your breath. Then you start balancing those classes back out."

No matter how breathless she might be next season, DeMoss wants UT to focus on signing four-player classes and creating more uniformity throughout the ranks.

"If there's a great player out there and we've already signed four, we're not going to turn them down,'' DeMoss said. "But we do want to keep it about four per year."

Tennessee still hopes to convene a foursome for next season but the search for someone to join commitments Bashaara Graves, Andraya Carter and Jasmine Jones isn't wide in scope. Rachel Hollivay, a 6-foot-4 center from Heritage Academy in Columbus, Miss., visited earlier this month. She told ESPN HoopGurlz this week that she likely will pare her list of five schools to two before making a decision. The only other high school senior expected to visit this fall is guard Jordan Adams from Irvine, Calif., who is scheduled to be here next weekend.

If necessary, DeMoss said the Lady Vols will look through the junior college ranks for a post player, which is the most pressing need. In need of guards, Tennessee signed junior college players Shannon Bobbitt and Alberta Auguste in the spring of 2006. Both players were key contributors to the national championship teams.

"Personally, I would be more comfortable if we could add one,'' DeMoss said. "Eleven is more ideal. It's a slippery slope when you're dealing with nine players on your roster."

In the future, signing four players per year might depend more on Summitt's health. For now, the ripple effect from her announcement hasn't been noticeable. Junior Kaela Davis, the No. 2 ranked prospect in the Class of 2013 by HoopGurlz, has held firm on her commitment and said even if Summitt isn't the coach that she would come to Tennessee and "play in her honor."

Earlier this month, Diamond DeShields, the third-ranked prospect for 2013, made an unofficial visit. Last weekend, juniors Mercedes Russell and Stephanie Mavunga, ranked No. 1 and No. 15, respectively, were on campus.

"We're holding steady right now," DeMoss said. "There doesn't seem to be as much uncertainty about the program as I had anticipated. It still could get to that when it comes to decision-making time."

In the meantime, UT will rely on an asset that DeMoss characterized as refreshing. She's starting her 20th season at Tennessee and 35th overall in coaching. Yet she's never seen anything quite like the recruiting efforts of Tennessee's current players.

"They're the best recruiting team we've ever had,'' she said. "They're the best I've ever been around. They've taken so much pride in it.

"It's huge, particularly in the wake of what we're facing right now. I thought: 'The good Lord knows what He's doing.' If we had a team that didn't like to recruit, on top of Pat's diagnosis, we'd really be fighting a battle."

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 12

abnerPeabody writes:

She is right about one thing. The good Lord does know what he is doing.

Sounds like the recruiting is going really well.

DeMoss is the heart and soul of the Vols. Look for her to take over for Pat when the times comes.

Good luck to the Lady Vols. Win one more N C for Pat.

kazoo writes:

UT's guard recruiting over the last decade has been weak. That has to change--and "the good lord" won't have anything to do with it.

Vols68 writes:

in response to kazoo:

UT's guard recruiting over the last decade has been weak. That has to change--and "the good lord" won't have anything to do with it.

You're right as far as guard recruiting! These days in order to win a championship you have to have SOLID Point-guard play! We have that this year!

madrigal writes:

in response to kazoo:

UT's guard recruiting over the last decade has been weak. That has to change--and "the good lord" won't have anything to do with it.

Kara Lawson
April McDivitt
Shanna Zolman
Alexis Hornbuckle
Shannon Bobbitt
Angie Bjorklund (listed as G/F)

How soon they forget.

kazoo writes:

in response to madrigal:

Kara Lawson
April McDivitt
Shanna Zolman
Alexis Hornbuckle
Shannon Bobbitt
Angie Bjorklund (listed as G/F)

How soon they forget.

Please. Kara Lawson played more than a decade ago--and was more a shooting guard than a point guard, though was pretty good at both. One of the more complete guards UT has ever had--but again, she played a long time ago.

McDivitt--not very good, didn't play and transferred. Forget?

Zolman: Could make jumpers when left open but otherwise her game was weak (no quickness). Not at all a point guard.

Hornbuckle--another natural 2 guard forced to play some point guard because UT never seems to have a good point guard. Nice athlete; couldn't shoot.

Shannon Bobbitt--was a decent point guard; had to get her from junior college ranks because no point guards on the team--proves my point.

Bjorklund--a shooting guard/small forward all the way; much like zolman, hurt by her lack of quickness--which is rather important at the guard position.

Loree Moore was a pretty solid point guard. For a program of UT's stature, the point guard situation has been bad for a decade; a little better at the 2 but not really good there either.

seadaddy writes:

in response to kazoo:

UT's guard recruiting over the last decade has been weak. That has to change--and "the good lord" won't have anything to do with it.

Maybe the Lady vols will hire you and you can
fix everything that is wrong with thier recruiting....?

madrigal writes:

in response to kazoo:

Please. Kara Lawson played more than a decade ago--and was more a shooting guard than a point guard, though was pretty good at both. One of the more complete guards UT has ever had--but again, she played a long time ago.

McDivitt--not very good, didn't play and transferred. Forget?

Zolman: Could make jumpers when left open but otherwise her game was weak (no quickness). Not at all a point guard.

Hornbuckle--another natural 2 guard forced to play some point guard because UT never seems to have a good point guard. Nice athlete; couldn't shoot.

Shannon Bobbitt--was a decent point guard; had to get her from junior college ranks because no point guards on the team--proves my point.

Bjorklund--a shooting guard/small forward all the way; much like zolman, hurt by her lack of quickness--which is rather important at the guard position.

Loree Moore was a pretty solid point guard. For a program of UT's stature, the point guard situation has been bad for a decade; a little better at the 2 but not really good there either.

Apparently your early-onset dementia has kicked in. I checked rosters from 2002 onwards and Kara Lawson was a sophomore then. April McDivitt did indeed play and was quick; she did not transfer until her senior year.
Your assessment of Zolman is way off (forget how she could shoot 3s and free throws?). I will concede that Bjorklund was not a true guard. Shannon Bobbitt may have been recruited from a JC but that's still recruiting. And how about Meighan Simmons? ANY of these players would have been and indeed were coveted by other teams as starters. And you said "guards", not "point guards" anyway. I'm glad you're such an experienced recruiter and so much better than Pat and her staff.

g-man writes:

in response to madrigal:

Apparently your early-onset dementia has kicked in. I checked rosters from 2002 onwards and Kara Lawson was a sophomore then. April McDivitt did indeed play and was quick; she did not transfer until her senior year.
Your assessment of Zolman is way off (forget how she could shoot 3s and free throws?). I will concede that Bjorklund was not a true guard. Shannon Bobbitt may have been recruited from a JC but that's still recruiting. And how about Meighan Simmons? ANY of these players would have been and indeed were coveted by other teams as starters. And you said "guards", not "point guards" anyway. I'm glad you're such an experienced recruiter and so much better than Pat and her staff.

hornbuckle and bobbitt the only ones to win championships, the rest were flawed, lawson pretty good except scared of uconn

KC_Vol writes:

Kelly Jolly was the last PURE point guard Tennessee had. She just knew how to get the ball to the scorers. Not a great athlete....but a good shooter, great leader, and great passer.

Theo writes:

in response to KC_Vol:

Kelly Jolly was the last PURE point guard Tennessee had. She just knew how to get the ball to the scorers. Not a great athlete....but a good shooter, great leader, and great passer.

Think you are forgetting Michelle Marciniak. She was after Kelly Jolly I think. Also, who was the point guard with Tamika Catchings junior/senior years? Semeka was shooting guard if I remember correctly.

BigRMan writes:

Marciniak was BEFORE Jolly. Coach Summitt was pregnant with Tyler when she recruited her using the UT jet to make the trip. Marciniak left in '95 or '96 when Jolly was entering UT

Theo writes:

in response to BigRMan:

Marciniak was BEFORE Jolly. Coach Summitt was pregnant with Tyler when she recruited her using the UT jet to make the trip. Marciniak left in '95 or '96 when Jolly was entering UT

Thats right. It all starts running together sometimes.
Michelle's team won the NC on my birthday in Charlotte. We had 6th row seats. One of my favorite sports memories ever. Hoping for a new one this March!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features