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."