'Finality is more vivid' for Lady Vols' five seniors

Saul Young/News Sentinel
Tennessee's Glory Johnson, left, is surrounded by fellow senior teammates, from left, Shekinna Stricklen, Alicia Manning, Briana Bass, and Vicki Baugh after Johnson drew a foul against Baylor's Brittney Griner in the Des Moines (Iowa) regional final Monday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

Photo by Saul Young, copyright © 2012

Saul Young/News Sentinel Tennessee's Glory Johnson, left, is surrounded by fellow senior teammates, from left, Shekinna Stricklen, Alicia Manning, Briana Bass, and Vicki Baugh after Johnson drew a foul against Baylor's Brittney Griner in the Des Moines (Iowa) regional final Monday night at Wells Fargo Arena.

Glory Johnson on loss to Baylor in NCAA

DES MOINES, Iowa — Tennessee's seniors were stationed both near and far from each other in the Lady Vols' locker room at the Des Moines Regional.

On Monday night, their scattered positioning served to underscore the challenge faced by the returnees, who must close ranks and press on into UT's uncertain women's basketball future.

"I think the sense of finality is more vivid," Tennessee assistant coach Dean Lockwood said. "You've got five people who are going to take off a Tennessee jersey for the last time. I think that's very vivid."

The postgame scene after Tennessee's 77-58 loss to Baylor in the regional final certainly was compelling. The final game for Vicki Baugh, Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen, Alicia Manning and Briana Bass added up to the end of an era.

"There's just a lot of emotions, just a lot,'' Baugh said. "We're seniors. We're leaving."

And Monday's scene didn't even account for coach Pat Summitt and her coaching future. She hasn't given any indication what she intends to do after 38 seasons as she continues to battle early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. Lockwood said that the subject hasn't been broached among the coaches.

"There's been no mention of it," he said. "I can honestly tell you, I can look anyone here in the eye and say there's not been a point in a staff meeting or on the road where she's said, 'Guys, I'm really thinking about this.' It just hasn't been a topic."

Lockwood said that Summitt has kept her focus on the team, which continued right through the bitter end on Monday when she addressed the players afterward.

"She told us she loves us and that she wouldn't trade our senior class for the world,'' Johnson said. "And that means a lot, because we've put a lot of gray hairs on her head. We've caused a lot of problems in this program and we've also tried to set records, SEC stuff. We tried. I like the fact that she acknowledged that we were trying. We went to bat for her."

UT's four fourth-year seniors — Johnson, Stricklen, Manning and Bass — began their postseason careers by suffering a shocking first-round NCAA loss to Ball State. They finished with another dubious distinction, becoming the first Tennessee class to not reach a Final Four.

In between, they helped engineer an impressive recovery from an 11-loss first season. They played a part in two 30-win seasons and five SEC championships (two regular-season, three tournament).

Stricklen was an All-American the past two seasons and the conference player of the year in 2010-11. Johnson was named this week a finalist for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association's defensive player of the year. She completed her career as the fourth player in school history to record 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds and just the second to reach 1,200 rebounds.

That said, these four players and their four years will suffer in comparison to other UT classes and their accomplishments. At least one returning player already was anticipating the reckoning and rose to their defense.

"There's always going to be critics,'' freshman Cierra Burdick said. "People are going to say: 'Well, this senior class has never gone to a Final Four.' But they don't know what we've gone through as a team."

Burdick and the returnees have serious work to do regarding their own legacy. Against Baylor, Tennessee's six non-seniors accounted for a meager 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Of those players, guard Taber Spani still was suffering through the lingering aftereffects of a knee injury suffered in the third game of the season. And Burdick was dealing with a sore back.

Small wonder that signees Bashaara Graves, Andraya Carter and Jasmine Jones have been advised to be ready to go when they arrive this summer.

And it's no surprise that the coaches have been combing the junior college ranks, looking to sign more post players for next season. The Lady Vols remain in the hunt for Wilka Montout, a 6-foot-5 center from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, and Uju Ugoka, a 6-0 forward from Gulf Coast (Fla.) State College.

In the meantime, Burdick said that her back wasn't going to prevent her from getting back to work. In looking ahead, she looked back to the seniors for motivation.

"Vicki and Bree have played through multiple knee surgeries,'' Burdick said. "I can play through a little back pain."

Dan Fleser may be reached at 865-342-6288. Follow him at http://twitter.com/FleserKNS and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/fleser

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Comments » 40

PITBOSS009 writes:

onward & upward this is what we do, we are tennessee!!!!
we reload not rebuild.

miatatom writes:

Thank you seniors! We are proud of you and the way you have represented our university. Regardless of the final results, this class has shown more character than any I can remember, that have worn the orange. I'm sure CPS and all the real UT fans feel that's more important than winning.

voloffaith writes:

You know the class has been disappointing to the fan base.....but, have you ever thought how much they might be disappointed also? If you asked me after losing to arky or sc lady gamecocks if I thought they would make elite 8 I would have said probably not. They endured a tough year physically and mentally. I don't forget the fact that the post game was lacking....yes lacking two players one with a late defection ..the other realizing she couldn't give what was needed. So we didn't really have that physical presence we needed. Ms. Baugh appeared to be more situational as opposed to contributing every night. So all in all I'm proud of them for what they accomplished. Signing period soon and Coach Summitt said," I don't want to hurt the program." See John Adams article on recruiting for exact words........so as we've said she will do what's right for Tennessee...

hallmo11 writes:

So proud of our Seniors. Thank you for your dedication to Pat and the entire Lady Vol Nation. We wish you nothing but the best in your endeavors ahead. God bless.

Mike_In_Storrs_CT writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

1volk-nowi-tall writes:

This has been a special group to follow. Skills galore but lacking a bit of quickness that can determine the winner of tough games. Certainly Johnson had that quickness as did Bass, but even with the skills possessed by the other three the quickness was not there. The thing my wife and I will remember is what a wonderful group of young ladies these players are. That is the real measuring stick. Thank you ladies for allowing us to enjoy your play, win or lose, during the past four years.....

wigmeister writes:

Too bad we didn't go farther, but we got beat by a better team, and probably the national champs. We, unfortunately, had to play them early. That is the way the brackets came out. Season is over. Time to move on, and impart some positive energy to the players that will carry our banner next year!

MrBamSeydu writes:

Can they trade Spani? I think she is terrible, aside from wide open 3's. She's slow, nonathletic and injury prone.

manoffewwords writes:

Did the LV'S finish as one of the top eight teams in
America ? How many team's finished behind them ?
Do TN fan's expect the LV'S to stay on top forever ? We will be back ! We are spoiled and ubgrateful .

rlshepa#259432 writes:

in response to manoffewwords:

Did the LV'S finish as one of the top eight teams in
America ? How many team's finished behind them ?
Do TN fan's expect the LV'S to stay on top forever ? We will be back ! We are spoiled and ubgrateful .

Great post - you are 100% correct. Our negative posters are just plain spoiled brats. They probably for the most part have zero BB experience and could not lead a horse to water. They are not real UT fans and that is good because we do not need fans like them.

flatrock writes:

in response to 1volk-nowi-tall:

This has been a special group to follow. Skills galore but lacking a bit of quickness that can determine the winner of tough games. Certainly Johnson had that quickness as did Bass, but even with the skills possessed by the other three the quickness was not there. The thing my wife and I will remember is what a wonderful group of young ladies these players are. That is the real measuring stick. Thank you ladies for allowing us to enjoy your play, win or lose, during the past four years.....

Amen. Many arm-chair experts foolishly mistaken lack of quickness for lack of hustle. You can't coach quickness. These quality young ladies, who will represent their families and Lady Vols well down the road, had great heart and hustle- but were low on explosiveness and overall quickness. I agree with Pat- this is one of my favorite senior classes!

flatrock writes:

in response to MrBamSeydu:

Can they trade Spani? I think she is terrible, aside from wide open 3's. She's slow, nonathletic and injury prone.

You are an idiot. Before her injuries, Spani was off to a great start. She is a great competitor- and I look for her to step up next season and be a much-needed leader.

rocky_topper writes:

People still holding onto "we'll be back" and "you are just spoiled".....of course you are the same people who said all season long that the losing was just a bump in the road and an abnormality and the girls would rebound and be in the national title game too. I suggest some of you follow basketball more closely and don't just go on your emotions and feelings for the program. Some actually just call it as it is. Glory Johnson was the only senior who deserved wearing that uniform this season. She brought it every game. The rest were over-rated and under achievers who will be forgotten within two years time.

SummittsCourt writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

voloffaith writes:

in response to MrBamSeydu:

Can they trade Spani? I think she is terrible, aside from wide open 3's. She's slow, nonathletic and injury prone.

Are you not a bama fan? Oh if somebody has an off year or injury prone throw to the sidewalk? Coach Summitt remained committed to Baugh with injuries as well as Kelly Cain in the midst of....Commitment is a throw away term these days...marriage,job loyalty....

SummittsCourt writes:

On the outside this class of seniors did set some dubious records that I'm sure they don't want to remember, but as it was pointed out in the article they went through more than most senior classes did that many do not know about nor care to remember.

They fell just short of the final four twice, won 5 SEC championships, had 2 30+ win seasons and plenty of accolades for individual performances.

We also have to include that women's basketball is getting better all over the country and their are other programs recruiting the elite players. Which speaks volumnes for how great a coach like Pat Summitt is to continue to put championship caliber teams on the court in this day and age.

BigRMan writes:

in response to Bodeanvol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

BigRMan writes:

This Senior clas we all know had a different kind of pressure added to what already comes with the territory of playing with Tennesse across the front of the uniform. The fact that Coach Summit recognized their efforts and praised them for it speaks volumes. They did not realize a National Championship. However the reward will come later in life when they will be able to draw upon the positive values instilled in them by playing for Coach Summit. The Seniors had to endure much and often with only the strength and commradery to draw upon from each other as solace. They were able to secure multiple SEC honors and that is an important piece of the pie. They can be proud of the effort it took to attain those goals. Thanks Seniors, the pressure's off. Now all you need to deal with is life. Trust me, that's more than a cereal or a board game. Your efforts at UT have given you a skill set to deal with life. We trust that success will be in you future, and you will in turn be able to draw upon what Coach Summit has given you to attain your goals. THanks, Brianna, Shekinna, Glory, Vicki, & Alicia.

BigRMan writes:

in response to Mike_In_Storrs_CT:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

See Mike, nobody likes you very much. The value of these postings was enhanced by someone showing the good taste and class to subtract yours. Remember, sign off the computer before the library closes, Mommy's making you oat meal tonight. Don't Be Late!

Vol_Stuck_in_GA writes:

Tennessee fans, true Tennessee fans, support the university, the teams, the players, and the coaches. If you are not a Tennessee fan you are on the wrong message board. Make a decision!

ljlongtimevolfan writes:

These five seniors have been fun to watch play basketball for the Lady Vols and mature into great young ladies that will do very well after leaving the University and entering into their next careers. Taking off the Orange uniform for the last time will be very emotional for a time but they will move forward and contribute immensely to society with great memories for playing at UT.

I’ve been following the Lady Vols since CPS first team and in retirement for the last three years have attended all the home games, many away games, all SEC Tournament games and most NCAA Tournament games and these young ladies have been a joy to watch and are champions in my book. They have represented the University of Tennessee well during their careers as Lady Vols. Thank you Senior Lady Vols.

gemin555#214016 writes:

Thank you ladies for all that you've gone through on and off the court to be able to get out there on the court. No matter that you didn't make it to the Final Four, you still played your hearts out and wore the jersey proudly. You will always have the distinction of being a Tennessee Lady Vol and thats nothing to be ashamed of, no matter what some disgruntled people post on these newspaper articles. Its been fun to see the seniors mature into wonderful ladies and lets hope life brings them only the best in the future. To the returnees, rest and heal from this season, enjoy the summer, and come back next year, rarin' to go to take on the SEC and the rest of the college ranks.

jt45 writes:

This class has been through more than any of the past final four teams that I can remember. With multiple injuries and Losing some of their players, not to mention what other group had to deal with a coaching situation like they did. Add to that the high level of competition they played against wich I believe is probably the toughest schedule in the country, so its no wonder they didn't make a final 4 especially this year with the run that Baylor has had and Pats illness. You can say they lacked heart or drive or whatever you want, but I think they overcame more adversity than any team in recent history at UT. As far as Im concerned they delivered both off and on the court and I hope they go on to be successful in life.

jt45 writes:

in response to rocky_topper:

People still holding onto "we'll be back" and "you are just spoiled".....of course you are the same people who said all season long that the losing was just a bump in the road and an abnormality and the girls would rebound and be in the national title game too. I suggest some of you follow basketball more closely and don't just go on your emotions and feelings for the program. Some actually just call it as it is. Glory Johnson was the only senior who deserved wearing that uniform this season. She brought it every game. The rest were over-rated and under achievers who will be forgotten within two years time.

All of them wore the uniform with class and played their hearts out for LVs fans each and every game. The fact that they didn't live up to your expectations says more about you than it does them. I hope potential recruits dont read post like yours, I mean who would want to play for a fan who writes stuff like that about their teams players ?

Pullingguard writes:

I think we must all agree on one thing.. At one time the LadyVols Basketball was the top rung on the ladder, but times have changed, and probably Pat should get a lot of credit for where women's basketball is today, that said; the LadyVols are not the top rung on the ladder anymore but just another rung on the ladder. Other teams have caught up with them and surpassed them.. This team was not in the same league as Baylor, Conn., Stanford, ND, and some others... Maybe just an off year, that is to be determined in the future. Let's wish Pat well in her battle with a deadly disease, and the departing seniors for their contributions to the program.

PureOrange writes:

in response to MrBamSeydu:

Can they trade Spani? I think she is terrible, aside from wide open 3's. She's slow, nonathletic and injury prone.

What a terrible thing to say, especially since it is clear you have no idea how good Spani was before her injury. She will be back in good health by next year, and you will see that she is a great player, in addition to the fact she is a great person.
People should learn something about what they are talking about before writing such nonsense.

Central_IL_Vol writes:

in response to Mike_In_Storrs_CT:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Typical UConn MORON!

I am looking forward to the home/home football games in a couple of years. If you thought the Lady Vols were tough, you ain't seen nothing yet!

My two favorite teams are the Lady Vols and whomever is playing Geno the @$$HOLE and the UConn Shewolves!

PureOrange writes:

To all our seniors, "thank you"! I wish we could bottle the enthusiasm of Bass; the absolute all-out effort of Johnson; the courage of Baugh; the rising above her talent of Manning; and the all-around ability of Sticklen. We are proud all of you chose to wear the Orange. VFL, all of you! It is no wonder Coach Summitt loved this group.

BigRMan writes:

in response to PureOrange:

What a terrible thing to say, especially since it is clear you have no idea how good Spani was before her injury. She will be back in good health by next year, and you will see that she is a great player, in addition to the fact she is a great person.
People should learn something about what they are talking about before writing such nonsense.

I think Spani deserves to be cut some slack. Her performance & contributions were valuable prior to being injured. Let her rehab and get over the physical problems. Then, I think we'll see a return to past performance level.

Jephry writes:

I am very proud of the way these ladies faced adversity...the kind that most of us will never have to face in our lives and especially not when we are 18-22 years old.

I will always be a diehard Lady Vols fan. It's my hobby and a passion and I'm grateful to CPS and the LVs for all the joy they have given me - and will continue to give us all - over the years. I love watching our girls play, and I really enjoy watching them mature into beautiful young women from the inside out. Coach Summitt not only builds great teams, she builds great citizens. We need more of that in this messed up world.

Thank you Glory, Strick, Bree, Vicki and A-Town for all you have given Tennessee. We'll miss you!

Now it's time for the underclassmen to step up and start setting some records of their own.

Go Lady Vols!!!

butch31 writes:

I truly wish that Vicki, Alicia and Taber had played better. They were cause of so many losses. Taber is out of shape, and needs to lose weight. Alicia is scary, and Vicki is lazy. I felt bad for the coaches, the players with people like this on the team. U would think seniors would rise to the occasion. Candace Parker played with a dislocated shoulder in 2008, and UT still won a championship. Taber is making excuses for being over-weight and out of shape. I can NOT wait to see Ciera, Isabelle and Ariel next year along with Meighan and the new blood coming in. I've lost any confidence in Taber, Kamiko and anyone else who doesn't give a 100% in this program. I look to seeing Bashaara, Andraya, Jasmine, Wilka Montout, and Uju Ugoka. I think we will be a sweet 16 team next year, but the year after LOOK OUT!

madrigal writes:

Spani will need to step up next year, no doubt about that. She will be the ONLY senior. That's a pretty large burden. MrBamSeydu's comment was not only rude, but ignorant. Taber has been injured most of the season with things that aren't got over easily. Hopefully a summer of rehab will take care of that. I'm glad to see the coaches are looking at juco ranks for experienced post players; you just know there's another Alberta Auguste out there somewhere. This senior class has been through a lot but they didn't quit and you have to admire them for that.

Yes, Lady Vol fans ARE spoiled and ought to be the first to admit it. Most schools would be thrilled with a record like this class has; instead, a lot of you whine because this team *only* made the Elite Eight, won the conference tournament, AND turned things around in the post season. Oh no, anything less than an NCAA title is just NO GOOD, boo hoo, the glory days are over! Get over yourselves. Be proud of your team or go sit in a corner and shut up.

UTAlum88 (Inactive) writes:

So the jack@ss Mike from Storrs is back...he was all over our board last season during the tournament crowing about UCONN. But then UCONN was defeated when they were supposed to WIN IT ALL..and POOF! ...he suddenly DISAPPEARED! Here's to hoping for the same outcome for the Lady Huskies this year. Because that means Mike goes away!

You are a classless S.O.B., Mike. Seek help.

voloffaith writes:

in response to butch31:

I truly wish that Vicki, Alicia and Taber had played better. They were cause of so many losses. Taber is out of shape, and needs to lose weight. Alicia is scary, and Vicki is lazy. I felt bad for the coaches, the players with people like this on the team. U would think seniors would rise to the occasion. Candace Parker played with a dislocated shoulder in 2008, and UT still won a championship. Taber is making excuses for being over-weight and out of shape. I can NOT wait to see Ciera, Isabelle and Ariel next year along with Meighan and the new blood coming in. I've lost any confidence in Taber, Kamiko and anyone else who doesn't give a 100% in this program. I look to seeing Bashaara, Andraya, Jasmine, Wilka Montout, and Uju Ugoka. I think we will be a sweet 16 team next year, but the year after LOOK OUT!

Nice opening comment that it was all Vicki,Alicia, and Taber causing losses. Glass half empty seeing only the negative and nothing good from a tough physical and mental season. Taber injured(did ewe forget bruised knee?) Have to stop and pivot is awhole different thing from Ms. parker's shoulder though both are admirable. Alicia always hustled and played hard. Vicki never seemed to get the fire inside. Missing Brewer and Cain in post was also big(no pun intended). Try and be positive some today...smile at somebody even if it gains you nothing...

WelovePat writes:

in response to MrBamSeydu:

Can they trade Spani? I think she is terrible, aside from wide open 3's. She's slow, nonathletic and injury prone.

I don't agree with the "trade Spani" question...that isn't very nice. But she is SLOW and that is FACT. She was getting beat on defense a bunch even before the injury. She isn't big enough to guard the usually slower players like the big posts, so she is forced to guard the quicker wings and not able to keep up. Can't really judge on whether she is athletic or not. Who's to say? Think back to K. Jolly....walking down the street I would have never thought she was a ball player much less go on to be one of the greatest point guards of our time. Injury prone? Sadly it does happen.

Volinflan writes:

in response to WelovePat:

I don't agree with the "trade Spani" question...that isn't very nice. But she is SLOW and that is FACT. She was getting beat on defense a bunch even before the injury. She isn't big enough to guard the usually slower players like the big posts, so she is forced to guard the quicker wings and not able to keep up. Can't really judge on whether she is athletic or not. Who's to say? Think back to K. Jolly....walking down the street I would have never thought she was a ball player much less go on to be one of the greatest point guards of our time. Injury prone? Sadly it does happen.

I hope to see great things from Taber. Undoubtedly she has the potential but it seems as if there has been one nagging problem after another. She was recruited (IMHO of course) to shoot 3s. And she has a beutiful shot. When she plays of course. After 3 years she's averaging 6.7 PPG and playing about 20 minutes a game. Having a deadly three point shooter would have changed the progress of a lot of games. Slow or not slow, dinging 5 or 6 threes a game would change both the remainder of the Lady Vols offense, but also all defenses. She just hasn't done it so far. But we all know she'll have that breakout game where she averages 32 minutes a game with a 22 PPG average.

martinvol34 writes:

in response to 1volk-nowi-tall:

This has been a special group to follow. Skills galore but lacking a bit of quickness that can determine the winner of tough games. Certainly Johnson had that quickness as did Bass, but even with the skills possessed by the other three the quickness was not there. The thing my wife and I will remember is what a wonderful group of young ladies these players are. That is the real measuring stick. Thank you ladies for allowing us to enjoy your play, win or lose, during the past four years.....

Thanks to you for this post. Something else to consider is never before did a Tennessee team have to play the hottest team in the country in 2 different elite 8's. I am very proud that although they shot their lowest percentage, they fought to the end. God bless them all. Thank you Vicki for playing through your pain. Bree, if you had 5 inches you'd be an all american. Glory, Alicia and Kinna, you will all be great pros. John Adams, quit writing stupid articles putting mess in recruits heads.

orangecountyvols writes:

"MikeinConn"

You don't deserve any attention here.......but since that's part of why you're here all the time.........here's mine for you.

Let's face it, you are obviously a disturbed jerk. You are consumed by the Vols. Even if U Conn won 500 in a row which would be something you should be proud of, classy people would be............yet you prove class is a pipe dream for you. What a sick life you and fellow trolls possess.

underthehill writes:

in response to hallmo11:

So proud of our Seniors. Thank you for your dedication to Pat and the entire Lady Vol Nation. We wish you nothing but the best in your endeavors ahead. God bless.

Very nice post..I thought the Senoirs gave a great effort against Baylor and winning the SEC Tournament gave them a good season..They should be proud of what they accomplished.

cdtnladyvols931#663910 writes:

in response to flatrock:

You are an idiot. Before her injuries, Spani was off to a great start. She is a great competitor- and I look for her to step up next season and be a much-needed leader.

He's not only a IDIOT! A--Hole too!!!! They probably don't even know what a B-Ball looks like!!!!!!

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