John Adams: Big changes produce routine victory

John Adams

You knew what was coming Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. But anticipating change isn't the same as experiencing it.

So I wonder how many fans were still looking for Pat Summitt when Tennessee's exhibition game with Carson-Newman began.

The most recognizable face in women's basketball wasn't that easy to spot.

Summitt was seated several rows up from courtside. She's in a new seat and a new role, as head coach emeritus of the program she led to 1,098 victories, 18 Final Fours and eight national championships in 38 years as head coach.

Senior guard Taber Spani also was looking for Summitt. And when she hugged her before the game, it wasn't spontaneous.

"It was something I thought about," Spani said. "I wanted to make sure to go over and honor her. I'll probably make it a tradition every game."

New coach Holly Warlick noticed Summitt, too — noticed that she wasn't there beside her as she had been for the previous 27 seasons when Warlick was an assistant.

"I saw her sitting behind the bench," she said. "At first, it was very strange. Then, I had to snap back into it, get back to reality and remember why I'm here."

What more would you expect from a Summitt protégé?

The change didn't end with the coaches in UT's 104-44 victory. It was evident all over the floor on a team that has five new starters.

The new lineup, bolstered by a freshman foursome, produced a more one-sided outcome than against the same opponent in last season's first exhibition game. But don't make too much of that.

The talent discrepancy between UT and Carson-Newman is too extreme to draw any serious conclusions about the potential of Warlick's first team.

Tennessee clearly doesn't measure up in one respect, though.

For so many years, the Lady Vols got your attention by just showing up. They were that big.

This team doesn't have a player over 6-foot-3, and its tallest players look downright wispy when compared to many of their predecessors. Moreover, there's no one nearly as imposing as All-SEC post player Glory Johnson, who didn't have to get loose with her elbows to intimidate an opponent the past four seasons.

But the overall quickness of this team could serve it well on defense, where there were too many lapses last season. That quickness could become more of a factor as younger players gain experience.

UT hasn't lacked experience since last season's seniors became prominent players as sophomores. Fans knew what to expect, and not all of it was good. Those players showcased their talent, won plenty of games but never made it

to a Final Four — long the barometer for Lady Vols basketball.

This team has a big question dangling behind it. And that's not all bad.

While fans shouldn't be unduly influenced by statistics compiled against a lower-classification opponent, the freshmen all demonstrated quickness and athleticism. Freshman Bashaara Graves had 17 points and 15 rebounds; freshman Jasmine Jones had 16 points and hit six of seven shots.

"I'm so proud of our freshmen," Warlick said. "We're very excited about what they can do and what they can bring."

She's just not sure who will bring what with whom.

"We'll start a different group on Sunday (in the second exhibition game)," she said. "I'm just trying to get a feel for them and see who plays well together."

So in a season of change, there are still more changes to come.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 9

VolInIndy writes:

It is nice to see some fresh faces after the last class of underachievers. Glory was my favorite with her effort. She still hit the bottom of the rim on layups too often.

wigmeister writes:

Looking forward to a very good season. Hopefully, this team will hustle all game, every game! Tenacious D will always frustrate and tire many teams.

Good luck for a great season!

Make us proud!

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I sounds like we're athletic at least. Quick and athletic is a good thing.lol While I wasn't too surprised at last years ending I was like most people just disappointed. Especially with all that went on around the sports department.

It's good to see a team start out well. They'll have to play very hard in the SEC to be a top contender. They'll have to play very hard to break the top 15 nationally. Go LVs you can do it.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

I sounds like we're athletic at least. Quick and athletic is a good thing.lol While I wasn't too surprised at last years ending I was like most people just disappointed. Especially with all that went on around the sports department.

It's good to see a team start out well. They'll have to play very hard in the SEC to be a top contender. They'll have to play very hard to break the top 15 nationally. Go LVs you can do it.

IT not "I" -above post.

richvol writes:

I wish this team the best. We are going to miss Glory tremendously.

jakethevolguy writes:

Pat's early teams won with defense that was so frustrating to other teams they would turn the ball over time and time again. Made for quick easy points for the LVs. Perhaps Holly's teams will attain the same success that Pat's early teams had. Good luck LVs and play hard every game all season.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to richvol:

I wish this team the best. We are going to miss Glory tremendously.

Agree completely; Glory was a marvel of energy and competitiveness every time out. Imagine her out there with the rest of this bunch, but maybe this team will have more than one player at a time working really hard. If so, they could be a wonder to behold!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to jakethevolguy:

Pat's early teams won with defense that was so frustrating to other teams they would turn the ball over time and time again. Made for quick easy points for the LVs. Perhaps Holly's teams will attain the same success that Pat's early teams had. Good luck LVs and play hard every game all season.

It's all a matter of heads and hearts. The LVs over the last several somewhat disappointing years just didn't seem to have enough of either at the same times. One or two--and always Glory!--were working hard some of the time, but you rarely saw all of them doing it through a whole game. Maybe this year will be different. Good start; now keep it up! GO LVs!!! GO HOLLY!!!

johnlg00 writes:

Speaking of Glory, does anybody know how she did in the WNBA this year? I don't watch it often--summer is mostly for golf for me--though I did make sure to see Tamika win her first championship this year with Pat in the stands. A great moment for one of my favorite Lady Vols ever! Anyway, any news of Glory or any other recent Lady Vols in the pros?

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