Candace Parker played an All-American part in raising two national championship banners to the rafters at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Parker’s No. 3 will take its place in those same rafters when Tennessee honors the former Lady Vol before the SEC opener against LSU on Jan. 2.
UT announced the Parker ceremony on Tuesday, along with the 2013-14 women’s basketball schedule. The Lady Vols open with treacherous road games at Middle Tennessee State (Nov. 8) and North Carolina (Nov. 11), two of 11 teams on the schedule that made last season’s NCAA tournament. Five other opponents played in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
“It’s a great schedule for us,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said in a school release. “I think it is challenging early, when we open with Middle Tennessee and North Carolina on the road. Middle took us to overtime on our home court last season and North Carolina is a very talented team. Those are two pretty tough games right off the bat.”
In three seasons at Tennessee, Parker scored 2,137 points, which ranks third all-time and grabbed 972 rebounds, which ranks sixth. Her 45 double-doubles for points and rebounds are second in program history.
The 6-foot-4 forward, who will be the sixth former player to have her jersey retired (Warlick, Bridgette Gordon, Daedra Charles, Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings), holds UT career records for blocks (275) and dunks (seven). She was the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game and the first to do it twice in a game.
The three-time All-American won five national player of the year honors in 2008. She also won three athlete of the year honors that year, including the Honda-Broderick Cup, given to the top female collegiate athlete in all sports.
“I think one thing about Candace that not everyone understands is that she has always been about the team,” Warlick said. “She’s put in the time to be a great individual player, but I think the love for this program and the love for Pat and our staff that was here when she played at Tennessee shows.”
Parker began her UT career by recovering from major knee surgery and concluded by playing with an injured shoulder at the 2008 Final Four. Since she spent much time in the trainer’s room, Parker had another retirement on her mind recently — that of longtime Lady Vols athletic trainer Jenny Moshak. Parker said that she was “hurt” by Moshak’s sudden announcement on Aug. 15.
“It’s frustrating for me,” Parker said earlier this month. “I have so much respect for the University of Tennessee. I realize changes are going to happen. At the same time, you can’t forget where you came from.”
The LSU game will begin a conference schedule that projects to be tougher than last season, when Tennessee went 14-2 and won the regular-season championship.
Home-and-away games against LSU and Ole Miss replace two games last season against Auburn and Missouri. Ole Miss is coached by former Kentucky assistant Matt Insell, who is one of two first-year coaches in the league. The other is Alabama’s Kristy Curry.
Tennessee also has road games at Georgia, Texas A&M and instate-rival Vanderbilt.
As for other schedule highlights:
The North Carolina game will feature two of the nation’s top freshmen: Tennessee’s Mercedes Russell and North Carolina’s Diamond DeShields.
A Nov. 17 visit from Georgia Tech brings Kaela Davis, who initially committed to UT but reopened her recruitment over concerns about then-head coach Pat Summitt’s coaching future. She ended up signing with Tech.
A Nov. 21 game against Tennessee Tech will be the first meeting between the two schools since 1991.
Tennessee will play Oakland (Nov. 24), Troy (Dec. 14) and Lipscomb (Dec. 29) for the first time.
During the week of January 19-26, SEC member institutions will participate in the third annual “We Back Pat” Week to support Summitt’s Foundation. Tennessee hosts Notre Dame that week (Jan. 20) on ESPN2, then plays Florida at home (Jan. 23) before traveling to Texas A&M (Jan. 26).
Season tickets go on sale Sept. 10 and can be purchased at UTTIX.com or by calling 1-800-332-8657.