John Adams: Lady Vols need to go deep in recruiting

John Adams
Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick watches her team get upset by Missouri 80-63 during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick watches her team get upset by Missouri 80-63 during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

Holly Warlick reviews the loss at Missouri

Holly Warlick made it clear when she was hired as the head coach of the Tennessee women's basketball team that no upheaval would be forthcoming.

She was an All-American point guard and a longtime associate head coach under former coach Pat Summitt. She was there for the building and maintaining of a program that has won eight national championships.

And she believed that what worked for Summitt could work for her. So she has continued to preach the same virtues — rebounding and defense — in her first season as head coach.

But to those commendable qualities, perhaps she can now add a third — depth.

There was a long list of reasons for Tennessee's 80-63 road loss Sunday afternoon to a Missouri team it beat by 45 points last month at Thompson-Boling Arena. Lackluster effort from a team that has consistently played so hard was most apparent. So was shoddy ball-handling.

But lack of depth was a factor, too.

UT freshman point guard Andraya Carter is out for the season following shoulder surgery. Starting center Isabelle Harrison is out indefinitely after undergoing knee surgery last week. Cierra Burdick was playing just her second game after missing eight games with a broken hand.

You knew that going in.

Then, guard Kamiko Williams went out in the second half with an injury. Williams, who made seven of nine field-goal attempts, was sitting on the bench with an ankle packed in ice while Tennessee tried futilely to mount a comeback.

Jasmine Jones didn't see the unhappy ending. She was helped to the locker room with 1:21 to play after injuring a knee.

This isn't the first time a UT team has been sabotaged by injuries. It won't be the last.

But perhaps the impact could be minimized if the Lady Vols changed their recruiting strategy.

Summitt never carried a full complement of players. She viewed too deep of a bench as a threat to team chemistry. That's a valid concern since fewer minutes for more players can result in more unhappy players.

However, the alternative doesn't always result in a Final Four celebration, either.

UT began the season with 11 players on its roster. That's four below the limit. And that's not always enough.

That's not to suggest UT should try to recruit 15 high school All-Americans. Instead, it should recruit a mix of elite prospects, as well as good high school players who would be happy to be a part of a program as renowned as Tennessee's.

Who knows? In a best-case scenario, some of those second-line recruits might eventually develop into contributors. A player or two frustrated by a lack of playing time doesn't have to wreck team chemistry. The situation can be managed. That's part of coaching.

Managing a team decimated by injuries isn't nearly as easy.

There also are positive side effects to a deeper roster. It's more conducive to the full-court, up-tempo game Warlick says she prefers. Playing harder is easier when you're playing fewer minutes.

One more advantage to more players: There's a better chance of one of them having a hot shooting hand.

Another hot hand would have helped against Missouri.

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 » 13

orangecountyvols writes:

Troll,

Speaking of being sick and tired, it's safe to say the overwhelming majority of Tennessee supporters are "sick and tired" of whiny trolls like you.

Cheeks isn't going anywhere.........but you should be on a stage............next stage out of town.

What's your problem? A good chance the girls on the playground wouldn't consider you good enough to play with them?

Trolls such as you are yes.........asinine.

blackandblue writes:

in response to CheekMustGo:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Not sure even football is "revenue producing" at this point. Women's basketball is about the only bright spot for Big Orange Nation right now. Maybe that doesn't (or shouldn't) include you. Holly is doing a great job. Get with the program. Get a life.

vut5686#1405392 writes:

Let's see: In an economy move, the UT Board of Trustees appoint JA Athletic Director and acting Head Football and Women's Basketball coaches. With the latent managerial skills he obviously possesses, our teams will win, the sun will shine, tickets will be sold and the hall of fame awaits!.

If I get the point of his little piece, Pat had it all wrong and what worked for all those National Championships is suspect. Injuries happen; just check around, Mr. Adams. We have had our unfair share, for sure, but this suggestion on the heels of visiting recruits in an ambulance makes this a stellar week for insightful thought.

jack4444 writes:

Moore and Phillips neither got off the bench. As bad as the team effort was you'd think they would have gotten an opportunity. They may be thin, but they're not even using what they got.

underthehill writes:

in response to jack4444:

Moore and Phillips neither got off the bench. As bad as the team effort was you'd think they would have gotten an opportunity. They may be thin, but they're not even using what they got.

Phillips looks to be very quick and capable of guarding the 3 point shot..ain't that what was needed..or was it best to have the slowest player on the team on the floor for 39 minutes..

VolMoment writes:

in response to vut5686#1405392:

Let's see: In an economy move, the UT Board of Trustees appoint JA Athletic Director and acting Head Football and Women's Basketball coaches. With the latent managerial skills he obviously possesses, our teams will win, the sun will shine, tickets will be sold and the hall of fame awaits!.

If I get the point of his little piece, Pat had it all wrong and what worked for all those National Championships is suspect. Injuries happen; just check around, Mr. Adams. We have had our unfair share, for sure, but this suggestion on the heels of visiting recruits in an ambulance makes this a stellar week for insightful thought.

I guess we will have to continue putting up the lack of quality in sports writing in the KNS, since the management of the paper is as shallow in management as John Adams is in writing. This article saying Pat's style doesn't work is a tune to saying George Washington should have crossed the Delware somewhere else. John Adams is the worst sports writer I have ever read and at my age and the different cities I've lived in I have a lot to judge by. Retire your inept ability!!!

VOLinATL writes:

in response to CheekMustGo:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are right...lets get rid of women's sports at UT. Oh wait, there is that litle thing called Title IX, so I guess we will have to get rid of men's sports too.

s_kesley writes:

in response to CheekMustGo:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

MEN'S baseball makes creates more of a deficit than women's basketball, so with your reason we should get rid of it too, right?

jmaples54 writes:

another thought provoking article. we have comments on both sides of the depth issue, the predictable debbie downer, the adams hater, both sides of the economics-- looks like you accomplished your mission (stimulating the discussion of sport), john!

johnlg00 writes:

Some people have allowed their genralized hatred of Adams to blind them to the valid points he actually made. He never said Pat's approach didn't work for her, though she too had teams that lost important players at times. He said that Holly trying to follow it left the team seriously shorthanded when the injury bug struck. Who could argue with that? Pat was right to believe that when your entire squad is made up of McD's A-A's, any who don't get significant playing time won't likely take it well. There actually IS such a thing as too much talent on a team if every talented player expects an equal share of playing time. If the program is allowed scholarships it isn't using, then why wouldn't it be smart to use them? Season-ending injuries seem to be much more common in women's basketball than in men's ball. It only makes sense to have as full a squad as you can manage, even if they are not all top-drawer players.

vol4life1983 writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Some people have allowed their genralized hatred of Adams to blind them to the valid points he actually made. He never said Pat's approach didn't work for her, though she too had teams that lost important players at times. He said that Holly trying to follow it left the team seriously shorthanded when the injury bug struck. Who could argue with that? Pat was right to believe that when your entire squad is made up of McD's A-A's, any who don't get significant playing time won't likely take it well. There actually IS such a thing as too much talent on a team if every talented player expects an equal share of playing time. If the program is allowed scholarships it isn't using, then why wouldn't it be smart to use them? Season-ending injuries seem to be much more common in women's basketball than in men's ball. It only makes sense to have as full a squad as you can manage, even if they are not all top-drawer players.

Great post I am glad that I wasn't the only one that understood the article. Sometimes people just read way too much into something. I think they should have 13 to 15 every year. Also, it doesn't suprise me tha jp and nia didnt play much because I can remember times when Miko had great games and the next game she may get twelve minutes. They couldn't play any worse than everyone else outside of MIko. How can you expect them to get better if they dont play. JP create steals and Nia block shots and we needed both once Miko went out.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to vol4life1983:

Great post I am glad that I wasn't the only one that understood the article. Sometimes people just read way too much into something. I think they should have 13 to 15 every year. Also, it doesn't suprise me tha jp and nia didnt play much because I can remember times when Miko had great games and the next game she may get twelve minutes. They couldn't play any worse than everyone else outside of MIko. How can you expect them to get better if they dont play. JP create steals and Nia block shots and we needed both once Miko went out.

Good point. The only proven way to build depth is to give players a chance to see how they do in real game action. Not all players are going to tear it up right away, but if they never see the court, how are you really going to know if they can hack it? A situation like last Sunday would have been a perfect time to see if those gals were ready to step up. When the regulars aren't getting it done or aren't available, you aren't losing anything if you are getting blown out anyway.

budd#207344 writes:

in response to CheekMustGo:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Screw you loser

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