Holly Warlick read the email on Friday from incoming Tennessee freshman Jannah Tucker, informing the Lady Vols coach that Tucker wouldn’t be coming after all.
Two days later, Warlick still was wondering exactly why.
“I don’t know what’s going on with her; I don’t have an explanation,” Warlick said Sunday afternoon. “She’s dealing with some personal issues and I don’t know what they’re about.”
Warlick decided to release news of Tucker’s decision on Saturday night saying she didn’t want it to “drag on” any longer.
Tucker signed a letter of intent with Tennessee last November. She verbally committed to UT in June of 2012 before suffering a knee injury later that summer and missing her senior season. She briefly reopened her recruitment last fall before reaffirming her commitment.
Neither Tucker nor her father, Robert, could be reached for comment on Sunday.
Warlick said that Tucker didn’t ask for a release from her scholarship, diminishing any conjecture about Tucker intending to transfer.
What’s certain is that the 6-foot wing player from Randallstown, Md., ranked No. 8 by ESPN in the 2013 recruiting class, won’t be attending Tennessee. She was expected to join fellow freshmen Mercedes Russell and Jordan Reynolds, who are enrolled in the second session of summer school. Classes begin Monday.
Tucker’s decision leaves Tennessee with just 10 players for next season. Reserve guard Jasmine Phillips left UT after the spring semester in search of a bigger role elsewhere. Warlick said she hadn’t heard from Phillips and wasn’t planning to inquire about the former Lady Vol’s availability.
Instead, Warlick and her staff will focus on adding at least one wing player in the fall signing class. She and her assistants have fanned out across the country during the July viewing period. Assistant Jolette Law will travel to Lithuania later this month to watch the U.S. women’s team play in the U19 World Championships. Along with Tennessee sophomore Bashaara Graves, the U.S. roster includes top recruits A’ja Wilson and Gabby Green. The 6-4 Wilson, a forward with impressive perimeter skills, is the top-ranked player by ESPN in the 2014 class. Green, a 6-1 guard, is ranked No. 9.
“What you try to do every year is recruit to your needs,” UT assistant coach Dean Lockwood said. “(Tucker) filled a definite need for us. She put together the dimensions of a wing player very well.”
While Lockwood and the other coaches can’t speak about specific recruits, Tennessee is believed to be recruiting several other players who could fill the void left by Tucker. They include 6-1 wing Jaime Nared from Portland, Ore., 5-11 wing Shakayla Thomas from Sylacauga, Ala. and Sierra Calhoun, a 6-0 wing from Brooklyn, N.Y.
UT received a verbal commitment in May from combo guard Alexa Middleton from Murfreesboro. The Lady Vols also are recruiting combo guard McKenzie Calvert from Schertz, Texas.
In the meantime, Warlick said she still wants to use pressure defense and play at a fast pace next season. The same strategy last season was impacted by having only 10 players available for most of the season.
“Whether we play that throughout the year, we’ll see,” Warlick said. “I think you’ll see a lot of people playing. I think we have 10 solid kids who can play and contribute.”