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Juco jolt

Vols rewarded for tapping into junior college pool

Posted: Tuesday December 19, 2006 5:35PM; Updated: Tuesday December 19, 2006 5:51PM
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A highly rated player coming out of junior college, PG Shannon Bobbitt has increased the tempo of the Tennessee offense.
A highly rated player coming out of junior college, PG Shannon Bobbitt has increased the tempo of the Tennessee offense.
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No one knows the recruiting trails better than Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. She's been leading the Division I pack down them for years.

When she saw the need to improve her team's backcourt this season, Summitt took a road less traveled -- by the Lady Vols anyway. She turned to the junior college ranks, bringing in Alberta Auguste and Shannon Bobbitt.

The recruitment of junior college players is nothing new in women's college basketball. Louisiana Tech has enjoyed a great deal of success drawing from that level. Sheryl Swoopes came out of junior college and put Texas Tech on the map when she led the Lady Raiders to the 1993 national championship.

The Lady Vols, however, have relied on high schools for their top talent. This marked the first time since 1977 that they have signed juco players.

"When you can have a player for four years, you have the opportunity for more consistency," Summitt said. "You don't have the turnover of two years. But, having these two has made me rethink looking at jucos in the future."

And with good reason. They've helped the Lady Vols to a 9-1 start.

When Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood transferred to Maryland last season, she left the Lady Vols in a backcourt bind. The lack of depth was further exposed when an injury took Alexis Hornbuckle out of the lineup. Auguste and Bobbitt have not only added depth, but also quickness and even a little experience too. Auguste, who spent two seasons at Central Florida Community College, has brought another defensive threat to the floor. With 21 steals, she trails only Hornbuckle in the category.

As the starting point guard, Bobbitt is playing an even more pivotal role since transferring from Trinity Valley in Athens, Texas. She was just the spark Tennessee needed in Sunday's 67-46 win at Texas. With the Lady Vols struggling on offense, the 5-foot-2 Bobbitt played as big as anyone in the second half. She pushed the tempo and got the Lady Vols running, dishing out six assists in the second half. After shooting just 31 percent in the first half, Tennessee improved to 57 percent in the second and was never in real danger of giving up the lead.

"Shannon was great," teammate Candace Parker said. "She did a great job of pushing the ball and getting into the open floor. She really pushed the tempo."

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