Summitt pushes Snow to fill holes
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has issued a public challenge to center Michelle Snow that might as well go for the rest of the team.
"I think Michelle definitely has to get more aggressive with the basketball. She's got to become a better defender and go pursue the ball off the glass," said Summitt, who begins her 28th season at Tennessee. "She could be a dominant rebounder for us. We're missing that."
The most noticeable thing missing is a Tennessee player on the roster that has won a national championship. The Lady Vols were voted on Tuesday the No. 2 team in the preseason behind Connecticut.
Snow will be a key for the Lady Vols as they begin the 2001-02 season for the first time in four years without Tamika Catchings, Semeka Randall and Kristen Clement, who all graduated last year.
Those three helped Tennessee win its most recent national title in 1998 when they were freshmen, and now no current Lady Vol has that experience.
At least early on, the absence of the three marquee players will be obvious, Summitt says. Tennessee begins the season Nov. 16 at Chattanooga.
"There's a lack of mental toughness about this team that they brought. From the time they were freshmen on, they were up and down kind of players, very competitive and all out," Summitt said. "I think the team will get there."
During games, Tennessee will miss their defensive rebounding, and that's why Snow is important.
Snow, who became the second woman to ever dunk twice in a season last year, has tended to play somewhat inconsistently and timidly and not dominating as much as Summitt would like.
Snow says she's been too laid back and introverted on the court at times and that has made her hold back offensively and defensively.
"You can't do that here. You're playing on one of the best teams in the country," Snow said. "I'm known for thinking too much about what I want to do instead of just doing something."
Last spring, Tennessee was humbled in a 80-65 loss to Xavier in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament, its earliest NCAA loss in seven years. The Lady Vols finished 31-3.
The Lady Vols were picked to win the Southeastern Conference ahead of an experienced Vanderbilt team that beat them in the SEC tournament last year. That's a testament to Tennessee's six national titles and excellent recruiting that never leaves them with void of talent.
"We're still the Lady Vols. We wear the same uniform and we play just as hard because under Pat you can't play any less," said sophomore guard Tasha Butts.
Snow, who averaged 11.1 points and 6.8 rebounds a game last year, is the most experienced post player returning while sophomore Ashley Robinson recovers from surgery to repair torn ligaments in her left knee.
Robinson, who Summitt has called Tennessee's best post defender, will not likely return to play until January.
Sophomore Courtney McDaniel, senior Shalon Pillow and freshman Michelle Munoz will also be called on to help under the basket.
Gwen Jackson, who returns as the leading scorer at 11.7 points a game, will also be needed to grab rebounds and be aggressive in the paint when she returns from knee surgery. Jackson had surgery to clean up her left knee this week and was expected to miss at least two weeks.
Summitt hasn't set a starting lineup, and as is usually the case, isn't too concerned about not having the same five start every game.
Junior Kara Lawson, who has been a point guard the last two years, will get more time as the two-guard, giving way at the point to junior April McDivitt.
Both will be leaders despite their different personalities. Lawson is a more natural leader while McDivitt is quiet but a hard worker, Summitt said.
Of the freshmen, 6-2 forward Shyra Ely of Indianapolis, rated the top high school prospect by many publications, may get the quickest chance to make an impression. Brittany Jackson, a 6-0 guard and forward from Cleveland, is also expected to contribute.
As always, the Lady Vols have a tough schedule, including an early matchup with Louisiana Tech on Nov. 23.
Tennessee does not travel to Connecticut this year, however. The Huskies will play in Knoxville on Jan. 5.