The two seniors had been given two weeks off to recover from the month they spent in Colorado Springs, Colo., and then China with the USA team for the World University Games in August.
Shekinna Stricklen took the court in the first session Tuesday with guards Briana Bass, Meighan Simmons and Ariel Massengale. Stricklen is still getting her sea legs back, as it were, and laughed afterwards at the unexpected fatigue.
“It was obvious,” Coach Pat Summitt said with a laugh.
Glory Johnson made her 2011-12 season appearance with the second group that consisted of fellow posts Alyssia Brewer, Isabelle Harrison and Vicki Baugh. The final group of the day consisted of Alicia Manning, Taber Spani and Cierra Burdick. The 12th member of the roster, Kamiko Williams, had ACL surgery last July and is in rehab mode. She has passed through Pratt Pavilion and is very upbeat and doing well in her recovery.
There are three freshmen on this year’s squad, and they have been scattered among the three groups so that their workout sessions are with veterans.
“They are not shy in the least,” said Summitt, who was vocal Tuesday with both encouragement – she cracked a few jokes with the players – and corrections, especially with missed layups in drills.
“They don’t mind asking questions, and they are really, really focused. Ariel, she has really stepped up and been a leader. And Cierra, same thing. If she doesn’t know something she’s going to come over and ask. They just want to get things right.
“Izzy is impressive. I have been really, really pleased with her. She catches on very quickly. I think she is going to have an impact on our post game. The depth of the post game, I am like, ‘Oh, thank goodness.’ ”
Last season Johnson was sometimes dubbed “Lonesome Post” in practice because she was the only healthy one cleared to take the court for the entire session. Baugh continues to impress in preseason with her mobility and energy. A healthy Baugh, an athletic 6’4 forward, means a lot to the Tennessee program.
“It’s a great asset; it’s a difference maker,” Summitt said. “And she’s got the leadership skills to go with it. Everybody listens to her. Vicki is that kind of player, and she is that kind of person. She will draw people in. She probably will be the first to get somebody in the huddle and say, ‘We’ve got to pick it up.’ ”
TREY LINES: The women’s three-point line has moved back a foot from 19 feet, 9 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches, and new arcs have been taped down in Pratt Pavilion on the courts on the women’s side of the practice facility.
Shekinna Stricklen, Taber Spani, Briana Bass, Ariel Massengale and Meighan Simmons – the five most likely to fire from long range this season – haven’t had any trouble stopping and popping in drills from the farther distance.
Over the summer while playing in the Women’s Pilot Rocky Top League, Stricklen wowed the fans with her range, connecting from 25 to 30 feet.
“It’s there,” Summitt said of the shooters’ range. “I am not worried about that. We’ve got some people who can knock it down. And those that can’t, they don’t need to try to.”
NEW AD: Tennessee held a press conference on Labor Day to announce the hiring of Dave Hart as the new athletics director. Women’s Athletics Director Joan Cronan had held down the post over the summer on an interim basis after the resignation last spring of Mike Hamilton.
Pat Summitt was out of town for the Labor Day holiday – several players scooted home for the three-day weekend – and has not yet met Hart but was called by Chancellor Jimmy Cheek about the new hire.
“Chancellor Cheek told me a little bit about him,” Summitt said. “I have not met him yet but I am looking forward to it.”