Briana Bass stays ready to help team

Briana Bass (Lady Vols Media Relations)

Before practice started Sunday afternoon, Briana Bass had worked up a sweat shooting midrange jumpers and three-pointers in Pratt Pavilion. The sophomore guard knows her best shot at contributing in postseason is to be able to hit some shots, as opponents have been sagging inside on the posts and daring her to loft the ball from behind the arc.

"I've been trying to work on that and making sure that I can knock down that open shot," Briana Bass said after practice ended Sunday. "I have to be an offensive threat because the team needs more offense more me, and I can't just look to pass up open shots. I need to help contribute to this team. Whatever I can do I want to do it for my team."

The teammate who gets the most excited when Bass hits a three – even in practice – is junior forward Vicki Baugh, who took a redshirt year to recover from knee surgery and will return next season.

"She talks to me all the time about my confidence and building me up," Bass said. "She's saying, ‘Go out and play your game and help this team win.' "

Two of the 5'2 Bass' closest friends on the team are post players – the 6'4 Baugh and the 6'3 Alyssia Brewer.

"I cannot wait (for Baugh's return to the court)," Bass said. "She always calls me ‘Little One.' I'm always over at their apartment playing video games with her. It's really fun. We play on teams. We're very competitive. Lyssi plays, too."

Bass and Brewer are roommates, and all of the players live in close proximity to one another off campus, except for the three freshmen who must live on campus by Pat Summitt's policies for first-year players.

After the Lady Vols won the SEC tourney title in Duluth a week ago, Summitt mentioned in her post-game press conference that this year's team had developed tremendous chemistry.

"There's no dissension in our team," Summitt said. "There's no one jealous of anybody else. They're all committed to playing well together. They're coaching themselves. I mean, on the floor it's amazing to listen to their communication. … I think that has been something that has allowed them to really get on each other and also to motivate each other throughout a game."

Bass said the team's familiarity with each other off the court is the primary reason for that synergy on the court.

"I think it's us being around each other all the time," Bass said. "We're around each other 24/7. We really do feel like a family, and we really do feel like sisters, and I think that that helps us a lot."

Carolyn Savoy, who holds a doctorate in sports psychology from Tennessee and retired after 32 years as the basketball coach at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, has been in town on occasion this season to talk with the team. Bass is a backup point guard who may play early in the game or may not enter until late, but she has to stay ready.

"I listen to Carol Savoy," Bass said. "She told us to stay in the present. I try to stay in the present, cheer on my team and do whatever I can to help them out."

The players will return to class Monday – Bass said the week out of school was used to rest and catch up on assignments – and also have a practice scheduled for Monday afternoon before gathering at Summitt's house for the unveiling of the NCAA Tournament brackets at 7 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

Bass said the team is excited to be staying home for the early rounds.

"It's very nice because all of our fans are going to be here supporting us," Bass said. "It's good to be home. We want to stay here and then go over to Memphis."

Summitt will start cooking Monday morning before the afternoon practice session. The team managers, who have a myriad of responsibilities, have already done the grocery shopping and delivered the food to the coach's kitchen.

"I get to cook all day," Summitt said with a smile.

Summitt was pleased with the practice sessions she got from her team this week.

"I thought we had a good week of work," Summitt said.

Monday will be the last practice without a known next opponent. Sunday was spent working in full court situations – five male practice players were available Sunday – on defense and offense, plus half-court shooting repetitions and free throws. The Lady Vols also worked on breaking withering pressure brought by the practice team.

"Same stuff we did today," Summitt said of Monday's practice plan. "Putting in some new (offensive) wrinkles."

The team benefited from having former Lady Vol Kara Lawson serve as a practice player for two days before she headed to ESPN for studio work during the Selection Show on Monday. Her presence was especially beneficial for the point guards.

"Just her experience and what's she going through now playing in the WNBA, how she can teach us and how we can learn from her is a very good experience," Bass said. "I like having somebody that can come back and help us out."

The Lady Vols don't know who they will play in the first round – that comes Monday when the brackets are announced – so the past week, after two days of rest following the SEC tourney, was used to focus on what Tennessee needed to improve.

"We have practiced so hard, and I think we're really going to carry this over into the tournament," Bass said. "I just think these tough practices are really helping us. I feel like the experience from last year has carried over to this year. We're not quite veterans, but I think we've learned from last year, and we can build on it.

"Continue to build team chemistry, just keep working hard and be ready to play. We all have one mission and that's to win."

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