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Big Orange fans eager to see just how good Vol hoop teams will be

Big Orange fans eager to see just how good Vol hoop teams will be
Big Orange fans eager to see just how good Vol hoop teams will be | Tennessee Lady Vols basketball, Tennessee Volunteers basketball, Pat Summitt, Bruce Pearl, Candice Parker
Back on the national stage
The University of Tennessee will be returning to the national stage in major college sports very soon. In the distance, one can distinctly hear the echo of round balls bouncing against hardwood floors. That is a sure sign that basketball season is just around the corner and Big Orange fans across the state are gearing up for what certainly should be one of the most exciting winters in Knoxville in many moons.
Seldom has one major university had not one, but two teams, tabbed to compete for a national title in the same season. Duke had both men’s and women’s juggernauts a few years back, North Carolina will be in the mix this season and of course, the Volunteers and Lady Vols are in almost everyone’s preseason top five. It will be a refreshing and exciting time for Tennessee fans hungry for national attention.
Lady Vols
Pat Head Summitt’s defending national champions return most all the major components that climbed back to the top of the women’s basketball mountain last season. The incomparable Candace Parker, fresh off a starring role with the national team, is the undisputed queen of the court at the college level right now. The junior superstar has her sights set on duplicating last season’s march to the title, and she will be surrounded by a very strong cast, including the No. 1 freshman class in the nation.
That freshman group includes guard Angie Bjorklund, a six-footer who was tabbed by some as the national high school player of the year during her senior campaign in Spokane, Wash. Forward/center Vicki Baugh, a very athletic 6-4 post player from California and 6-6 center Kelly Cain will provide immediate depth in the front court behind veterans Nicky Anosike and Alex Fuller.
The team’s spark plug should again be feisty point guard Shannon Bobbitt. The former junior college transfer provided the missing piece of the championship puzzle last year. She added the element of speed and also became a deadly 3-point bomber when UT needed her most in the NCAA tournament.
To say Bruce Pearl’s squad is loaded with talent would be similar to pointing out that Bill Gates possesses a considerable amount of money. Led by All-American and player of the year candidate Chris Lofton, this team has a wonderful mix of experience and youth.
The fact that Pearl has recruited to his system also means that the Volunteers will be fast, athletic and tenacious on defense.
Two key transfers, Tyler Smith from Iowa and J.P. Price from Arizona, not only give Pearl a pair of outstanding swingmen who are accomplished in all facets of the game, but it also provides the squad with a couple of homegrown, Tennessee products who seem very proud to now be wearing the orange.
Smith was first team All-Big Ten on the freshman all-star squad and third team All-Big Ten overall last year. He was either first or second on a good Hawkeye team in scoring, rebounding, steals and assists as a true first-year man.
Prince played on some of those great White Station teams in Memphis and, like Smith, he is a versatile performer who can play in the post or facing the basket.
Bolivar’s Wayne Chism, now a sophomore, will be counted on to handle the blue-collar work in the paint along with Duke Crews and king-sized freshman Brian Williams, a 6-10, 270-pounder from the Bronx, N.Y. One other freshman, sweet-shooting Cameron Tatum from Tucker, Ga., should be able to provide vital relief work for the starters.
Two of the unsung heroes on last year’s squad, 6-9 forward Ryan Childress and 6-4 defensive specialist Josh Tabb, will see their roles expanded this season as they combine to fill the void left by the loss of inspirational leader Dane Bradshaw. Pearl was so impressed by Bradshaw’s devotion, desire and work ethic that he set up a scholarship in Bradshaw’s name at Tennessee.
Senior JaJuan Smith will again help keep the defenses honest and prevent double-teaming of Lofton. When he gets hot, JaJuan can fill the basket full from 3-point land. And the third Volunteer named Smith, point guard Ramar, might just be the best in the conference at that position this season.
The men’s squad has already been projected to make the Final Four by at least one major publication.
The women, well they are an annual favorite to still be standing when the last four teams gather to determine the champion.

Weakley County Press Oct. 11, 2007

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