|Lady Vols’ latest recruiting class loaded with talent |
| Lady Vols continue |
Never let it be said that Tennessee head women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt is one to rest on her laurels. And unlike some Tennessee coaches in other NCAA sports, her reputation as a great recruiter is proven annually and is indisputable.
In November, 2006, Summitt inked a group of players which eventually would be ranked as the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. Those young women are now freshmen on the Lady Vol roster, and some, such as six-foot wing player Angie Bjorklund, are already having a positive impact on this basketball team.
When the Lady Volunteers dropped a tough road game at Stanford last week, that was big news. Any Tennessee loss is making headlines these days because this team loses about as often as Exxon announces that profits were down last quarter. What may have slipped under the radar last month was the fact that Summitt signed yet another stellar and talented group of high school seniors. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that this newest batch of Lady Volunteers might give their coach her second consecutive, top-ranked signing class.
The newest collection of would-be superstars is headed up by a homegrown player with legitimate high school All-American credentials. Glory Johnson, a versatile, 6-3 leaper from Webb School in Knoxville, was pursued by almost every recognized women’s basketball power in the NCAA. Her final three choices were Tennessee, North Carolina and UCLA.
Johnson, who is said to be one of the fastest frontcourt players in the nation this year, is a Parade All-American who led Webb School to a state title last season. She was tabbed Gatorade Player of the Year in Tennessee for her efforts during the 2006-07 campaign.
While Johnson may be the marquee puzzle piece in this class, the other players will soon enough become household names around the state of Tennessee for those who religiously follow Lady Vols basketball. A pair of six-footers who are said to have the Midas touch on the three-ball, Alicia Manning and Shekinna Strickland, will dare UT opponents to play zone defenses. Manning, who hails from Woodstock, Ga., has been called a streak shooter who can take over a game at any moment. Strickland’s hometown is Morrilton, Ark.
Amber Grey, a 6-1 power forward from West Chester, Ohio, is described as a rugged rebounder and fierce defender. She and Johnson should compliment the centers who were signed last year. Alyssia Brewer, another 6-3 frontcourt player from Sapulpa, Okla., adds even more flexibility and firepower to this signing class. Brewer reportedly can play the post or the power forward position with equal effectiveness. She has advanced ball handling skills and a soft shooting touch.
And the final and smallest member of the group might eventually wind up being one of the most valuable. Briana Bass, a feisty 5-2 point guard from basketball crazy Indianapolis, Ind., is advertised to be quicker than a hiccup and can pick an opponent’s pocket in a crowded phone booth.
So while the current crop of Lady Volunteers continue to grind it out against top-notch non-conference opponents on almost a nightly basis, the future Tennessee girls work now on honing their skills in their final season of high school hoops. As a matter of fact, they might also be brushing up on the words to Rocky Top in their spare time.
In his first significant action of the season since becoming eligible to play at the semester break, Tennessee’s J.P. Prince arrived in rather lavish and grand style. Prince had a nice warm-up against North Carolina-Ashville when he netted 13 points. But it was against 24th-ranked Xavier when the Arizona transfer and former prep All-American from Memphis White Station really hit his stride. In that game, Prince led a late Big Orange rally that produced a thrilling, come-from-behind road victory.
For his efforts, Prince was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week. In the two Vol wins, the smooth perimeter player hit 65.2 percent from the floor and averaged four assists and three rebounds. Along with another talented transfer, Tyler Smith, Price helps give Coach Bruce Pearl two of the most exciting new comers in the entire SEC this season.
Editor’s Note — Because of holiday deadlines, this column was completed prior to the Outback Bowl contest between Tennessee and Wisconsin. Commentary on that game will be featured next week.