Judging by Tennessee’s roster, the Lady Vols will be a more experienced women’s basketball team this season.
Last season, they had two upperclassmen, Rennia Davis and Lou Brown, who played significant roles and Brown has departed. Davis has been joined this season by graduate transfers Keyen Green and Jordan Walker, who will have key parts to play.
Furthermore, top reserve Rae Burrell now is a junior.
A birth certificate doesn’t necessarily confer maturity, however. To be fair, it doesn’t preclude the quality either.
In her first interview, one of the Lady Vols’ newcomers had this to say: “My biggest goal right now is to be a plus as much as I can, never a minus. Not just on the court, but off the court.”
Sounds like something a wise veteran might say. Instead the wisdom came from freshman Marta Suarez, who didn’t arrive from Spain until August because of COVID-19 restrictions. Her attitude alone makes her an asset from the get-go.
Green and Walker both speak from experience. Green, for one, intends for her voice to carry throughout a team in which seven of the 13 players are either freshmen or sophomores.
“I think I’m a leader no matter what room I’m in,” said the grad transfer from Liberty. “I feel like I just kind of assume that position, not in a narcissistic way, but just because that’s the way I am. I think that will be my role on this team, just to continue to encourage and lead with my experience, lead vocally, lead by example.”
Green’s already made an impression on sophomore point guard Jordan Horston.
“Her energy is just so contagious,” she said. “Once she gets out there, she works hard, she communicates, she encourages us and it’s just really contagious, honestly. Everyone just wants to feed off of that. I feel like that’s something that we were missing last season – that energy consistently.”
According to Green, she and Walker have developed a good working relationship based on, of all attributes, gratitude.
“We both came from a mid-major level,” Green said. “I think the biggest thing that we can kind of relate about is the gratefulness of being here. We’ve seen what our schools had, and we see how much more Tennessee has to offer us. I think that comes out in how we play.”
Walker, a redshirt junior, has two seasons of eligibility remaining after transferring this summer from Western Michigan. In the long run, the impression she makes on Horston will be more important. They both play point guard and Horston has the greatest upside of any Lady Vol.
Horston described her new teammate as “real crafty.” You have to be experienced to earn that sort of compliment.
“She came in here ready and I’m just so happy that they recruited her and that they got her here,” Horston said. “You all don’t understand how good she is. She really will surprise a lot of people.”
In other matters:
-The Lady Vols announced their schedule last week. They open against Florida A&M on Nov. 27 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
-Like last season, the SEC coaches predicted the Lady Vols to finish sixth this season. They finished tied for third last season.
Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.