Four Tennessee Lady Vols received All-SEC recognition from the league's women's basketball coaches this week. The honors bestowed upon Rennia Davis, Rae Burrell, Tamari Key and Marta Suarez reflected UT’s No. 14 national ranking and No. 3 seed for this weekend’s conference tournament.
The foursome also represents Tennessee’s program in terms of what it has been and what it hopes to be under second-year coach Kellie Harper. Each player embodies a different part of the narrative.
Davis: The SEC first team all-conference honoree ranks fourth in Lady Vols history for career double-doubles for points and rebounds with 37. She’s fifth in games of 20-or-more points with 21.
The 6-foot-2 senior wing has played up to her pedigree with her career achievements. She was a McDonald’s All-American coming out of Jacksonville, Fla., and a consensus top 15 recruit.
Tennessee has built its foundation upon players like Davis. She’ll be hard to replace, but her achievements have helped restore some of the program’s prestige. Perhaps other high-profile recruits have noticed.
Burrell: The 6-2 junior guard, who was a second team All-SEC honoree, will soften the blow of Davis’ departure.
Burrell blossomed this season, improving virtually all of her statistics. Her per-game scoring average of 17.1 points is about 6.5 points better than last season and her 47 percent field goal accuracy is a major upgrade from last season’s 41 percent.
Burrell’s improvement is reminiscent of former All-SEC center Isabelle Harrison’s stunning transformation for her sophomore season. While both of these players weren’t celebrated recruits, they were determined to get the most out of their abilities. They applied themselves accordingly and the rest is history.
At this juncture, Tennessee needs more players like this, making this sort of history.
Key: In two seasons, the 6-foot-5 sophomore center already is eighth in blocks in UT history with 146. The all-defensive team honoree averaged nearly three per game this season, which ranked second in school history
Games are officiated today with enhanced movement in mind. As a defender, you’re advised to keep your hands off an opponent. Therefore, it’s vital to have a player like Key, who is mobile and able to get her hands on the shot instead.
Tennessee could use more players like her.
Suarez: Several Chattanooga-area players are playing for SEC teams. None of them play for Tennessee.
One of them – Kentucky guard Jazmine Massengill – did play for the Lady Vols before transferring.
Her teammate, former Bradley Central standout Rhyne Howard, is the two-time SEC player of the year.
This says something about Tennessee and how a coaching transition possibly impacted recruiting.
Instead of going down I-75, the Lady Vols went all the way to Spain to get Suarez. She joined East Hamilton’s Madison Hayes, who’s at Mississippi State, on the SEC all-freshman team.
Doesn’t matter where you look as long as you find someone like Suarez. The 6-2 guard was averaging more than six points and five rebounds per game before suffering a foot injury. Her effectiveness has been impacted the past two months but not her availability. She’s only missed one game.
* * *
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.