Kellie Harper feels the shadow of Pat Summitt nonetheless looms over the Tennessee Girl Vols, in addition to the expectations that include teaching the winningest program in ladies’s school basketball historical past.
The second-year Tennessee head coach additionally is aware of this system is a shadow of what it was underneath Summitt, and that making an attempt to be her isn’t the best way to construct a contender.
”That is simply not going to work,” Harper stated. ”And what I can do is be one of the best me that I can probably be. A me that realized from her, that performed for her, that gave every part I needed to this system. However on the finish of the day, you are going to promote your self brief in the event you’re making an attempt to be someone that you simply’re not.”
One lesson Harper realized properly whereas profitable three nationwide championships taking part in for Summitt is play one of the best groups within the nation wherever, anytime.
That is why No. 25 Tennessee (9-2) will host No. three UConn (8-0) for the primary time in 15 years Thursday night time within the second recreation of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Corridor of Fame Revival Collection.
Her Girl Vols misplaced to UConn 60-45 a yr in the past, the primary time these groups had met in 13 years. Thursday night time’s recreation caps off the 10th annual ”We Again Pat” week to help Summitt and the muse in her title combating Alzheimer’s.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who handed Summitt together with his 1,099th profession win Tuesday night time, would not see his Huskies taking part in Tennessee as an enormous deal anymore. He would not really feel the thrill within the media and even in his neighborhoods that used to stir round this rivalry.
”Possibly as a result of it has been too lengthy. Possibly it is as a result of it was by no means about Tennessee and Connecticut. Possibly it was Pat and Geno after some time,” Auriemma stated. ”I do not know, however I do not really feel it. I do not know if Kellie does. I’ve by no means requested her.”
A significant purpose for a scarcity of consideration on these groups taking part in once more may be that Tennessee merely hasn’t measured as much as to the usual nonetheless being met by Auriemma and UConn.
Auriemma now has 11 nationwide championships, his final in 2016, and his Huskies stay a high 5 program.
Tennessee’s eighth and final title was in 2008 with Summitt, who died in June 2016. Harper is the second coach since Summitt retired in April 2012, and the Girl Vols slipped into the High 25 final week for the primary time this season.
UConn freshman Paige Bueckers stated she’s too younger to recollect the rivalry between the Huskies and Tennessee, which is simply historical past to her now.
”After I was rising up the large rivalry was with Notre Dame, so I did not actually get to see that UConn-Tennessee rivalry for myself,” Bueckers stated. ”However simply seeing all of the movies and all of the items they’ve carried out on it over time, I understand how massive it’s.”
Auriemma has been in a position to recruit high expertise proper underneath the Girl Vols’ noses. Crystal Dangerfield of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, selected Auriemma in 2016. When Harper was employed, Evina Westbrook transferred to UConn the place she’s began each recreation this season after being Tennessee’s main scorer.
”I am actually simply targeted on getting the ‘W’ with my staff,” Westbrook stated. ”I am not likely targeted on them and what they’ve occurring over there.”
Auriemma famous every part has modified, together with himself.
”The one factor that would be the identical is the constructing that we stroll into, the locker room that we use,” Auriemma stated. ”However, I do not suppose the rest is identical. There’s nothing the identical about Tennessee ladies’s basketball prefer it was 15 years in the past. They’ve gone by way of unbelievable adjustments, as have we.”
Harper stated she undoubtedly has curiosity in scheduling video games towards UConn sooner or later. She additionally stated the Girl Vols are actually excited and that many individuals are wanting ahead to this recreation.
”I believe lots of people labored onerous to make this an enormous recreation for ladies’s basketball nationwide,” Harper stated. ”And to have these video games in our sport, I believe is admittedly good as a result of folks tune in and folks watch, and hopefully, they’ll accomplish that on Thursday.”
Auriemma stated not all people likes to play actually good groups and it is attainable this collection can proceed with out one other lengthy hole.
”The truth that Kellie needs to do this is a superb factor,” he stated, ”and says loads about Kellie.”
AP Basketball Author Doug Feinberg and AP Sports activities Author Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report.
For AP ladies’s basketball protection: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP-High25