Quotes/Video: Kellie Harper talks start of preseason practice

On this being her third year at Tennessee:
“You know, it has flown by. Starting year three I feel like we have made a lot of progress. I feel like we are going out to practice now and our players can play in practice, they can tell you what the drills are about, they understand who I am better, the familiarity is there. We went through a lot this year, as did everybody. It threw a kink into things, and I thought our players handled things well, they were able to be flexible. But because of that year it has made it feel as though time is hard to adjust to because one of those years was a COVID year. It has been quite unusual.”
 
On getting the program to the top:
Absolutely, when we are talking to players and recruits, we are always telling them when you come here you are going to want to win a national champion. That is the goal, that is the tradition and the expectation. You know, we have a lot of work to do, but I think for us it’s every day how good can we be, how good can we be today, how good can we be tomorrow? This gets us closer to maxing out our potential and giving us a chance at the end of the season.”

Lady Vols HC Kellie Harper / Credit: UT Athletics

On losing Rennia Davis to graduation/WNBA and how they will adjust without her:
“You know, I think the first thing is we won’t be able to replace Rennia Davis with just one person. That just is not going to happen. She brought a lot to our team, but we do have a lot of players who have experience and big-game experience. They walk around with a little different confidence level now than they did a year ago. I think that is good for our program. It’s just maturity. I think players have grown up and feel good about what they can do. We are excited about our returners and how they can progress, their attitudes, their work ethic and how they carry themselves. I think it has been really, really positive. I love to see that growth this summer and fall.”
 
Follow-up question on whether it will take a collective team effort:
“You know, I think that when you have a player like Rennia who can do so many things, it sometimes stalls out your other players because they are willing to give her the ball and maybe sit and watch. Now, we don’t have that luxury to let Rennia bail us out. So now it takes everybody. I think we are going to look different, and that is okay. Our team will look different and our approach and how we play as well. I think we have to move the ball better, we’ve got to be able to play the inside a little bit more with the post players, we’ve got to get up more threes, we’ve got to knock some threes down. I just think our philosophy hasn’t changed but how we will get there will.”
 
On the impact of graduate transfer Alexus Dye:
“Well, Alexus is coming in, and she practices hard, she is an unbelievable athlete, spreads the floor, great rebounder, knocks down jump shots. She is going to have a big impact on our team. That was apparent from the first day she stepped on this campus with our team. She is fun to coach. We are continuing to work with her skill set and even seeing her improve this year as well.”
 
On Keyen Green’s recovery from injury and how big an impact it is to get her back:
“So, Keyen has been in practice. We are still monitoring her reps a little bit, but she looks terrific. I think in the last week and a half she has really progressed a lot in terms of getting her explosiveness back. One of the best things that she did was rebound, and now we are starting to see that consistently in drills. Her confidence level the more she plays is going higher and higher. She was a great voice for us last year and had great leadership qualities. It will be nice to have her on the court.”
 
On expectations for the freshmen:
“First off, our freshman have come in and culturally have made a big difference already with our team. They are really, really good people and high achieving in everything they do. They are gym rats; they have consistently been in the gym getting shots up all summer and fall. In terms of what they are going to help with the team outside of those intangibles, they have already brought a lot. I think Sara Puckett in her versatility, her ability to shoot, her size and her strength. When you walk in and see her, she does not look like a freshman. Kaiya Wynn is bringing a real aggressiveness defensively on the ball, rebounding, her offense. She has really taken this summer to work on her decision making, and I think she is doing a really nice job for us right now. Brooklynn Miles has been tough. She’s small. Brooklyn is a small point guard, but as of late she has shown some grit and some toughness that we need in that position. Karoline Striplin, that is one of the most determined young women I have ever coached. She is going to figure it out, she is going to give us something positive because she is going to will herself to do it.”
 
On Sara Puckett’s skill set:
Sara Puckett can really shoot. She can really score, if there’s a possible skill set on the court, Sara Puckett has it. She is unbelievably skilled.”
 
On handling adversity and relating back to her playing days:
“I think one of the biggest challenges that this group is going to have is being able to play through adversity. When things are going well, we are going to be really good. But the great teams figure out a way to be really good when things aren’t going well, and I think that’s been our message.  It’s been pretty consistent. We worked on addressing it the last couple years, but I think now is the time we can really push forward, I think some of our players are old enough now to understand it and mature enough now to grasp that concept. So, we’ve talked about trying to get under their skin a little bit more in practices, trying to find ways to challenge them through adversity and then also just having them recognize, ‘oh, yes, this is what we’ve been talking about. This is when we have to be great.'”
 
On the NCAA’s decision to use “March Madness” for both men’s and women’s basketball:
“I’m probably not the one to ask, because I’ve always said March Madness anyway for our tournament. I know it wasn’t official. It makes sense because in that regard you’re talking about basketball. You’ve got the same calendar. It makes sense. You know, the tournaments obviously now have been documented as being run very differently, and I think it’s something that the NCAA is addressing now and that’s good for women’s basketball. It’s tough for players to go out and see they’re not being treated equally, and social media really exposed a lot of things this year.”
 
On the effect the Michigan loss in the NCAA Tournament had coming into this year:
“Honestly, we’ve not talked a lot about that. That will be something we do address at some point. I do talk about the physicality of the SEC, and that game will be a game that I can reflect back on with our team as well. We didn’t handle that very well. The way we were trending as a team, I knew they were going to be physical, and we didn’t like it, so I was a little concerned about that going into the game. But also, sometimes having that game under your belt makes a difference. So, for our players – Jordan HorstonTamari KeyRae Burrell, for those players that played big minutes and had a big role, Jordan Walker, in those (NCAA) games, in that game, they’ll be better when put in the exact same situation because they understand. You don’t overlook things, and you understand how physical it can be in those games. We’ll be better because of it, but obviously it’s something we hope our team is better this year in.”
 
On what makes Alexus Dye special:
“She has great instincts, and she can get to the ball quickly. She’s very aggressive, whether that’s offensively or defensively. She runs the floor extremely well, and she utilizes her athleticism and is fun to coach! I love coaching her, asking for more because she’ll find a way to give it to you. She’s been a real joy. I think one of the biggest things we’re working with her on now is developing her guard skills to a little bit higher level.  She’s basically played small forward the majority of her career.  We want to give her a little more versatility.”

HARPER PRESSER VIDEO

UT Athletics

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