By Steve Williams
Tennessee basketball, in a roundabout way, took a couple of gut shots when former head coach Donnie Tyndall was placed on a 10-year show-cause by the NCAA and Tyler Summitt stunned us with his announcement of having an inappropriate relationship and stepping down as head women’s coach at Louisiana Tech.
Thank goodness for UT basketball alums like Josh Richardson and Tamika Catchings. Recent news by those two has helped offset the bad and the ugly.
The hard-working Richardson has had a great rookie season with the Miami Heat and I’m pulling for him in the ongoing NBA playoffs.
It’s still an almost unbelievable story how far and fast Josh has come in his basketball career. Early on at UT, if you remember, he was known more for his defensive play. Nothing wrong with that, but Richardson became more than just a defender before he left Tennessee and he has continued to improve his offensive game since turning pro.
Tamika, who is heading into her final season with the Indiana Fever in the WNBA, has long been one of my all-time favorite Lady Vols and has become a splendid ambassador for the university. She also has a new book out on her life – “Catch a Star: Shining through Adversity to Become a Champion” – and was in Knoxville recently for a book signing.
One other positive note for Tennessee basketball came with Jordan Bowden signing with the Vols. I believe the former Carter High standout will become an exciting player who UT fans will enjoy watching. He’s a 6-5 wing guard who can also play above the rim and excel in transition.
Bowden had a dream to play Division 1 basketball. And when he didn’t receive the type of offer he was looking for coming out of Carter, he made the decision to play an extra year of prep ball at 22 Feet Academy in Greenville, S.C. His game took off even more and he attracted interest from such basketball schools as Marquette, Providence, Cincinnati and Utah.
I was tickled to see Tennessee and Coach Rick Barnes make Jordan’s dream come true.
I believe Tennessee basketball is in good hands with Barnes and Holly Warlick as its head coaches.
Despite a below .500 season, the Vols always played hard and I will miss the all-around play of Armani Moore. Losing Kevin Punter’s scoring and leadership because of injury hurt the Vols down the stretch, but the team didn’t quit.
Barnes seemed to get the most out of his players. He has impressed me as a coach who can develop talent and I think in time he will bring in some of the nation’s top prospects as well.
Despite the Lady Vols’ campaign going south during the regular season, I have to hand it to Coach Warlick for staying positive when it would have been easy to throw in the towel. As a result, her team made a good run in the tournament and was impressive in wins over Arizona State and Ohio State to reach the Elite Eight. Diamond DeShields and Mercedes Russell really sparkled as the team came together.
For a moment there, the door appeared to be wide open for the Lady Vols to play UConn in the finals. I would have liked to have seen it, but it was probably just as well that it didn’t happen. Geno’s team was just too good this year.
Maybe next season.