Parker likely to pick up slack at point for Tennessee
Losing a talented player like Alexis Hornbuckle would hurt any team.
But for Tennessee, it's especially painful because the Lady Vols are losing their second point guard this season on the heels of sophomore Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood's decision in December to transfer.
Hornbuckle's injury -- she broke her right wrist against Vanderbilt -- couldn't have come at a worse time. Tennessee's schedule is unforgiving, offering almost no adjustment period. Georgia, which hosts the Lady Vols on Thursday, will be an incredible first test, especially with Sherill Baker, the SEC's all-time steals leader, and a handful of other terrific, speedy guards in the backcourt for the Lady Bulldogs.
The biggest question facing Tennessee is, who will wind up playing point guard? Hornbuckle had assumed that role since Wiley-Gatewood left nine games into the season; Hornbuckle dished out 99 assists (almost 4.0 per game).
The logical choice, of course, would be for experienced senior Shanna Zolman, who's best as a two-guard, to pick up point guard duties. As it is, Zolman brings the ball up court several times a game. But as we have already seen on a couple of occasions -- particularly against Duke -- ballhandling under pressure against quick guards is not Zolman's strength.
At this point, I don't see how Tennessee coach Pat Summitt can get around having Candace Parker spend at least some time at the point. With Hornbuckle out, Parker has the most assists on the team (66), dishing out 2.64 a game.
Parker has long been touted as a versatile player who can play anywhere on the court, and she certainly has the talent. We've seen her at times take the ball coast-to-coast. We've seen her go between the legs and around the back. And she seems to be able to handle the ball under pressure pretty well.
But the downside is that Parker will exert a lot of energy bringing the ball up the floor. How will that affect Tennessee's offense? Parker leads the Lady Vols in scoring at 15.7 points per game and is shooting 56 percent from the field.
Ultimately, freshman Lindsey Moss or junior Dominique Redding might see more time at the point. But at Georgia on Thursday would be one heck of a stew to throw them into.
This is a great opportunity for somebody on Tennessee to get more minutes. And it could result, at least in the short term, in the kind of adversity that just might spark something in the rest of the team and get the Lady Vols playing some incredible basketball.Beth Mowins is a regular contributor to ESPN.com's women's basketball coverage.
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