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Williams to start at point vs. Arkansas

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Kamiko Williams' role in Tennessee's difficult win over South Carolina convinced coach Pat Summitt to give the freshman more responsibility.

Like playing point guard in her first start for the No. 5 Lady Volunteers on Thursday night against Arkansas.

"I'm just going to take this opportunity and embrace it and take on the new leadership role and the challenges that come with it and do my part in helping us win a championship," Williams said.

The Lady Vols struggled shooting early against the Gamecocks on Sunday, but Williams led them with a career-high 17 points and four assists in their 60-55 win.

Summitt has been unhappy with the ball handling by Tennessee (19-2, 7-1 SEC), which has averaged 18.6 turnovers and 13.6 assists in its past six games.

Former starting point guard Shekinna Stricklen is more natural as a shooting guard or forward. Struggling in her converted role, Stricklen was averaging 4.3 turnovers in the past six games while her scoring slipped.

Stricklen will start as a guard or forward when Tennessee hosts Arkansas (9-12, 1-7).

"I think [Williams] is an answer for us, to have a guard that can get to the paint, score off the pull up, even hit a 3," Summitt said. "That will take a lot of pressure off Stricklen."

Williams was a more natural fit having played point guard in high school, but admits she didn't know Summitt's plays well enough to run the offense until earlier this week.

After the 5-foot-11 guard had watched a lot of tape, Summitt called her into her office. She had Williams draw up plays, write down what her options were for each play and then explain them as if the freshman was coaching the team.

Then the pair went to the court for a test. Summitt called out the plays while Williams ran them.

"[Before], I knew the names, I knew the signals, but I didn't know who does what, what the posts are supposed to do, who to look for first, who to look for second," Williams said. "Now I know the order. I know what the posts are supposed to do. Now I can lead people."

To be sure the Clarksville, Tenn., native is ready for the new role, Summitt made her practice in both the first- and second-team rotation on Tuesday.

And even though she hardly got a breather in practice, Summitt made her run laps with the rest of her teammates after it was over in something the coach called "the Kamiko Drill."

Summitt knows Williams won't be able to play a full 40 minutes, so she still expects Stricklen to play some minutes at the point. She also wants to see sophomores Briana Bass, who was recruited as a traditional point guard, and Alicia Manning expand their roles as backup point guards.

Williams knows she still has plenty of work ahead to keep Bass or Manning from permanently stealing her newly acquired leadership role.

"I've still got to go out there and work hard because the position could be taken from me at any moment," she said. "If anything, I'll work harder to keep it."