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Former Lady Vols adjust to life in WNBA

Aug. 20, 2008

Nicky Anosike

Shannon Bobbitt

Alexis Hornbuckle

Teleconference Quotes | Teleconference Audio

By MIKE ORGAN, The Tennessean

Now that she's wearing a different uniform and doesn't have to toe the Tennessee company line, Alexis Hornbuckle came clean Tuesday.

On a conference call with Nicky Anosike and Shannon Bobbitt, Hornbuckle was asked if the former Lady Vol teammates stayed in touch now that they are playing on different teams in the WNBA.

"I don't like them, so I try not to talk to them as much as possible,'' Hornbuckle said.

Not true, Bobbitt said.

"She would call me every day -- three times a day,'' Bobbitt said.

As it turns out, the trio, who helped the Lady Vols win their eighth national championship in April, have remained close, visiting each other as often as possible and staying in touch by phone, e-mail and text messaging.

One of their former Lady Vol teammates was conspicuously missing from the conference call. Candace Parker, who plays for the Los Angeles Sparks, is in Beijing playing with the U.S. Women's Olympic basketball team.

"We were all such good friends in college but the WNBA is a lot different,'' said Anosike, who plays for the Minnesota Lynx.

"People have lives of their own and lives outside of basketball, whereas at Tennessee, our life was pretty much school and basketball.

"I look back at that situation and I really miss it and cherish it. I try to keep in touch with Alex, and me and Shannon had dinner when she came to play in Minnesota and I talked on the phone with (UT Coach) Pat (Summitt) a few times."

Dealing with losing

All said the toughest adjustment to the pro level has been learning to deal with losing. It was something they seldom worried about as Lady Vols, where they won at least 30 games each season and never lost more than five.

All three are on competitive WNBA teams, but it's nothing like it was at Tennessee.

"The difference now is you have so many games in row," Hornbuckle said. "You have back-to-backs, you're traveling. It's a lot different from college. Here you've got to be ready to bounce back. You might have a game that goes into overtime one night and you're flying right into the next city the next morning for another game."

Anosike, whose team is 13-13, said she started preparing even before the season began for the likely possibility that her new team wouldn't win nearly as often as she was accustomed.

"During our rookie orientation we heard from a lot of the great players in the WNBA, like Stacy Dales who recently retired, and she told us, you really don't have time to get down on yourself after a loss because number one, it's not that horrible when you lose. In college it is pretty horrible when you lose,'' Anosike said. "In the WNBA you're losing, but so is everyone else so you kind of have to look at it that way."

All three pros said they got used to the good life at Tennessee where their every need was taken care of and the independence that comes with playing on the next level has been a difficult transition.

"My living conditions are pretty good, but the traveling is hard,'' Bobbitt said. "I'm not used to going through security at the airport or having to wait in lines at restaurants. I'm used to being spoiled like I was at the University of Tennessee."

Anosike added: "Here it's more of a job-setting. I miss that college feel."

Attitude is more relaxed

In some ways, however, the lifestyle is not as hectic as it was at UT. Summitt is known for being one of the nation's toughest college coaches and there is a more laid back attitude in the WNBA, Hornbuckle said.

"Coach (Bill) Laimbeer and (assistant coach) Rick (Mahorn) do a great job of giving us the days off that we need to allow our bodies to rest,'' Hornbuckle said. "Everything is just kind of on your own and I kind of like that. I like to sleep in my free time so to not have to go to tutoring or night class, that feels real good."

Earlier this season, Hornbuckle and Bobbitt were involved in a highly publicized fight involving Parker and Plenette Pierson of the Detroit Shock. It made for an awkward moment as they found themselves on different sides of the melee.

"We realized that we were on opposite ends now and it was just a matter of two great teams going at it,'' Bobbitt said. "We knew it was going to be physical and it just got out of hand a little bit."

All three said they would play overseas once the WNBA season ends. Hornbuckle will play in Turkey, Anosike in Israel and Bobbitt has not yet agreed to terms with a team.



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