Sept. 12, 2013
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In the third edition of the 2013-14 Lady Vol Hoops Preseason Report, new strength and conditioning coach Lee Taylor shares how he is taking his cues from Tennessee Head Coach Holly Warlick as he prepares the team for the upcoming season.
Junior forward Cierra Burdick talks about the intensity of Taylor's workouts and how he is training the players to be uncomfortable and to deal with that feeling so it won't defeat them or cause them to abandon their technique in a game.
Burdick also touched on the leadership of redshirt freshman guard Andraya Carter and how the team has Meighan Simmons' back and wants to take away any pressure the senior may feel to bear the scoring load this season.
PRESEASON GRINDING WITH COACH TAYLORFirst-year strength and conditioning coach Lee Taylor has his own approach to getting his athletes in shape before the "marathon of the collegiate basketball season" begins.
With Coach Warlick's direction, Taylor has created the perfect slices of his strength and conditioning "pie" to make the Lady Vols the best possible team they can be. It is Taylor's job to tailor the workouts specifically to Warlick's desire.
"I look at strength and conditioning as a pie," Taylor said. "The program is structured with every piece - working on angle changes, footwork, strengthening the full body and making sure the players are moving their bodies as one unit."
Taylor's work will be evident to the rest of the coaching staff once full practices begin as the season approaches. Until then, it's his job to prepare the team for what lies ahead.
"The biggest thing is getting them ready for the tempo that Coach Warlick is going to demand, and I'm just making sure they're not only physically prepared, but mentally prepared, for practice and the marathon that is the collegiate basketball season," Taylor said.
Strength and conditioning, then, isn't only the physicality of preparing the body for competition. Taylor has taken the approach of getting his athletes used to being uncomfortable in a playing situation.
"I tell the athletes all the time to not take it personally, but the goal is to put them in an uncomfortable position," he said. "In the game there are going to be uncomfortable situations in which you still have to produce. Granted, I want to put them in uncomfortable situations safely, but that is the goal because that's sport.
"When you get to February, March and in the tournament, there will be times when you are uncomfortable. The goal is to take them to that point (now), so that when they get into that situation in a game, they are comfortable (with it) and can produce."
Burdick, who started 16 games a year ago for UT, has endured Taylor's workouts and agrees with his business-like personality and get-to-work mentality.
"He's pushing us extremely hard, getting us out of our comfort zones and getting us uncomfortable, because that's the only way we're going to get better," Burdick said. "He's done a great job of on-the-court conditioning, strength in the weight room, agility and defensive work.
"It's just getting uncomfortable so that when we get in that situation in a game, like two or three overtimes, we're prepared," she said.
One of Taylor's workouts was 12 all-out court suicides with drills in between followed by a strenuous lifting workout. Burdick says work like that is what's going to get them where they want to go. Even though it may be Taylor's first season with the Lady Vols, the athletes and staff have welcomed him with open arms in preparation for the 2013-14 season.
"When you get someone new, you welcome them in with open arms and that's what I've tried to do with Coach Lee," Burdick said. "He's done a fabulous job of getting us in here, getting us motivated and determined, so I'm excited to see how it plays on our season.
"He's an all-business type of guy. He's strict. He's tough, but that's what it's going to take to get us where we want to go. It's not going to be easy and we have to respect that."
AN EXPERIENCED FRESHMAN
Carter is back with the Lady Vols after spending all but seven games of her true freshman season on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery. The 5-9 guard watched her teammates' season as a player through the coaches' eyes, a situation that Burdick says has benefitted Carter tremendously.
"She was a player-coach," Burdick said of Carter's perspective last season. "Just another set of eyes on the sideline. She saw where the coaches were coming from and also where the players were coming from, and I think that helped her with her basketball IQ. She's hungry to get back on the floor and put that jersey back on."
In the off-season, Carter has healed, but her leadership and passion that she started the 2012 season with is back and it's better than ever.
"Naturally (as a point guard), she is the coaches' eyes on the court, the commander," Burdick said. "She took that leadership role when the coaches challenged her with it, and she accepted it. Even as a freshman, she was a leader for us, and I think that says a lot for her personality and her determination." Carter's leadership has stemmed from her impressive play and drive to work hard, and everyone around the redshirt freshman is noticing.
"She's a great player and she just hustles like no other," Burdick said. "She's one of the hardest workers on the team, and she's going to get those hustle points and make those plays on offense because she's not afraid to dive out on the floor or take a charge or do the grit work.
"She is what we need, and she's what we've been missing. I'm so happy to have her back."
THE ONLY SENIORPressure.
As the lone senior, it's only natural that Simmons may be feeling it in her final season on Rocky Top, but her teammates are there to take some of the burden off her and let her continue to be one of the best scorers in the country once again.
"Meighan wants to do well, and we need her to score the ball," Burdick said. "She's one of the best scorers in the country, but she doesn't have to be the only scorer. We've got so many different attacks."
Burdick mentioned all the talent on Warlick's Lady Vol squad, including sophomore forward Bashaara Graves and junior center Isabelle Harrison in the post, as well as junior Ariel Massengale and Carter as point guards. Burdick said she can also be counted on to score, so Simmons can feel less pressure and just play the game.
"Meighan just needs to know that she doesn't have to always be the primary scoring source, and I think that will take some weight off her shoulders," Burdick said.
Even though Simmons was a statistical leader on the court last year and SEC Co-Player of the Year, her teammate says she's improved even more in the off-season.
"Her ball-handling has gotten tighter, and she isn't turning the ball over as much," Burdick said. "I think she's done a great job working on that this summer."