Kellie Harper’s first official game as the head coach of the Lady Vols basketball team will be Nov. 5 in Johnson City against East Tennessee State. Her first SEC game as head coach will be Jan. 2 when the Lady Vols welcome Missouri to Thompson-Boling Arena.
It’ll be the first of 16 conference games for Tennessee in Year 1 under Harper, and according to the media, UT will finish sixth in the conference once the SEC schedule concludes.
South Carolina was tabbed the favorite to win the conference on Tuesday, followed by Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Arkansas before getting to the Lady Vols at No. 6. Following Harper’s group was Auburn, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt.
In addition to the Lady Vols being picked to finish sixth in Harper’s first season, junior forward Rennia Davis was named to the All-SEC second team. Davis was the only Lady Vol to receive preseason recognition.
Davis returns to Knoxville following a sophomore campaign where she averaged 14.9 points per game and 7.7 rebounds.
Last season, the Lady Vols finished with a losing record in the SEC for the first time in school history. Holly Warlick’s final team went 7-9 in conference play and finished in the bottom half of the SEC.
This year, the media is expecting the Lady Vols to bounce back a little under the direction of Harper.
Harper’s first team in Knoxville will be an unfamiliar one to Lady Vol fans. Following the departure of Holly Warlick as head coach, multiple players transferred, which led to several newcomers coming into the program. In total, the Lady Vols added five players to their roster over the offseason.
Tennessee signed four freshman in the 2019 class, as well as a JUCO player in Jaiden McCoy, who is a Knoxville native that played at Northwest Florida State College. The freshman class consists of five-star guard Jordan Horston, guard Jessie Rennie, center Tamari Key, and center Emily Saunders.
Key sophomores Zaay Green, Jazmine Massengill, and Rae Burrell return for their second season in Knoxville following strong freshmen campaigns. Green was one of Tennessee’s most efficient players last season, averaging 9.6 points per game. Massengill and Burrell only averaged 3.4 and 3.6 points, respectively, but both flashed their potential on multiple occasions.
In the post, Tennessee will rely on junior Kasiyahna Kushkituah, senior Kamera Harris, and grad transfer Lou Brown. Kushkituah averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds, while Harris averaged 0.6 points and 1.0 rebound. Brown sat out last season due to a torn ACL after transferring from Washington State.
The Lady Vols take on Carson-Newman Oct. 29 in their lone exhibition game before starting the regular season on Nov. 5 agaisnt ETSU.