Everything Kellie Harper about the Lady Vols’ SEC opener

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    Lady Vols head coach Kellie Harper met with the media on Tuesday to preview Thursday’s SEC opener against No. 13 Arkansas.

    Harper discussed the team’s COVID-19 shutdown, how Tennessee will prepare to get back in the flow of games, how the team has remained flexible during COVID, if she’ll consider a four-guard lineup, the status of the games that were postponed and Sunday’s game against LSU.

    Here’s everything Harper had to say about Thursday’s game against the Razorbacks:

    On how Tennessee spent its time during the COVID-19 shutdown:

    “We’ve tried to stay active with as many players as we could. We follow the medical guidance of our athletic trainers and the SEC, so we were able to do some quarantine workouts with several players, and we had a few players that we were still able to work with on the court in smaller groups. We stayed busy. We were active every day except for yesterday. Yesterday was our day off for this week. We stayed active. We were on the court with our strength and conditioning coach, we watched film as a team, we watched film individually, we had individual meetings. So, we got a lot accomplished, just not a full-go practice.”

    On how the coaching staff handled the shutdown:

    “The thing that I did that I never get to do is watch games live. I got to see almost every team in the SEC play. That was fun. It was probably really good for me to see those live. A lot of times when you’re focused in on your opponents, you’re just watching that opponent and you move to the next opponent, so I actually enjoyed it. I saw some really good basketball games in the last segment.”

    On how Tennessee will prepare for getting back into games:

    “We have mostly everybody, but we don’t have everybody back yet. Going into these next two practices, I think it’s going to be really important that we get up and down a lot, try to get back into the swing of things with five on five. When you’re out a week of playing, your timing could be off. I just want to make sure we feel good in those things, and both offensively and defensively, make sure we’re locked in. Given the Christmas break, then you have another game and then another break, we haven’t played a lot. That’s what we’re going to try to do in the next two days.”

    On how the program has remained flexible throughout COVID:

    “My approach in life is always: whatever is next, let’s handle it. You’re just ready for the next day and whatever is in your path. You deal with it, and you move on. We really tried to take that approach all summer. I think it’s the only approach you can take right now, because you don’t know what is going to happen. You can plan and prepare, but you just don’t know what’s going to happen. Our staff has been amazing. They have been very proactive. They have been very creative in their approach. We have a plan, and then we have a backup plan. It’s something that I’m really proud of our staff for – logistically, emotionally, physically being there to support one another and our team.”

    On if she’ll consider using a four-guard lineup against Arkansas:

    “We’ve played four guards. Since we lost Keyen (Green) and Jaiden (McCoy), we have played four guards. I don’t think that is anything unusual for us to do. I’ll be honest with you, when Marta (Suárez) is out there at the four, it’s like we’re having four guards out there at times. I think we’ve got some different things that we can look at and try to take advantage of.”

    On Sunday’s game against LSU:

    “Well, I think they are very similar to Arkansas in that LSU is very specific in what they do. It’s not a surprise. They want to play a slower game. They’re going to take their time offensively. You’re not going to have to guard a ton of actions, but the actions you’re going to have to guard, they’re good at. They’ve got a terrific point guard, they’ve got terrific post play and guards on the wings that just play their roles. They knock down shots when they need to, they defend. I think teams do not look forward to playing LSU. I think they’re going to take the air out of the ball; you don’t get to run. They’re going to be physical and tough defensively, and a lot of teams don’t like that. So, if you think you’re going to go to LSU and win, you’ve got to be ok with that. You’ve got to be tough-minded and be ok with playing physical. And when you’re in a half-court set, you’ve got to get down and guard… I think that’s really important.”

    On the status of Texas A&M and Kentucky games that were postponed:

    “I think anything is on the table at this point. We’re just following the SEC and their guidance. I think as we proceed and things become a little bit clearer – if that’s even a possibility this season – you know, whether we’re looking at just a handful of cancelations or a lot of cancelations or postponements, I think we’ll have to see what that looks like. I hope we’re able to get all of our games in, but I don’t know that there’s any guarantee at this point. So, we’re just sitting back and waiting for the SEC to give us a little more direction.”

    On the challenges No. 13 Arkansas will present to a young team:

    “I don’t know even if you were able to draw it up, how you would. If I got to choose who we played where and when, I don’t know… I’m just glad they give it to me, because the SEC is tough. You can’t overlook anyone on any night. So, I hope we’ve prepared our players as best we can at this point with what we do at practice and how we’ve played in games and had individual film sessions so they’re as prepared as they can be. They’re excited. I think they’re excited, and I think our returners understand just how tough it is each and every night, and I think they’re really passing that sentiment down to our younger players and our newcomers.”