KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As the Tennessee women's basketball team prepares for its season-opener, the team held its annual media day on Thursday.
Head coach Kellie Harper, along with the entire team was made available.
Harper is starting her third season as Tennessee’s head coach. Harper has a 38-18 record at Tennessee. She's guided the Lady Vols to back-to-back third-place SEC finishes, defeating four ranked teams in 2020-21, including the highest ranked foe of her career, No. 2 South Carolina.
Tennessee welcomes five newcomers to this year's team, including four true freshman.
UT returns nine players from last year’s NCAA tournament. Last year's second-leading scorer Rae Burrell returns for her senior season. She averaged 16.8 points last season along with 4.6 rebounds. Burrell was also named to the Preseason All-SEC First Team.
She says while she's comfortable in Harper's system, she's not satisfied.
"I feel like I still have a lot to work on and to keep pushing myself to get better," Burrell says. "It's nice to know the coaches have the confidence in me to do what I need to do."
The Lady Vols are looking to replace the bulk of their scoring, after losing leading scorer and rebounder Rennia Davis to graduation.
Harper says it will take the entire team to step up to fill the gaps.
"When you have a player like Rennia Davis leave, you're not going to bring in anyone that is going to be that," Harper said.
"Not immediately. She was an experienced veteran, and she could put the ball in the hole. We saw that for years and years with big play after big play. Our team has to look a little different to be successful because we don't have Rennia to throw it to and then sit back and watch. That's where Jordan Horston has to be a little more aggressive offensively. Rae (Burrell) just needs to be Rae. Rae Burrell can put the ball in hole. She has a big motor and plays downhill."
Harper also announced on Thursday the team will be without sophomore forward Marta Suarez. Suarez is out for the season with a foot injury.
Junior guard Jordan Horston returns as the Lady Vols' fourth-leading scorer last season. She averaged right under nine points per game and 4.9 rebounds for the Lady Vols. She credits her success to the relationship she's built with Kellie Harper off the court.
"It's a blessing and I thank God every day for it," said Horston on her relationship with Harper. "When you have someone that cares about you as a person, as a human being, it makes you want to do anything and everything for them."
Tennessee opens the season against Georgia College on Wednesday, Nov. 3. They'll face the defending national champions, Stanford at home this season.