St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Success at the Summitt

Tampa Bay duo stands out at Pat Summitt's camp for elite high school players.

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 3, 2001


Tampa Bay duo stands out at Pat Summitt's camp for elite high school players.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- "I'm Ashley Robinson, sophomore post ... "

"I'm Kara Lawson, junior guard ..."

A rapt audience of 400 high school girls from 32 states listens as nine University of Tennessee women's basketball players and Vanderbilt standout Chantelle Anderson introduce themselves from center court at the start of the Pat Head Summitt Elite Position Camp.

It is a Friday night in Thompson-Boling Arena, home of the Volunteers, the Roman Empire of women's college basketball. It is the first day of a three-day camp hosted by Vols coach/resident legend Pat Summitt.

Among the campers are Kelcey Roegiers-Jensen, who will be a junior at Boca Ciega, and her buddy, Dominique Redding, a junior-to-be at Clearwater. They and the other campers have the same brazen dream: to play for Summitt and six-time national champion Tennessee.

A few thousand other girls share that dream. A handful fulfill it.

This weekend is critical. The top 15 girls, "All-American" campers, will play a game Sunday against the Vols. Those chosen will know: Pat Summitt is watching me.

6:35 p.m. Friday, Thompson-Boling Arena

Summitt, 49, is the star of the weekend for the campers.

She guided Tennessee to national titles in 1987, '89, '91, '96, '97 and '98. She coached the Olympic team to its first gold medal in 1984. Her record of 759-152 in 27 seasons is the best winning percentage (.833) and is second in wins in women's collegiate history. Cavernous Thompson-Boling, along the Tennessee River, averages 15,000 when the Vols play.

Summitt's icy glare is the most recognizable image in the sport. She is an icon. A testament to her stature passes through campus: Pat Head Summitt Street.

"Two years ago, I asked for her autograph. That's all the communicating we did," said Roegiers-Jensen, who also attended the camp before her freshman year. "(This time) I tried to treat her like just another coach. But it's hard. She's Pat Summitt."

After Summitt's opening remarks, the campers divide into four groups: post players, forwards, shooting guards and point guards. Redding, at 6 feet 1, is the tallest of the 100 or so shooting guards relocated across campus to the Physical Education building.

Roegiers-Jensen, a 5-7 passing wizard, marches off to the Stokely Athletic Center with the point guards.

The highlight of the day -- besides being in the presence of Summitt -- is meeting a few of the Vols. Lawson and April McDivitt help coach the point guards. Tasha Butts works with the shooting guards.

The lowlight is the talent level. The camp is for "elite" players, but in reality, any high school girl who pays $200 can attend. Half the campers can be classified as less-than-elite, but there are some top-flight players.

2:10 p.m. Saturday, Stokely Athletic Center

"We want you to be like a sponge!" Summitt implores the point guards, whom she is lecturing on team defensive techniques. "You soak up everything you can."

Summitt tells the campers to write down every drill, technique and tidbit at the end of each day to take home and work on.

The girls are about five hours into an exhausting day that won't end until after 9 p.m. After Summitt's lecture, the point guards break into groups and begin practicing her lessons.

A few minutes later, Summitt approaches Roegiers-Jensen.

"She said something about how I was working hard, and then she asked if I wanted to run with them tonight," Roegiers-Jensen said. "I was like, 'Yeah.' "

Summitt is organizing an unscheduled scrimmage between select campers and the Vols. She already has invited Redding. She also asks Bernice Mosby of Hernando and Briana Phillips of Bradenton Southeast, who play with Roegiers-Jensen and Redding on the Clearwater Green Wave AAU team.

This is a major plot twist. The rest of the day is a blur of anticipation.

9:30 p.m. Saturday, Thompson-Boling

The game is on. Seventeen campers have been invited. Redding and Roegiers-Jensen are matched against their idols.

"I wasn't scared, but I had to stop and think, 'Wow, that's actually April McDivitt guarding me, or Kara Lawson.' It was unbelievable," Roegiers-Jensen said.

Redding plays the first five minutes, Roegiers-Jensen the second five. Each puts up an air ball, neither makes a shot and the team does poorly when they are on the court. The Vols, led by 6-5 center Michelle Snow, run them into the ground.

"We stunk it up," Roegiers-Jensen said. "We were anxious, tired, everything. I was only out there for five minutes, but oh my God, I got so tired. I could hardly breathe.

"The tempo is so much faster. The Lady Vols, they get it and go, get it and go."

By 10 p.m. it's over; back to the dorm and lights out. Sunday is flush with promise. The four Green Wave girls will be on the same five-on-five team in the morning. Then camp All-Americans will be chosen.

They want another chance against the Vols -- and to impress Summitt.

10 a.m. Sunday, Stokely Athletic Center

The showcase five-on-five game is between Team Chaos, with Redding, Roegiers-Jensen, Mosby and Phillips, and a team featuring a pair of California girls who stood out in the scrimmage with the Vols, 5-8 point guard Sade Wiley-Gatewood and 6-4 power forward Tye'sha Fluker.

Summitt is watching.

Redding, Roegiers-Jensen and Mosby lead Team Chaos to a 16-12 lead in the seven-minute first half. Phillips hits a flurry of baskets in the second half as Team Chaos pulls away. Team Chaos would handily win all five of its games.

With the five-on-five games over, the atmosphere has relaxed. Redding chats with Summitt while Roegiers-Jensen and Mosby mock her seriousness. The girls are becoming friendly with some of the UT players, particularly Ashley Robinson, a 6-5 center from Texas, and are more comfortable around Summitt.

"At first I didn't know what to say (to Summitt). I could hardly say anything," Redding said. "She told me that me and Kelcey play well together.

"She's really nice. But once you're in the gym, it's go hard or go home."

Summitt is not allowed to comment on potential recruits, and if she does choose to go after Redding and/or Roegiers-Jensen, NCAA rules forbid her from even phoning them until next June, before their senior year. However, she is betraying interest by watching them so much.

"We can't get over-hyped about going (to Tennessee) because things can change like that," Roegiers-Jensen said. "There are a lot of talented girls out there. We know that."

Finally, everyone clears out of Stokely to walk down to Thompson-Boling. Summitt asks UT assistant coach Holly Warlick, who is walking with Redding and Roegiers-Jensen, to drive Summitt's convertible silver Mercedes CLK 430 from Stokely to Thompson-Boling.

Warlick obliges, and Roegiers-Jensen and Redding climb in. They cruise across campus with the top down in Pat Summitt's Mercedes. It's like a scene from a movie.

"That was the coolest," Redding said. "How many girls from Florida can say they've driven in Pat Summitt's car?"

11:25 a.m. Sunday, Thompson-Boling

The suspense ends quickly for Redding and Roegiers-Jensen, who are the fourth and fifth girls announced as camp All-Americans. Mosby sweats it out until the 13th name. Phillips, despite playing superbly that morning, is not selected.

Redding takes the court with the first unit, and it is immediately clear she is more relaxed. Lawson's hyperactive defense isn't rattling her, though Redding struggles to keep up on fast breaks.

Redding rims out her first shot attempt, an open three-pointer from the top of the key, but moments later, coming down the left side on a break, she pulls up on Lawson and swishes a 21-footer.

"The night before I had butterflies. I was throwing it off the side of the backboard," Redding said. "I lost my jitters, but then I was like, 'God, I have to guard Kara Lawson.' "

Roegiers-Jensen is inserted a few minutes later and also plays with more composure. She even attempts a couple of cheeky behind-the-back passes, with mixed results.

As the 30-minute game winds down, stunningly, the mighty Vols can't shake the campers. With five minutes to go, Redding and Roegiers-Jensen are re-inserted for the stretch run.

With 43.9 seconds remaining, the campers, led by Tasha Humphrey of Gainesville, Ga., are up 46-44 and inbounding near midcourt. The Vols are frantically pressing, but Roegiers-Jensen slips past a screen and loses McDivitt. Redding hits her on the fly, and as Roegiers-Jensen streaks in for the layup, McDivitt fouls her from behind.

Up two with 39.1 seconds to go against the Vols at Thompson-Boling Arena with the searing eyes of Summitt watching, Roegiers-Jensen steps to the line to shoot two free throws.

She misses the first.

"Coach Summitt is right there wondering if this girl can hit free throws under pressure," Roegiers-Jensen said. "I just told myself, 'You need to make this shot.' "

She swishes it.

After a Robinson basket cuts the Vols' deficit to 47-46, Roegiers-Jensen, trying to dribble out the clock, is fouled again. She heads to the line with 12.2 seconds to go.

Swish, swish. 49-46 lead.

McDivitt dashes downcourt with time running out and fires a three-pointer with two seconds to go. It rattles in. Tie score.

The overtime is less eventful. It also ends in a tie, 53-53, and the game is called.

The campers linger after Summitt's closing remarks, taking pictures and getting autographs. Redding approaches Chuck Jensen, Roegiers-Jensen's father, and wraps him in a hug.

"Happy Father's Day," she says.

1:05 p.m. Sunday, South Carrick Hall

A mass of girls simultaneously checks out of the dorms. Redding is on autopilot as she packs, swept up in the events that have just unfolded.

"Three three-pointers," she says, recounting her marksmanship in the All-American game. "On the ones I missed (she made 3-of-7), I didn't set my feet. When I set my feet, I can make it every time. Every time."

Bags packed, the girls head for the car for the 11-hour ride home. As they walk, Robinson pulls up in her black Mustang to say goodbye.

"She said she'd get our e-mails and stay in touch," Redding said.

Robinson delivers a subtle recruiting pitch before driving off: "Come on up any time. It's nice here."

She won't get an argument from Roegiers-Jensen and Redding.

"It was the best weekend," Redding said.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.