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Lady Vols Sign Three, Emphasize Three Point Shooting

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The Tennessee Lady Vols add three new players on Signing Day. All three are perimeter threats, which is perhaps the only real need for the squad moving forward.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Today was Signing Day for women's baskeball. With 9 players on roster and only Meighan Simmons graduating, the Lady Vols had up to 5 slots available for players and have received letters of intent from three. For the first time since before the mega-class of Candace Parker and Friends, Tennessee has a well-balanced roster with an even mix of years of eligibility.

Holly Warlick Comments On Tennessee's 2013 Signing Day (via utsportstv)

Jamie Nared, 6'-1" Forward from Portland, Oregon

Nared becomes the third Oregon player in two years to commit to Tennessee, following Mercedes Russell and Jordan Reynolds. HoopGurlz rated her as the #5 overall and #1 wing in the country this year, making her the highlight name of the class. She grew up a Lady Vols fan, and is certainly proud to wear the uniform of the team she grew up watching. Her personality sounds much like that of Taber Spani - a driven, hard-working contributor who seeks to fill a role more than to be the vocal leader of the team. She is widely considered a solid three point option, a trait that should help her find playing time. She is a better catch-and-shoot player than a pull-up shooter, so she will likely remind people very much of Spani in her first year.

Alexa Middleton, 5'-8" Guard from Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Middleton is the #28 overall, #4 guard on the HoopGurlz list who is probably best thought of as a point guard right now. She initially developed as a shooter but took on point duties over time. With Massengale as the only true point on the roster, Middleton has a great opportunity to learn her freshman year and take over the point afterwards. Like the other players on the roster, she is a very capable perimeter thread with plenty of athleticism.

Kortney Dunbar, 6'-1" Forward from Edwardsville, Illinois

Dunbar is #79 on HoopGurlz and #22 overall on the wing (same position as Nared). Her greatest strength is three point shooting, which is the common theme among the three signees. Not much is available on her, but she fits in at the point of greatest need for Tennessee - a wing shooter who can defend inside as needed. Currently, Burdick and Jones are the only true #3 forwards on the roster, and Dunbar rounds out the position for the foreseeable future.

Quick thoughts

  • With the new emphasis on contact fouls (and its likely permanent implementation),Tennessee can expect to face more zone defenses than in prior years, which increases the value of consistent three-point shooting on the team. All three players are expected to be good shots from the perimeter; between them, Massengale, and Reynolds (and perhaps even Carter), Tennessee should be able to keep two legit three-ball threats on the court at all times if they so choose, which would put a lot of pressure on zone defenses and reduce the ability of opponents to sag down to the interior.
  • The Lady Vols are currently built on athleticism and length. Picks such as Jasmine Jones (tons of athletic ability but in need of development) emphasized this plan of recruiting in previous years, and this year is no different. Nared is the obvious choice to be the first to make a significant contribution next year, but all three project well into the system, and none of them have to be first-year contributors on next year's roster.
  • With Russell, Harrison, Graves, and Moore all returning, Tennessee did not need any post players in this class. However, #1 rated recruit A'ja Wilson, a 6'-5" forward, is still available. She will likely not sign until after New Year's Day, and doesn't even plan to narrow her list until Christmas. (It's good to be the queen.) It'll be a while yet, but she's probably the only remaining name to watch in the 2014 class.
  • Again, Tennessee is finally at the point where they can recruit a standard three-girl class (occasionally four girls as opportunity dictates) and keep a rolling balance of experience, position, and depth. The Parker class bought Tennessee two national championships, but losing 6 players (5 of whom were starters) to graduation all in one year contributed largely to the decline of the program as a squad of freshman were required to take the reins. This above all else is perhaps the thing I most appreciate about the roster now. It took a couple years of lean to get there, but now Tennessee can focus on wants more than needs.
  • Swish Appeal, our sister SBN site devoted to women's basketball, has a recruiting roundup here. Nate Parham is a friend of RTT and does excellent work on women's hoops; if you're a fan of the Lady Vols, give a swing by his place.
  • Also, be sure to catch the UTSports writeup, as well as Dan Fleser's comments (if you have a GVX subscription).