KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee opens Southeastern Conference play Thursday by honoring one of the greatest players in the league's history.
Candace Parker, who led Tennessee to consecutive national titles in 2007 and 2008, will have her No. 3 jersey retired in a ceremony before the fifth-ranked Lady Vols (11-1) host No. 16 LSU (10-2). Parker, the reigning WNBA most valuable player and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, averaged 19.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game during her college career.
"Candace kind of led the way in understanding if you're 6-3, you're not always in the paint," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said. "You would get utilized where you're needed and (by) what you can do. Candace could play all positions."
Parker will join Warlick (No. 22), Chamique Holdsclaw (No. 23), Tamika Catchings (No. 24), Bridgette Gordon (No. 30) and Daedra Charles (No. 32) as former Tennessee players to have their jerseys retired. Former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt also has a banner raised in her honor.
Parker will see familiar faces on both benches Thursday.
Warlick and LSU coach Nikki Caldwell were assistants on Summitt's staff during Parker's career. Caldwell left Tennessee to take over UCLA's program after the Lady Vols' 2008 title and now is in her third year as LSU's coach. Warlick and Caldwell are good friends who have raised more than $150,000 through their Champions for a Cause Foundation, a long haul motorcycle ride for breast cancer awareness.
When their teams matched up against each other last season, Bashaara Graves scored the winning basket with eight-tenths of a second left to give Tennessee a dramatic 64-62 victory at LSU.