Transcript: Key, Burrell, Rennie & Saunders Lady Vols Avails

Tamari Key – Lady Vols / Credit: UT Athletics

Four Tennessee women’s basketball players met with the media on Thursday afternoon over Zoom to talk about the Lady Vols’ 2020-21 season. Taking part in the session were sophomore center Tamari Key, sophomore guard Jessie Rennie, sophomore center Emily Saunders and junior guard/forward Rae Burrell.

Sophomore Center Tamari Key

On what she has focused on coming into her sophomore season:
“For this season, one thing I was focused on was just being more physical in the post and getting stronger and getting in the weight room with Ty (Tyler Watson). The game has also slowed down for me a lot compared to last season, so those are a few positives that worked out for me going into my sophomore year.”

On how she has dealt with all the uncertainty regarding this season:
“For us, it’s just knowing that everyone is in the same situation that we are in right now and making the best of our situation and still going hard in practice. It is easier now, knowing our schedule is about to be out soon. And it is super exciting, but (we’re) just continuing to go hard in practice and being there for each other and our teammates during quarantine and trying to keep our spirits uplifted for the season.”

On whether she has worked on being more disciplined defensively:
“On defense, it’s just blocking shots and not jumping. Coach always tells me when I put my arms up, that is enough. Even if I don’t block the shot, altering the shot is still big, so I believe I have gotten a lot better not fouling as much on defense.”

On how excited she is to play UConn this upcoming season at home:
“We’re very excited, we know that is going to be a big game for us, and we are playing at home, too. So, even though we will have limited fans, it is always fun to play big games like that on our home court, so we are looking forward to it.”

Sophomore Guard Jessie Rennie

On whether she was ever nervous about not being able to get back to the U.S. because of COVID-19, and how relieved she was to finally get back to Tennessee through all the protocols and quarantine:
“Obviously, when everything went down back In March, everything just fell off very quickly, and I had to wait around in Knoxville for a week before I could get a flight back home. But I was pretty lucky to get out of America, because they shut down everything really quick. When I got back out and got home, I was home for a couple months, which is really nice, and then coming back it was the same situation. I just got out before Australia closed their borders, so I was really lucky to get back just before they closed everything off, because I know a lot of Australian girls who had trouble actually getting back. So, I am lucky and fortunate I got back early so I didn’t miss any workouts. Obviously, I missed about a week of workouts for quarantine, but other than that I was fortunate I didn’t miss too much.”

On the advice she has given fellow international student Marta Suárez:
“I could tell as soon as she got here that she is very independent, and that comes with international students. You really have to be, because you are away from home and no family here; you get thrown into it and just have to learn to cope with things like that. But from the start we just connected straight away, just being from different countries and being in the same position. I had more experience, obviously, being a sophomore this year, but I am really proud of her. She fits in really well and has done so quickly. She’s been practicing really well and fits in with the group, so it is really good to see that.”

On how she has been able to get better this offseason and her confidence going into this season:
“With having four of us sophomores, we stay together. And having each year together is pretty special, and it’s really cool, but like you said, with my confidence, just being able to grow at the end of the season last year, (I was) making more shots, and just being more confident to shoot the ball more. And as soon as I came back this year, everyone has been behind me, like I have said in interviews. And everyone wants me to shoot the ball and are confident in me shooting the ball, and they’re not happy if I don’t shoot it, so it has helped my confidence to do that. I think that is growing every day in practice, and I’m even more confident to contribute in other ways now, whether is it driving, or pull ups, so my confidence is growing every day, and I am really excited for the season.”

Sophomore Center Emily Saunders

On how she’s improved her game between her freshman and sophomore seasons:
“Me personally, I’ve been working on my strength in the weight room and on the court. Definitely my quickness is also something that I stressed this summer, and I feel like I’ve really grown in that area. I’ve also gained a lot more confidence on the court as well. Us sophomores – me, Jessie, TK and Jordan – have all grown in those areas as well, so I feel like that’s going to really help us this season.”

On the competition level at the post position in practice:
“Battling with Keyen Green in strength is a whole new level, because she’s probably the strongest on the team. She came in with confidence, so I think that battling with her is something that’s been really good for me. Both Kasi (Kushkituah) and TK (Tamari Key) have both gotten a lot stronger. We’re really deep in that position.”

On holding each other accountable in the offseason:
“I definitely feel like everyone as individuals take accountability for each other, show up for each other and push each other in practice and in the weight room. I don’t think it’s one single person being a leader. We have a few that really stand out, but I think everyone does a really good job of holding each other accountable and that helps.”

On getting energized during games despite playing in front of smaller crowds this season:
“We haven’t really talked about it, but during practice I feel like our energy level has been really high, especially in these last few weeks. So, I feel like when we carry that into a game and the bench is really excited, and we’re all really into it, that will really help us.”

Junior Guard/Forward Rae Burrell

On having a lot of upperclassmen on the team:
“I think having more upperclassmen is going to help us a lot this season, just because we’re a lot more experienced and the leadership is a lot more present.”

On how she’s improved her game in the offseason:
“I’ve really just been working on being more in control when I make decisions and just continuing to work on rebounding. I’ve been trying to work on getting my assists up as well. I’ve also been working on my free-throw percentage.”

On how excited she is for the season overall after finishing last season strong:
“I’m just focusing on keeping the momentum going from last season into this season and working on the areas that I need to work on to get better and do what I can to help my team win.”

On how she tried to keep momentum from the season going in the offseason during quarantine:
“There were definitely some difficulties that I encountered with gyms being closed and not being able to get into a gym for a long time. Luckily my cousins have their own gym in the garage, so I worked out there almost every day with them.”

On playing in front of smaller crowds this season:
“I think we’re just going to do our best to create energy off of each other. I feel like the crowd will still be creating good energy for us, but I think we’re really going to depend on each other to create good energy.”

-UT Athletics

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