KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The league’s coaches have chosen Tennessee’s Rennia Davis for the Preseason All-SEC First Team, marking her third year in a row of earning that distinction.
Joining Davis on the first team are SEC Preseason Player of the Year Rhyne Howard of Kentucky; Chelsea Dungee, Arkansas; Unique Thompson, Auburn; Khayla Pointer, LSU; Rickea Jackson, Mississippi State; Aliyah Boston, South Carolina; and N’dea Jones, Texas A&M.
The second team is comprised of Jasmine Walker, Alabama; Destiny Slocum, Arkansas; Lavender Briggs, Florida; Shakira Austin, Ole Miss; Jessika Carter, Mississippi State; Aijha Blackwell, Missouri; Zia Cooke, South Carolina; and Kayla Wells, Texas A&M.
In the race for the SEC regular season championship, meanwhile, the Lady Vols were predicted to finish sixth in the league standings by the coaches for the second straight season. A year ago, during Kellie Harper’s inaugural campaign at the helm of the Lady Vols, Tennessee fashioned a 21-10 overall record and 10-6 league mark, good for a tie for third in the standings. It was UT’s highest league finish since taking first in 2014-15.
South Carolina, ranked No. 1 in the AP Preseason Poll, is predicted to win the 2021 SEC women’s basketball championship. Kentucky, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Tennessee and LSU round out the top half of the league. Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Ole Miss, Florida, Vanderbilt and Auburn fill out the bottom half.
Tennessee returns four players who were regulars in the starting lineup at some point during the 2019-20 season. That group is headed by Davis, who is a two-time All-SEC and All-America honorable mention performer. The second-leading returning scorer in the SEC, she averaged 18.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in 2019-20 while shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 80.2 percent from the free throw line. In league play, Davis produced 19.9 ppg. and 8.0 rpg. while hitting 49.6% from the field and 82.8% at the charity stripe in 16 regular-season contests.
UT’s other players with significant starting experience include 6-1 junior guard/forward Rae Burrell (10.5 ppg., 5.5 rpg., 21 3FGs), 6-2 sophomore guard Jordan Horston (10.1 ppg., 5.5 rpg., 4.6 apg., SEC All-Freshman) and 6-5 sophomore center Tamari Key (7.3 ppg., 4.7 rpg., 2.8 bpg., 56% FG). Burrell was the team’s top reserve for the first 22 games before starting the final nine contests of the season. She averaged 12.3 ppg. and 5.7 rpg. during that end-of-year stint in the first five.
All told, UT returns five of its top six scorers and rebounders from 2019-20, including the top four in each category. Harper welcomes back 80.8 percent of her scoring, 76.4 percent of rebounds, 78.6 percent of blocks, 71.0 percent of steals and 64.8 percent of assists from a year ago. The Big Orange women also return 80.6 percent of their field goals, including 73.3 percent of their three-pointers, and 84.8 percent of free throws from last season.
In addition to returning Davis, Burrell, Key and Horston, the Lady Vols welcome back rotation regulars in 6-4 senior center Kasiyahna Kushkituah (5.4 ppg., 4.4 rpg., 49% FG, 31 games played), 5-8 sophomore guard Jessie Rennie (2.7 ppg., 25 3FGs, 46% 3FG, 30 games played) and 6-3 redshirt senior forward Jaiden McCoy (2.7 ppg., 1.8 rpg., 26 games played). Emily Saunders, a 6-5 sophomore center, saw action in only 10 games a year ago but averaged 3.7 ppg., 2.2 rpg. and 1.0 bpg. while shooting 71% on field goals.
Tennessee also welcomes a pair of highly-regarded graduate transfers in Keyen Green from Liberty and Jordan Walker from Western Michigan. Walker, an All-MAC guard with two seasons to play, brings experience, quickness and depth to the guard corps. The 5-8 redshirt junior averaged 16.0 ppg., 6.2 rpg., 2.5 apg. and 2.1 spg. while knocking down 66 three-pointers in 2019-20.
Green, meanwhile, is a first-team All-ASUN forward/center who is expected to bolster UT’s inside presence. She averaged 13.9 ppg. and 7.5 rpg. last season and shot 59 percent from the field. ESPN ranked Green, who has one season to play, at No. 15 in its 2020-21 preseason Newcomer Impact Rankings.
UT’s three-member rookie class includes 6-0 guard Destiny Salary (four-star prospect, #57 by espnW HoopGurlz), 6-1 guard/forward Tess Darby (#86 by Blue Star Media, four-star prospect by ProspectsNation.com) and 6-2 guard/forward Marta Suárez (a four-star prospect by Blue Star Europe).
PRESEASON COACHES’ POLL
ORDER OF FINISH
1. South Carolina
3. Texas A&M
5. Mississippi State
11. Ole Miss
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Rhyne Howard, Kentucky
ALL-SEC FIRST TEAM
Chelsea Dungee, Arkansas
Unique Thompson, Auburn
Rhyne Howard, Kentucky
Khayla Pointer, LSU
Rickea Jackson, Mississippi State
Aliyah Boston, South Carolina
Rennia Davis, Tennessee
N’dea Jones, Texas A&M
ALL-SEC SECOND TEAM
Jasmine Walker, Alabama
Destiny Slocum, Arkansas
Lavender Briggs, Florida
Shakira Austin, Ole Miss
Jessika Carter, Mississippi State
Aijha Blackwell, Missouri
Zia Cooke, South Carolina
Kayla Wells, Texas A&M