KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee women’s basketball head coach Kellie Harper has been added to the Werner Ladder Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year late season list, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Harper, a 1999 UT graduate in her second season at the helm of the Lady Vols, is one of 15 coaches named to the list. She joins SEC colleagues Dawn Staley of South Carolina and Gary Blair of Texas A&M.
Also named are Geno Auriemma of UConn, Adia Barnes of Arizona, Kim Barnes Arico of Michigan, Mike Carey of West Virginia, Cori Close of UCLA, Jose Fernandez of South Florida, Brenda Frese of Maryland, Aaron Johnston of South Dakota State, Kevin McGuff of Ohio State, Wes Moore of NC State, Tara VanDerveer of Stanford and Jeff Walz of Louisville.
In a 2020-21 season fraught with challenges, Harper has impressively developed a squad that was projected to finish sixth in the SEC and wasn’t even receiving enough votes to be in the AP or USA TODAY Coaches Top 25 polls until Jan. 11 and 12. Despite that unit losing an important starter in Keyen Green for the season after four games, UT still has managed to make a name for itself on the national landscape.
The Lady Vols (12-5, 6-3 SEC) were projected as a No. 4 seed and rated 13th overall in the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee’s first top-16 reveal on Monday night. If the regular season ended now, that’s where Harper’s squad would be seeded for the NCAA Tournament.
UT has earned a road win at Big Ten favorite No. 14/12 Indiana, and it defeated top-15 teams Arkansas and Kentucky at home, contributing to a total of seven victories over teams among the top 64 of the NCAA’s NET Rankings. UT battled current No. 1 UConn and No. 5 Texas A&M until the closing stages of those games before falling. UT also has narrow losses to ranked West Virginia and Georgia squads, demonstrating its ability to compete with any team in the country.
Improvement of returning players has been quite evident as well, with senior Kasiyahna Kushkituah, junior Rae Burrell and sophomores Jordan Horston and Tamari Key joining senior Rennia Davis in playing increasingly instrumental roles on the team.
UT currently stands in a tie for third place in the SEC standings with four scheduled regular-season games to play. The Lady Vols will take their next step Thursday night, as No. 2/3 South Carolina comes to Thompson-Boling Arena for a 7 p.m. ET contest. SEC Network will televise the match-up.