The legacy of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball program is one of the greatest of all time. The Lady Vols' resume along with the talent in Tennessee orange speaks for itself.
Tennessee has eight NCAA titles, which is second in history behind its rival UConn, and no program in NCAA Division I college basketball has won more games than the Lady Vols. Tennessee has taken a trip to the NCAA tournament every single year since 1982.
Under late Hall of Fame head coach Pat Summit, the team has produced 21 All-Americans, 14 Olympic medalists and 42 WNBA Draft picks. Fifteen of those draft picks were selected in the first round.
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Tennessee has produced some incredibly talented players who have shattered record books and barriers, so we thought we’d take a shot at picking Tennessee’s all-time starting five.
For this lineup, we picked two guards and three forwards. It wasn’t an easy nor quick process, but we combed through the Vols’ record books to find out who was the best at scoring, who were the top passers and who were beasts on the boards. What we mostly found was pure dominance.
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Guard: Holly Warlick (1976-1980)
- SEC Championships: 1980
- Awards: A three-time All-American and an inductee of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Warlick was one of the first great players to play under Summitt at Tennessee and did so before the NCAA had established a post-season tournament for women’s basketball. The hometown legend played in three AIAW Final Fours and captured the program's first SEC title in 1980. Tennessee went 118-23 while Warlick was running the point guard position.
In 1980, she was the first Tennessee athlete — man or woman — to have their jersey retired when UT lifted her No. 22 in the rafters at Thompson-Boling Arena. She was a three-time All-American and held several Lady Vol records when her college playing career came to a close.
Today, she still holds UT records for most steals in a single season, swiping away 141 possessions in the 1978-79 campaign and listed in the top ten of career steals (250). Warlick is also second all-time in career assists with 673 dimes.
In 1980, Warlick joined the U.S. Olympic team. She later became an assistant coach to Summitt, helping the Lady Vols win eight national championships. In 2001, Warlick was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. She succeeded Summitt as head coach in 2012 and left her post in 2019 after having captured two SEC titles in 2013 and 2015 and three Elite Eight appearances.
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Guard: Kara Lawson (1999-2003)
- SEC Championships: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
- Awards: A four-time All-SEC First Team, an All-American and Francis Pomeroy Naismith Award winner.
Lawson is a 5-foot-8 guard from Alexandria, Virginia, who was a leader during her era that went to three Final Fours and captured four straight SEC regular-season titles. As a well-rounded, versatile guard, she was one of the best scorers and passers during her time at Tennessee, especially from beyond the arc and at the free-throw line.
In 2002, Lawson led Tennessee in scoring with 15.1 points-per-game. In her collegiate career, she racked up 1,950 points making her sixth all-time in scoring in Tennessee history. She is also second all-time in career three-point percentage with a 41.5 percent mark, is sixth all-time in assists with 456, and is third all-time in career free-throw percentage with an 84.7 percent clip.
Lawson won a WNBA title in 2007 and an Olympic Gold Medal in 2008. Later she went on to pursue her coaching dreams as an NBA assistant coach in 2019-20 for the Boston Celtics. On July 11, 2020, Lawson was hired as the head coach of Duke women's basketball program.
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Forward: Tamika Catchings (1997-2001)
- National Championships: 1998
- Awards: An AP Player of the Year and a four-time All-American.
Tennessee had one of its best seasons ever in 1997-98, going 39-0. This was the program's first undefeated season, and the Lady Vols capped it off with an NCAA championship. One of the reasons they were so unstoppable was because of rookie Tamika Catchings, who holds the Tennessee freshman scoring record after pouring in 711 points that season.
A 6-foot-1 native of Duncanville, Texas, Catchings would go on to be just one of two Tennessee players to be named an All-American four times (we’ll get to the other player soon). Catchings was the AP Player of the Year in 2000 and led UT in scoring and rebounding in her junior and senior campaigns.
Catchings is still fourth all-time in scoring at UT with 2,113 points and sixth all-time in rebounds with 1,004 boards making her one of two UT players with more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. Catchings is also third all-time in steals with 311.
Her No. 24 jersey was the fifth to be retired by Tennessee. Catchings is a four-time Olympic gold medalist. In the WNBA, she became a 10-time all-star, a five-time Defensive Player of the Year, a champion and an MVP. Catchings' jersey is also retired by the Indiana Fever.
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Forward: Chamique Holdsclaw (1995-1999)
- National Championships: 1996, 1997, 1998
- Awards: A four-time All American, two-time Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four, Naismith Player of the Century, two-time SEC Player of the Year, and two-time AP Player of the Year.
A 6-foot-2 force of nature from Queens, New York, Chamique Holdsclaw is one of the greatest to ever play college basketball. Like Catchings, she was a four-time All-American, but she was also twice the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four, twice the SEC Player of the Year, and twice named AP Player of the Year.
Holdsclaw led Tennessee to three straight national championships and rewrote the record books in Knoxville. She is the Lady Vols’ all-time leader in scoring (3,025 points), rebounding (1,295 boards), and is fourth all-time in steals with 305 swipes. No Lady Vol has played in more games than her, either.
She led Tennessee in scoring and rebounding in each of her four seasons in Knoxville while accumulating an overall 131-17 record. Holdsclaw was the fourth Lady Vol to have her jersey retired. In 2018, Holdsclaw was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
In the WNBA, she was a six-time All-Star, twice the league’s rebounding champion and led the league in scoring in 2002. She helped the U.S. win a gold medal in 2000.
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Forward: Candace Parker (2004-2008)
- National Championships: 2007, 2008
- Awards: A three-time All-American, Wade Trophy winner, AP Player of the Year, two-time Wooden Award winner, two-time Most Outstanding Player, two-time MVP of the SEC Tournament and SEC Player and Female Athlete of the Year.
The list of Candace Parker’s accomplishments at the University of Tennessee is lengthy. But the funny thing is, it could’ve been even longer if she played all four years there. No matter, Parker cemented her legacy quickly in Knoxville, winning back-to-back national championships and earning three All-American nods.
Again, in just three seasons in a Lady Vols’ uniform, she became the program’s third all-time leading scorer with 2,137 points and the fastest player to 1,000 points. Parker is also the eighth all-time leading rebounder with 972 boards. She also owns the UT career record for blocks with 275.
Parker also owns UT single-game records for free throws made (17) and dunks (two). Overall, Parked slammed down seven dunks in her collegiate career. She has UT single-season records for free throws made (201) and double-doubles (21).
In 2014, Parker's No.3 jersey was the seventh banner to hang in the Thompson-Boiling arena. In the WNBA, the 6-foot-4 Illinois native is a five-time All-Star, twice been named MVP, twice led the league in rebounding and won a championship in 2016. She also has two Olympic Gold Medals to her name.
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Head coach: Pat Summitt (1974-2012)
The late Pat Summitt coached her last game in March 2012 and retired with the most wins in NCAA history with an overall 1098-208 record. In Summit's 38-year reign, she led UT to all eight of its NCAA titles, 31 consecutive NCAA tournaments, 18 Final Fours, 16 SEC regular-season and championship titles.
Summitt was an eight-time SEC Coach of the Year, five-time Naismith Women's College Coach of the Year and AP Coach of the Year. She was also awarded the John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in 2008. In 2013, Summit was the sixth woman and first non-player to have a her banner hung along some of the greatest retired jerseys she's ever coached.
Summitt died on June 28, 2016, at the age of 64 after a battle with Alzheimer's disease.
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