KNOXVILLE—Tennessee women’s basketball standout Rennia Davis has been named in a vote by the media as a member of the Preseason All-SEC First Team, the league announced on Friday.
Joining Davis on the six-member squad are Unique Thompson, Auburn; Rhyne Howard, Kentucky; Rickea Jackson, Mississippi State; Aliyah Boston, South Carolina; and N’dea Jones, Texas A&M. Howard was the overwhelming choice for SEC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. The 6-foot-2 Lady Vol guard/forward was a first-unit choice by the coaches earlier this week as well.
In the race for the SEC regular season championship, meanwhile, the Lady Vols were predicted to finish sixth in the league standings by the media 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 both the AP and USA TODAY Coaches Preseason Polls, is predicted to win the 2021 SEC women’s basketball championship. Behind the Gamecocks are No. 6 Mississippi State, No. 11 Kentucky, No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 14 Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU rounding out the top half of the league. Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Ole Miss complete 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 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game 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 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 21 3FGs), 6-2 sophomore guard Jordan Horston (10.1 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 4.6 assists per game, SEC All-Freshman) and 6-5 sophomore center Tamari Key (7.3 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, 2.8 blocks per game, 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 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game 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 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, 49% FG, 31 games played), 5-8 sophomore guard Jessie Rennie (2.7 points per game, 25 3FGs, 46% 3FG, 30 games played) and 6-3 redshirt senior forward Jaiden McCoy (2.7 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game, 26 games played). Emily Saunders, a 6-5 sophomore center, saw action in only 10 games a year ago but averaged 3.7 points per game, 2.2 rebounds per game and 1.0 blocks per game 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 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game while knocking down 66 3-pointers in 2019-20.
Green, meanwhile, is a 6-1 first-team All-ASUN forward/center who is expected to bolster UT’s inside presence. She averaged 13.9 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game 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, No. 57 by espnW HoopGurlz), 6-1 guard/forward Tess Darby (No. 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).